Rainbow Bridge (1971)

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Released 10-Apr-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Psychedelia Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer-3
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 121:44 (Case: 138)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (77:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Chuck Wein
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Chuck Wein
Pat Hartley
Melinda Merryn Weather
Berry de Prendergast
Case Click
RPI $32.95 Music Jimi Hendrix


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, and plenty of it!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Lest I understate this, the first thing you need to be aware of is that this is not a Jimi Hendrix film!  In defence of the DVD distributors, this is clearly stated on the rear cover blurb. But of course that does not stop the movie's producers plastering Jimi's picture and name all over the front cover and referring to the movie in most references as  "Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge". There is a lesson to be learned here: don't judge a DVD by its (front) cover...

    This movie actually had nothing (initially) to do with Jimi Hendrix at all and was purely and simply a cashing-in on Jimi's name to sell the film. The facts behind this woeful project are as follows:

  1. Jimi Hendrix was originally not involved in or associated with this movie at any level. It was a spin-off project by Jimi's then-manager and part-time Executive film Producer, Mike Jeffery.
  2. After some hectic studio recording sessions in the months leading up to July of 1970, Jimi had simply decided to take a well-earned three-week retreat on the island of Maui, Hawaii, with his fellow Jimi Hendrix Experience (re-formed) band members Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox. Jeffery was also on the island, overseeing the final stages of filming for his project, Rainbow Bridge. Clearly, as Jimi's manager, Jeffery would have had at least some sway in persuading The Experience to take their three-week retreat on this particular island in Hawaii. The best that can be said is that this was very convenient, to fit in with Jeffery's plans. At worst, Jeffery may have realised by this stage what a pile of rubbish he'd been filming and formulated a plan to dig himself out of the hole he had made with this movie, by cashing in on Jimi's name as the draw-card to flog the thing and recoup some losses. What is certain though (as sourced from a Mitch Mitchell interview) is that Jimi and the band had no involvement in the film until they got to Maui, when the film was then in its final stages.
  3. Very soon after arriving on the island, with some coaxing from Jeffery, The Experience agreed to be involved in an impromptu "concert" Jeffery wanted to organise on a volcano crater at the top of the island (aha, this sounds like a logistical brainstorm, doesn't it? - real practical this chap!...)  Mitchell recalls that, before they knew where they were, Jeffery and his mates were driving round the streets of the island with a truck and placards, announcing that a concert was going to held at the volcano crater and inviting everyone to the free event. Needless to say, this "concert" -  if you can call it that - was hastily arranged, poorly organised and poorly recorded, and The Experience only played a small set in front of a group of about 200 people. The quality of the recording was in fact so bad that only 18 minutes worth was salvageable for use. (Refer further discussion under audio transfer below.)   
  4. As well as allowing Jeffery to film the concert, Jimi also consented to allow himself to be filmed and included in the movie. Perhaps he did this willingly to help his friend and manager out. Or perhaps Jeffery pleaded with him to help out, knowing that the movie would be a disastrous flop otherwise. Who knows? But at any rate, if you watch the movie you will see that, up until the point when Jimi enters near the very end, the movie is meandering along and has no real point or end in sight. The one scene in which Jimi appears involves him sitting around in a small room, stoned, talking to a few of the other cast members (also stoned) and rambling on unscripted about absolutely nothing at all for about 10 minutes. Dig?
  5. For the record, the grand total of screen time involving Jimi in the finished film, including both the 18 minutes of deplorable "concert" footage and his one on-screen appearance (such as it is), runs to less than 25 minutes - out of an excruciatingly long 122 minute movie. But still, this is deemed enough by Jeffery to plaster him all over the movie poster and refer to the movie as "Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge".
    Oh, and did I mention that this movie was released soon after Jimi died? Nah, there couldn't possibly be any cashing in by Jeffery going on here, could there?...

