... and I LOVE this movie! Now expanded on DVD, this movie is even better, and I consider it among the very best in rock'n'roll films. Why? First, the performances are good and capture The Dead at one of it's many creative peaks. But the real show is the audience, those lovable Deadheads who party as if it's their last night on earth. The movie shows the whole scene, warts and all, from tech support to the band backstage.
Now, I don't get into that scene, never did. We can have a good time without trendy chemical amusement aid. But it was a part of the peak years of stadium tours of the 1970s. The music was the catalyst and the fan support unwavering. That was the strength and weakness of the rock'n'roll scene of that time, which, while not void of trouble, certainly led to the tragedies of the late '70s that changed seating arrangements at large venues. Frankly, I have stopped going to large concerts where the cattle mentality is capable of violence. In contrast, I found my sole Grateful Dead show to be among the most peaceable shows I've ever attended, a testament to the music-loving crowd that has faithfully followed the band for generations.
That love of music comes through loud and clear on "The Grateful Dead Movie". Some of the fierce loyalties make for superior humor and the sole connection for many of the attendees at these shows.
At times there are sad undertones: some fans are getting their acts together and just spending some quality time with friends while others seem completely lost to the scene. For some show goers, drugs were the catalyst. But that's the way it was back then; and perhaps always will be. Some people are drawn into whatever their hearts desire and choose to make that obsession their lives, which is fine when that endeavor is a creation of their own, when it's not, that's a real loss. A groupie for life is not the life worth living, folks. Still, the love is mutual: the film clearly shows the love the band has for it's listeners. At one point, a shirtless fan is escorted onstage and presents drummer Bill Kreutzmann with a custom "California Dead" license plate. The two shake hands, and the plate is proudly displayed on the bass drum.
The first disc is the original movie with the usual DVD options. I chose to have subtitles activated to enjoy the lyrics as I watched the film. There are also several audio options for the listener to enjoy, which will really impress the true fans. The second disc features eleven songs left on the cutting floor the first time around and for me, it was overkill, truly for the fan. Still, I listened to two of them. Several documentaries round out the package, and I found them all truly fascinating, particularly the "Making of the Animation" sequence. The Photo Gallery was for the discriminating fan, I found endless shots of production papers overkill, though some of Garcia's notes fascinating. Which leads me to the only downer of the package: the documentaries don't interview the entire band. It's great to see Donna Jean again reminiscing with buddy Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir's spacey recollections have a melancholic tone, but where's the rest? Phil Lesh has GREAT insight of the band and life philosophies in general, and he's missed. So is Mickey Hart. But the real cavity is Garcia's absence.
His recollections would have truly been the ace in the hole, particularly since "The Grateful Dead Movie" was his baby. The interviewees do the best they can to speak Garcia's piece but it's no substitute. Further, I'm sure if not for his death this project would have been hastened, as unrest hit The Grateful Dead camp upon Garcia's premature parting.
Part rock show, part documentary, 100% fun, "The Grateful Dead" movie will satisfy lifelong fans and surely convert new ones, as this is as close to the real thing as one can get, since the real thing is now a part of history. One thing is for sure, if you're not a fan, you may find yourself at least liking it by the end of the film.
After all, if you weren't interested, you wouldn't have picked it up, would you?
Cheers: The definitive time capsule of The Grateful Dead in it's prime; fantastic animated opener; great song selection; photo gallery has great shots of the band in the early days; great natural spontaneity; good flow from band to fan and back; records the dynamics of a rock show; good for any rock'n'roll listener, fan or not; multiple audio choices; very humorous; witty; engaging; lovingly produced; superb DVD interactivity.
Caveats: May be overindulgent for some; bass is muddy on some songs; some fans will disturb viewers; drug use aplenty; not all of the band is interviewed; photo gallery indulgent in places; NOT FOR KIDS!!! Let it roll!!!