In the 1970’s, rock music was literally riding the waves of an epic foundation. Most bands delivered the core sounds that would influence, shape, and mold the music that followed in its tracks. For the bands that dared to experiment with theatrics, drama, and a progressive tone, no other band defined that with pure perfection than Queen. They were quite literally one of the most original bands of the time and dared to take rock music to places it had not yet found. In many ways, they were very over-the-top for their time, but in the end, it worked and has earned them a fan base in the millions.
Gaining notoriety didn’t come easy for Queen; it was a long struggle before the hard work would pay off. It took the band up to eight years before they made their mark in the United States with their platinum hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The song itself was the accomplishment of doing an opera within a few minutes, but in rock music, it was quite foreign to most musicians, yet very original. Nevertheless, the song dominated rock and pop radio for years and is still a favorite in classic-rock radio today. The hits didn’t end there; they would soon follow through the years with great cuts such as “You’re My Best Friend,” “Killer Queen,” “Somebody to Love,” “Fat Bottom Girls,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and the sports-arena favorites still played today worldwide, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” In the rumor world, it would be later noted that “We Are the Champions” was actually about the gay movement in the world, but the majority of the population thought it related to their favorite sports team. Nevertheless, people related the song to anything that made them feel good, regardless of what anyone else thought.
“Queen: Days of Our Lives” is a brief documentary told from the remaining band members: Brian May, an outstanding guitar player and practicing physicist, along with percussionist Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon. Of course, what would Queen be without the flamboyant and charismatic Freddie Mercury? What interviews we see of him are small cuts from years past, but they are enough to let us know he treated the band as his family. Perhaps his talents would overshadow his other band mates, but ultimately his dominance lead the band through a choppy ride in American popularity.
Through the direction of Matt O’Casey, we are taken on a brief history of Queen, up to the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991. In the early years we see how a few college friends form a band, make some records, get ripped-off by their first manager, and finally gain American popularity from their smash hit “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I felt there was a lot of material to be admired in Queen’s early years that merely get footnotes in this documentary. Nevertheless, the story moves on to show us their career highlights and how a band that had such a unique rock-meets-opera style would never quite make that one album that defined them. Many of their albums were hated by critics in the 1970’s, but with that original style and a few hit songs, it was enough to get the following they deserved.
In 1980, Queen would hit it big again with a number-one single, “Another One Bites the Dust” from one of their best selling albums, “The Game.” It was after that record that the band began a downward spiral, as Freddie’s escapades in the gay scene put more pressure on other band members to produce music directed toward gay nightclubs. Egos began to collide in the early 1980’s, and many heated comments were coming from other band members about Freddie’s demanding nature in the studio. Sadly, Queen, in their later years, would be more adored in the European music scene. They would never again gain the peak of their triumphant ride in America in the 1970’s. Nonetheless, to their loyal fans in America they are forever a band that helped define arena rock and influence many musicians to follow. Queen was certainly original in the way they dared to take chances with their sound, even if it meant completely destroying it. Granted, experimenting with sound usually has disastrous results. Let’s just say that for Queen, like most rock bands of the 1970’s, there were good times, there were bad times.
This Blu-ray presentation is presented in 1080i, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The actual footage is split between passable clarity in the recent widescreen interviews and generally poor quality in the older footage, delivered in a standard-screen television format. Nevertheless, there are some gems in the older footage that look very clean, yet soft enough never to touch the pristine quality of high-definition. For the most part, the picture is consistently grainy and slaps you with that “Hey, look at me, I’m an independent filmmaker.”
Do not expect this disc to be delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 or the popular DTS. The only thing you will see listed on the back cover of the disc for audio is LPCM. Yep, Linear Pulse-Code Modulation is all you get on this Blu-ray, and being it is the new audio format on the block for hi-definition, it’s really all the disc needs. While I felt the delivery lacked in dynamics, it wasn’t too bad considering it’s just a documentary. The music itself was easily stereo enough to enjoy, but overall fell a little flat. As with all documentaries, it’s mostly the front speakers that do all the work. Nevertheless, when the music plays, it does offer some blend of rich tones, just not as dynamic as I would like.
Now, for what the documentary lacks in depth and time, the extra features help to make up for. There’s a section of music videos that include “Killer Queen,” “Under Pressure,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Many of the videos are old in what restoration there is and obviously made for the ratio of a standard television. I should also mention that many of the songs are cut short and never presented in their entirety.
There are twelve additional sequences of obviously more cutting-room-floor material. The disc also includes ten interviews claimed to be unseen in the documentary. Notice I said “claimed.” Many of them are included in the normal feature; it’s just that some of them are extended interviews. Well, I guess if you can listen to a musician speak for about thirty seconds, then add on another ten seconds of dialog, you can call that “unseen.” Why they didn’t just put the two feature sets on the menu as “Deleted Scenes,” I really don’t know.
Coming from a fan’s perspective, the old music videos are a treat for the sake of music history. As for the other features, they really don’t add any more detail or add any information I had not already heard about Queen.
I wish I could say “Queen: Days of Our Lives” offers the in-depth details Queen fans might be looking for, but it falls short in its vague delivery. I honestly found it to be more of a video encyclopedia, released with a few pictures and songs. It basically skims over the band’s career and then claims the entire feature is 221 minutes, as noted on the back cover. What they don’t tell you is which part of that 221 minutes is the main feature and which is all the special features. In my estimation, the main feature only lasted about 45 minutes, which would tell me it was meant as an hour-long television program. Well, in the end, it does work for casual collectors who may love some of the band’s old songs but do not necessarily worship the group.