    OK, so now that we've set the scene that this is in fact not a Hendrix movie, then what the hell is it actually about? Well, I've watched it all the way through and, to be frank, I'm still not sure. But then again, I wasn't stoned, so maybe I can't say. Let's use the back cover blurb to help us out a bit with the plot. The blurb informs us confidently that "Rainbow Bridge is a dizzying mix of countercultural lifestyles and politics set in Hawaii in 1970. (Aha.)  The movie tracks the journey of actress Pat Hartley across the Pacific to Maui, Hawaii. (Well, I wouldn't say that it "tracks her journey" as such, as she gets to the island barely 15 minutes into the movie!)  Once in Maui, Hartley is immediately welcomed by a group of young people determined to establish a new alternative community (read 'determined to stay stoned'). (Nothing much more happens for about an hour or so of the movie, and then:) ...Accompanied by the film's cast and crew (and the rest of the island), Hartley is treated to a private performance by the legendary guitarist."  And that's about all there is to it really.

    Let me be blunt. There is no plot to this movie at all. It is not even acted as such; it's just fly-on-the-wall filming of a group of young hippies, permanently stoned and pseudo-intellectualising with each other over a range of topics from UFOs to government conspiracies to the futility of war to channelling energy to spiritual enlightenment (yawn). The trouble is that it's very hard to take the characters or what they are talking about seriously; for one thing, it's very hard to maintain the facade of having a serious intellectual discussion with someone when  you're both permanently stoned out of your head and both discussing different topics from different planets!  Worse, the characters are often talking over each other and they are very hard to hear (refer audio transfer below).

    Am I starting to sound very cynical and jaded? Well, I'm sorry, but this movie has no redeeming features at all. It has no plot, gets nowhere, seems to have no purpose, and is very much a project rooted in its time. Peace, man. Groovy.... Well no, it wasn't for me.

    Not even as an avid Jimi Hendrix fan did I get anything out of this DVD. It wasn't worth sitting through the 90 minutes of hippie-banter to get to a very poor sounding and all-too-brief piece of concert footage. In fact, if you are a Jimi Hendrix fan, then I would recommend that you avoid this DVD, for fear of major disappointment.

    For the record, the track listing for the 18-minute concert is as follows:

  1. Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) / In From The Storm
  2. Foxy Lady
  3. Hear My Train A Comin' (interpolating Voodoo Child / Purple Haze / Star Spangled Banner).

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a poor quality transfer. It is presented in Pan and Scan 1.33:1, when the original film was clearly in an aspect ratio of at least 1.78:1. It is such a bad P&S attempt that it's quite obvious you are missing one-third of the picture. Things which give it away as P&S, rather than full frame, are: 
  1. the opening and closing credits do not fit in the frame.
  2. there are several scenes involving a character having a discussion with another character who is just off frame (see 59:09 for an example).
  3. there is some extremely poor framing of Jimi Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell during the concert. As they are a little bit apart on the stage, the operator obviously had some problems trying to keep them both in the same 1.33:1 frame. However, instead of panning on to Jimi during his guitar solos (which would have been logical), the operator instead keeps Mitch in the shot and loses Jimi off the edge of the frame, while he is in fact the only one playing any instruments at the time! (see 83:10 for an example of how annoying this is).
  4. the reel change markings (refer below) at the top RHS of the frame appear only as half-circles.

    In short, the person responsible for this particular Pan and Scan effort should be shot!

    The quality of the transfer itself is also poor. We are watching a version that has been sourced from a lower-generation theatrical print of the film, and not the interpositive, as is usual and the norm for DVD transfers. What gives it away as being sourced from a down-the-line-generation theatrical print is the reel change markings, which occur at the top RHS of the frame about every 20 mins (the first one is at 19:06). Once you're aware that this is a theatrical print, you start to subconsciously look for the reel change markings every 20 minutes or so and this is very annoying. There should be no excuse nowadays for using such a print for mastering to DVD, unless the original interpositive was perhaps lost or damaged or could not be located, which may have been the case here.

