John Lee Hooker: That's My Story (Umbrella Ent) (2001)

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Released 14-May-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 88:08 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Joerg Bundschuh
Studio
Distributor
Kick Film
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring John Lee Hooker
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music John Lee Hooker


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Titling Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    John Lee Hooker, who sadly passed away last year, was widely regarded as the 'Godfather' of the blues. Even those totally ignorant of this musical genre, who don't know their Robert Johnsons from their Robert Crays will have heard of the legendary John Lee Hooker. This was a man that was virtually there at the beginning of a musical genre and shaped much of the sound that is the Blues.

    Much of the early life of John Lee Hooker is either unknown or inaccurately documented. Due to his illiteracy and the lack of proper management, there was often nobody to properly check many of the stories that were put into print about him. As a result, even his birthdate is a little hazy (he claims it was 1917, but it could also have been 1920). Born in the Delta region of Mississippi, and then moving to Memphis and playing his guitar on street corners to earn some cash, he ended up moving to Detroit and playing small clubs and bars until releasing his landmark number one track 'Boogie Chillin' in 1948.

    John Lee Hooker - That's My Story is told in Australian Story style - that is, with no narrator or voiceover, just the people being interviewed and the man himself doing the talking. Interviews with his ex-wife, his manager (who provides much of the historical content), and fellow musicians of the calibre of Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt, John Hammond, and Buddy Guy are included among others, all providing some thoughts and recounting their dealings with the great man. This style of documentary needs to be handled very carefully, as without the guiding hand of a narrator the plot can be lost quickly and the separate interviews often don't quite flow into each other. Unfortunately, this does happen to some extent with this documentary, and I really didn't feel that I learnt very much about John Lee Hooker's life at all. It seemed to concentrate on watching him drive around in his flash cars rather than getting into the gritty details of his life. There are also surprisingly few renditions of any of his signature tunes, with only a few brief examples played and a couple of minutes of live concert footage included.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Being a relatively new production, the video quality on offer is rather good. Despite what the packaging says, this is a widescreen presentation in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is also16x9 enhanced. The packaging claims it to be a 4:3 transfer. It is interesting that one of the key selling points for this disc could be so incorrect labelled. There is also Automatic Pan and Scan encoding present, which leads me to assume that whoever checked the aspect ratio for the packaging must have had their player set to 4:3 Pan & Scan mode and not realised it was widescreen.

    This is a finely detailed and a generally sharp transfer that benefits greatly from the 16x9 enhancement. There are no issues with shadow detail in any of the darker scenes (these are few and far between) and grain is virtually non-existent. There is also no low level noise. There is some stock black and white footage from the early 40s and 50s, and as would be expected this is of pretty poor quality, with scratches and artefacts galore, but other than that this is a clean, modern transfer.

    The colour palette on offer is rich and deep, with solid blacks and some nice saturated reds and blues. There are no problems with the colour rendition.

    There are no MPEG artefacts present. There is some minor shimmer on a mike stand at 30:56, and at 38:23 on a dress, but other than a couple of other minor instances on some of the instruments during the live performances that are barely noticeable, this is almost a blemish-free transfer.

    There is only one subtitle stream present, but it is not conventional English subtitles for dialogue. Rather, it is only used for titling, such as the names of the people who are speaking at the time. This is a shame, as really they are pretty worthless, and the inclusion of full English subtitles would have been invaluable due to some of the sentences from John Lee Hooker being delivered in a low Southern drawling mumble. At times he is very, very hard to understand.

    This is a single layered disc only, so there is no layer change to navigate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this disc, being a Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 224 Kb/s. With few actual performances and mostly spoken dialogue throughout, there is little need for a more dynamic soundtrack. This one does the job required of it without being overly exciting. There is only one problem worthy of note, that being a brief click audible at 73:30, though this is barely disruptive.

    Dialogue and lyrics are clear and concise with few problems evident. There are no apparent audio sync problems.

    Despite being a documentary about a musician, there is surprisingly little music played here. A couple of rather brief recent performances of John Lee Hooker's more well-known blues numbers is about all we get.

    There is no surround or LFE channel use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Audio of John Lee Hooker singing 'That's My Story' over a simple slideshow style menu animation.

Biographies-Cast

    Reasonably brief biography of John Lee Hooker. As mentioned in the synopsis, not all that much is known about his early life, so this part is passed over quite briefly. A discography would have been very informative here.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I am unable to find any reference to this DVD being sold in Region 1.

Summary

    This is not the greatest documentary that I have ever seen. It does not seem to follow any real path and as such focuses very much on the present. Much of the footage of John Lee Hooker seems to have been thrown in simply because the makers had access to it. Seeing the guy eating in a diner doesn't really add any value to the overall package in my mind. Overall, it's pretty much a current-day look at the man (well, as recently as 2001 anyway), with several brief interviews with other musicians and his manager providing much of the information.
   
    The video quality is excellent, with a 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced transfer. This is despite the packaging claiming it to be only a 4:3 transfer.

    The audio is workmanlike, without being anything too flash.

    The extras are extremely limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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