The Best of the Blues Brothers (NTSC) (1997) (NTSC)

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Released 1-Jun-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Featurette-How To Play The Harmonica/Blues Licks
Trailer-Anastasia; The Amazing Feats Of Young Hercules
Trailer-Where The Red Fern Grows I & II
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 60
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor
UAV
Buena Vista Australia
Starring Dan Aykroyd
John Belushi
Case Snapper
RPI $19.95 Music The Blues Brothers Band


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    I freely admit that my only experience of the Blues Brothers until fairly recently was the film directed by John Landis. Then, a few years ago, I started listening to some of the CDs made by the Blues Brothers Band, ones like Briefcase Full Of Blues. To be perfectly frank, I cannot say I was overly impressed by their music. It had too much similarity from song to song without any of the powerful redeeming features that I would normally look for. Of course, I'd also learned that the Blues Brothers had more-or-less started as an act on Saturday Night Live, and this DVD is a retrospective look at those days. To call this DVD a music video would be selling it short, although calling it a documentary would also be somewhat misleading. Essentially, this is a story of the formation and life of the Blues Brothers Band as told through the eyes of both Dan Aykroyd, who does most of the talking here, and his alter ego Elwood Blues. Although John Belushi is listed as a star of the presentation, the fact that he is only able to appear in archival footage cuts down his screen time quite a lot. Nonetheless, this disc is a far more fitting memorial to him than Blues Brothers 2000.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    From the word go, we are made pretty much aware that this is a recycled straight-to-video transfer. This feature, and all of the extras, are presented at the standard television aspect ratio of 1.33:1, without 16x9 enhancement, and in the NTSC format. The transfer is variably sharp, with the objects closest to the camera (usually Dan Aykroyd or John Belushi) being reasonably sharp and detailed most of the time. Background details, especially in the archival footage, are hard to make out because of the limitations of the original photography, not that the MPEG encoding helps any. Occasionally, the objects closest to the camera also become something of a blur, and this is highlighted by the fact that it happens occasionally enough to be notable when it does occur. Some of the footage of the Blues Brothers Band playing numbers such as Messin' With The Kid is of rather poor quality. Shadow detail was reasonable during the archival footage of the band, and occasionally poor during the interviews with Dan Aykroyd. Low level noise often threatened to creep in and make its presence felt, but thankfully the instances where it became visible were confined to the background.

    Colour saturation varied according to the age of the footage. The archival footage tended to be very muted and drab, although this has a lot to do with the attire worn by the band and the cosmetic trimmings of their equipment. The interview footage looked somewhat oversaturated from time to time, although it is a little hard to tell exactly where the colours were supposed to be, given how dark the interview footage is. Colour saturation during footage of the first song Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi performed together on Saturday Night Live was all over the place. The real problem with the entire presentation lies in the harsh lighting, which can often be seen in the form of coloured streaks on the picture. For some reason, the transfer rate of most of the footage is around 4 Mb/second. The result looks something like a first-play VHS tape, which is reasonable enough when you consider that playing it won't make it any worse. Still, RSDL formatting combined with a higher bitrate could have done wonders for this presentation.

    MPEG artefacts seemed to be absent from the presentation in spite of the odd threat here and there, as did film artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts, most notably moiré effects, took up the slack. I would not be surprised to learn that this DVD was merely created from a Betacam source tape comprised of raw footage shot with Betacam tapes. Most of this footage also gives a strong appearance of a DVD created directly from some kind of videotape.

    Subtitles are completely absent from this disc, so you're out of luck if you don't speak English like most of the rest of the world, which makes me wonder why this disc is formatted for world-wide use, as the back cover puts it.

Audio

    This disc contains only one soundtrack: an English soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0, without surround encoding. This, of course, meant I only had one choice of audio track to listen to. Given that most of the footage consists of the band playing some classic blues numbers, the overdubbing of foreign languages would have been more trouble than it would be worth. Essentially, what we get with this DVD is a two-channel digital audio mix that has had the bare minimum restoration done to it in order to make it acceptable for DVD or VHS. If you're looking for a demonstration disc to show off the beauty of your surround channels, then this disc certainly ain't it.

    The dialogue was consistently audible, mainly because there was little, if anything, in the way of background sound going on when it was present. The vocals in the music tracks were mixed well into the overall sound, although the overall music does suffer the limitations of having been recorded in a live setting in the era of analogue. However, if you really enjoy a good bit of music, you will love these pieces of footage from an age where selling a few million records actually took some creative talent. Audio sync was never an issue in either the live or interview footage, although the footage never offered much opportunity for objective comparison.

    The music was composed and performed by The Blues Brothers Band (obviously), some of the most talented musicians from the pre-1984 era. Most of the songs that comprised the film were absent from the presentation, which will disappoint those who have no other experience of this band. On the other hand, people like myself who can call themselves musicians will find it remarkable that a band comprised of more than ten men can play together so tightly, especially if they're youthful enough to have missed the day and age when bands got together in little clubs every other week. I won't bore you by reciting exactly who plays what, since you should already know if you're really into the band.

    The surround presence was non-existent, as I stated before in a less explicit fashion. Given that this presentation mainly revolves around a form of music that was developed in the days when mono was the only option, this is perfectly acceptable. The sound quality won't exactly set the world on fire, but it won't make you want to fling the disc across the room, either.

Extras

    This is one of the most unhelpfully programmed discs I have ever witnessed, with both of my players not even being given explicit information on the length of the current feature. This is, in my view, a patently unacceptable omission, as is the lack of RSDL formatting to allow higher transfer rates. Having said that much, the extras are of some limited interest.

Menu

    This has to be one of the worst menus I have seen on a DVD. It is not presented with any enhancement of any kind, and the option you have selected at any given point can be described as "the one you cannot read". The scene selection menu is especially unhelpful, with the graphics and text being so small that anyone with lesser eyesight than I have (about 90 percent of the world's populace, in other words) will have a lot of trouble reading it. It is also extremely counter-intuitive to navigate.

Coming Attractions

    As the name on the main menu implies, this option takes you to three previews of other UAV releases. In order, these are Anastasia (an animated feature about the young Russian princess), The Amazing Feats Of Young Hercules (an animated feature about the trials and tribulations of the mythical god-man), and a combined preview (or sales pitch if you like) of Where The Red Fern Grows I & II (a live-action Family Values-type pair of films). Given how much the main feature would have benefited from a higher bit-rate and more care in the transfer process, I can't say I'm particularly impressed by the inclusion of these previews. However, artefacts seem to be absent from all of them.

Featurette - How To Play The Harmonica/Blues Licks

    An instructional video on how to play blues harmonica. Although the man featured in this video claims that he's pitching to players of all levels, you'll need to at least know all the basics of playing harmonica to get any educational use out of this featurette. However, if you're like me in that you can't play harmonica but can play an instrument of some kind, you might find this to be of some interest.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc is identical the world over, even down to the NTSC formatting.

Summary

    The Best Of The Blues Brothers is an interesting look back into an era gone by, elements of which I sorely wish were still present today. It is presented on a DVD that is somewhat underdone, however. UAV Entertainment, who are also responsible for the rather sub-par presentation of Subway, really need to lift their game if this is their idea of a good DVD presentation.

    The video quality is as good as the source material allows, which is basically like your average music video at a higher resolution.

    The audio quality is adequate, but nothing to get excited about.

    The extras are adequate, although of limited interest.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Monday, February 28, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDGrundig GDV-100D/Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsong CS-823AMF (80cm)/Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersPanasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer

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