The Grateful Dead Movie
The Music Box's #1 specialty package for 2004
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by John Metzger
In October 1974, the Grateful Dead staged a series of five concerts on its home turf at San Franciscoís Winterland Arena for the purpose of saying goodbye, perhaps forever, to its faithful followers. As if psychedelics werenít enough to etch the proceedings into the collective consciousness of both the band and its fans, Jerry Garcia employed, at the last minute, a quartet of makeshift camera crews ó whose members included documentary filmmakers Leon Gast, Al Maysles, and Don Lenzer ó in order to preserve the event in the usual Grateful Dead fashion ó that is, without direction. He then spent the next 2 Ĺ years trying to sculpt it into a feature-length cinematic experience. That the final product worked as well as it did was somewhat surprising, but then again, its visuals were captured by at least a few professionals, and the adulation that everyone involved in the project held for the group shined through the movieís intimate imagery.
Indeed, just as there has never been another ensemble quite like the Grateful Dead, neither has there been a film quite like The Grateful Dead Movie. Although it highlights the band performing some of its most famous (and hence, cliched) songs ó U.S. Blues, Casey Jones, Truckiní, and Sugar Magnolia are all featured prominently ó itís the manner in which the material is presented that makes the documentary so remarkable. In essence, it captures the nebulous, but no less magical interaction between the collective and its audience like no other concert film ever has. Although that is at least partially a factor of the unique nature of the Grateful Deadís surrounding scene, itís also a testament to the loving care taken by the movieís creators to preserve and highlight the sociological underpinnings upon which such a symbiotic and sensual relationship was able to thrive. By combining behind-the-scenes glimpses of the ensemble and its crew; a positively mesmerizing animation sequence; a concise, historical overview of the groupís beginnings; reflections by the fans; and performance footage that stars the audience as much as the band, The Grateful Dead Movie takes on a life of its own, one that provides an insightful and knowledgeable portrayal of the proceedings in a way that is neither egotistical nor self-conscious. Instead, it beautifully encapsulates everything that being a part of this strange, fascinating, and surreal world has ever meant to anyone who was ever a part of it.
Remastered from both a visual and sonic perspective, The Grateful Dead Movie now shines even brighter with pictures that pop and sounds that swirl. Not surprisingly, itís also been padded with a wide array of bonus material, including a brief segment with Gary Gutierrez about the crafting of the opening cartoon; a short documentary on the making of the DVD; several commercial advertisements for the Grateful Deadís 1974 outing From the Mars Hotel; a handful of hidden surprises; and a 30-minute film that combines unused footage from the original movie with recent interviews of legendary roadie Steve Parish and band members Bob Weir, Donna Godchaux, and Bill Kreutzmann. Of particular note is a perceptive and witty commentary by film editors Susan Crutcher and John Nutt, during which they reflect fondly upon their participation in the project. In addition, the refurbished package features nearly 95 minutes of earth shattering performances by the Grateful Dead ó including mind-bending renditions of The Other One and Dark Star ó which, like the film itself, are positively exhilarating in their surround sound incarnations. Without a doubt, from the impeccable music to the stirring visuals, The Grateful Dead Movie is the epitome of the Grateful Dead experience, and itís not to be missed by anyone with even the slightest bit of curiosity about what being a Deadhead signifies.
Of Further Interest...
The Grateful Dead Movie is available on DVD from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack is available on CD from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box