    The print from which this DVD is sourced is aged and dirty, with no effort made (or deemed worthwhile) to clean or restore it. As a result, all aspects of luminance and chrominance in this transfer are extremely poor. Images are mostly undefined and not sharp, resolution ranges from ordinary to downright woeful, with background resolution being almost non-existent on occasion and even foreground resolution being less than satisfactory in many scenes - see 42:57 for a particularly bad example. (In some defence of the film print though, it would appear to me that focus-pulling was not a highly practiced skill of the cameramen on this high-quality film production!) 

    All colours are faded on this aged print, with the result that whatever vibrancy may have been there in the first place has now been lost. Skin tones are not natural.

    The print is plagued with film artefacts. There are innumerable flecks, scratches,  hairs, bits of dirt  and some more obvious positive and negative film artefacts. The sheer number of the scratches and flecks alone is enough to rate high on the viewer-distraction meter, but they do range in magnitude from mostly inconspicuous to downright disconcerting. The worst ones involve temporary jarring of the image on occasion, associated with momentary visual and audio dropouts (see comment under audio transfer below) and some prominent positive and negative artefacts (see 114:53 for an example of a momentary positive (black) artefact near centre-screen).

    Other film-to-video artefacts involve colour bleeding, noticed in the psychedelic "colour trip" sequences, involving some (deliberately) excessive colour saturation, and telecine wobble. The poor resolution inherent in the print also means that some of the blacks suffer from low level noise, whilst many of the other colour expanses suffer from chroma noise.

    There are no subtitles on this disc. It would have been handy though, as I had trouble picking up quite a lot of the dialogue.

    The disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring at 77:13, mid-scene.

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

Audio

    The poor quality of the video transfer is outdone by the even poorer quality audio transfer. The cover states that there is a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or Dolby Digital 5.1 on this disc. In fact, there is only one mix, being Dolby Digital 5.1.

    I was intrigued to read that the disc would contain a 5.1 mix at all, as the original film (released in 1971) clearly did not, and I was curious to know how/why the producers of this DVD release would bother to re-mix the audio track for such a dated and obscure movie. Unfortunately, I have to inform you that the marketing of this as a 5.1 mix is extremely misleading.

    This is not a 5.1 mix. Whilst the rear speakers may be said to be technically active during playback, I could not detect any real surround information at all emanating from the rear speakers. In fact, the only sounds I could hear were some re-amplification of hiss from the front speakers and some annoying little microphone clicks and pops during the concert. Other than that, nothing.

    This should have been left as a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in the first place. The "re-mixing" into 5.1 is a marketing gimmick. The audio mix is dead-front-and-centre-weighted, with the front left and right channels coming in only every now and again for the benefit of the few Hendrix songs which adorn the soundtrack. The audio mix also suffers from an extreme amount of hiss. This is not altogether surprising for a poor quality, 1970 on-location audio recording, however if the producers really wanted to give this film a proper DVD release then they could have tried to at least clean up the original 2-channel recording, rather than just amplifying the hiss into the rear speakers and marketing it as a "5.1" mix. As it is, the quality of this audio is not satisfactory for a commercial DVD release.

    As a result of the extreme hiss in the original recording, I had a lot of trouble hearing much of the dialogue. It doesn't help that the dialogue is natural (unscripted) and therefore you have people talking over each other a lot of the time. And it certainly doesn't help not having any subtitles to turn to either.

    Finally, this mix also suffers from some appalling audio clicks and sound dropouts. Again, this is probably no great surprise, if you master a DVD from a dirty, aged, poor quality theatrical print. At some points though, the audio drops out completely for a beat before coming back in. Some of these instances are also accompanied by some annoying jarring of the visual - clearly this corresponds to a portion of the film print which has been damaged. At other times, I heard the audio mix fading in and out for several minutes, before settling down again to normal volume. For an example of just how frustrating the audio drop-outs and variable volume can be, refer to Chapter 5.

    For what it's worth, audio sync seemed OK, for what dialogue I could discern, anyway.

    There is no subwoofer use in this audio mix.

    The soundtrack music is comprised of some Hendrix songs played over some of the scenes, mostly towards the beginning of the film, when Hartley is making her way to Maui and soon after she arrives. For about the middle third of the movie there is a big gap where very little soundtrack music is used, and then of course the last third of the film contains the 18-minute Experience concert. For the record, the studio recordings of Hendrix songs played over the movie as a soundtrack include Ezy Rider, Dolly Dagger, Pali Gap, The Star Spangled Banner and Room Full of Mirrors. It is worthwhile noting that much cleaner re-mastered versions of all of these Hendrix songs (with the possible exception of the obscure track Pali Gap?) are available and these re-mastered versions could have easily been mixed in to the soundtrack, had the producers really bothered. But no, they inflict on us the extremely hissy, very poor quality versions of these songs mixed in to the original 1970 film score.

    Unfortunately, this DVD is not even redeemable for Jimi Hendrix fans for its 18-minutes of concert recording. The quality of the recording is absolutely woeful. Mitch Mitchell has explained the background behind this concert in an interview. When the band finally arrived at this remote venue, after a near four-mile hike to near the top of the island, they found a hastily constructed stage set in the middle of a very windy meadow. The wind howled so fiercely that the band were forced to cut foam out of their instrument cases to serve as microphone wind screens. With no hard-wired power available, the group had to share a generator run by the film crew. The concert was recorded on an eight track tape machine installed in a rented panel truck. Technical problems plagued the recording, including the fact that the eight-track had trouble picking up the audio through the thick foam that the band were forced to use because of the wind!  

    By the way, if when you're watching the visual of this concert it appears that Mitch's drum parts are out of sync, you're quite correct. It turns out that when the tapes were replayed at Electric Ladyland studios later, the drum parts were inaudible through the foam-covered microphone over the drums!  To salvage the recording, Mitch was forced to re-record and overdub his drum parts in the studio, by listening to the original performance on headphones whilst Eddie Kramer (the studio producer/mixer) watched the footage on a makeshift movieola!

    A final piece of trivia:  this disastrous performance on 30 July 1970  turned out to be the last ever American "concert" played by Hendrix, before his final Isle of Wight performance in England on August 30, and his sad passing on 18 September, 1970.

   (Acknowledged source for Mitch Mitchell interview and background to the Maui concert is taken from "The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set", produced by Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and John McDermott for Experience Hendrix LLC.)

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

Extras

Menu

    All menus are presented in 1.33:1 with 2 channel audio. The main menu is intriguing. It is a still image of Hendrix, with audio. The audio comprises a very weird, groovy, far-out, freaky spoken introduction to the movie. The voice doing the introduction rambles on for a good 3-4 minutes, telling us firstly that "Rainbow Bridge is a message to the brothers and sisters of planet Earth", before going on to enlighten us about such issues as the disintegration of society, how there is a new society being energised by the spirit of the young people who have come together, how the messenger is coming, how world peace is in reach, and other such b******. Ya dig?... This is freaky stuff man! It sounds more like an indoctrination/brainwashing session to me, more so than a movie intro. If anything, it only had the effect of making me NOT want to watch this movie!

Trailer: "Power To the People" (3.26),
Trailer: "Metaphysical" (2.38), and
Trailer: "Foxy Lady" (3.03).

    These are three different trailers for Rainbow Bridge. All are 1.33:1, 2-channel, and surprisingly of slightly better quality video than the feature.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD is available in Region 1 in identical format to the Region 4 release (apart from the R1 disc being in NTSC).

Summary

    This movie is an exploitation of Jimi Hendrix fans. There is nothing at all to recommend either the movie or the DVD. Appalling audio and video, accompanied by a movie which has no plot and no purpose. A worthy nomination for the "Hall of Shame". Recommended to be avoided like the plague, especially if you are a Hendrix fan.

    Move along please people, there's nothing to see here....

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Monday, July 08, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

Other Reviews NONE
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