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A&E Home Video presents
The Real Las Vegas (1996)

"You come to Las Vegas and the promise is that you can have anything. Any kind of sex you want, any kind of thrill you want, any kind of entertainment you want, any kind of anything."
- Michael Ventura

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: August 29, 2001

Stars: Wayne Newton
Other Stars: Debbie Reynolds, Michael Ventura
Director: Jim Milio, Melissa Jo Peltier

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (no objectionable content)
Run Time: 03h:10m:02s
Release Date: August 28, 2001
UPC: 733961703047
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I'm not opposed to documentaries. Not at all, some of them, such as Crumb and Gimme Shelter are more penetrating and harrowing than fictional accounts of similar subjects. I'm not bored by documentaries, nor do I shy away from them simply because they're nonfiction. However, I do know a bad documentary when I see one, and I have to include The Real Las Vegas in the ranks of truly bad documentaries. What should have been an interesting subject, namely, the past and present of Las Vegas, is quickly wasted and turned into one huge snooze fest.

Let me give you a taste of what The Real Las Vegas is like. Ever see a trailer for a bad action movie? You know, where the deep-voiced announcer says, "A man, in a world of danger. Only he can stop the skunks from invading the soccer house before the big game. Only - [add your own stupid action hero name] can do it!" And the name of the movie is The Skunkinator or something to that effect. Now, take that deep-voiced announcer, and have him say this while we see various shots of Las Vegas hotels: "From the bosom of God himself, one man strode into the desert and turned this hellish void into a city of SIN!" Then cut to snippets of interviews with very old authentic Vegas showgirls. You get the idea.

The scenes that try and just tell the story end up suffering from "talking heads" syndrome. Not only that, if an interviewee refers to an historical figure, they will cut to a picture of that figure. For much of the first part of the documentary, these people are so old that few pictures exist at all, and thus we are bombarded with the same picture over and over, as if the editor were a brain-damaged obsessive compulsive. Not only that, but the previously mentioned "talking heads" syndrome, combined with these repetitive pictures, creates a detached atmosphere. We hear what the people are talking about, and we see the grainy pictures, but we don't get a clear image of the time or place. For a documentary, this is fatal.

Of course the show (this was actually a series of TV episodes) picks up the closer we get to modern times, as we get to see actual footage instead of old pictures, and the people interviewed are younger and more energetic. However, what is there to know aside from what we already know about Las Vegas today? Yes, you can do almost anything there, and, yes, it's a rip-off, but, of course, people still go there by the hundreds of thousands. Is this so unknown that someone had to spend money to make a documentary about it?

Rating for Style: F
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: There's nothing wrong with this transfer. No artifacts or color bleeding. On the other hand, it's not like the colors jump out at you. It's what you would expect a TV series from 1996 to look like. Actually, considering TV shows have colors that seem to fade rather fast, perhaps this looks a little better than normal.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Real Las Vegas isn't really a sonic powerhouse. There are no giant explosions, no liquid metal robots that melt, no giant orbiting satellites that can destroy portions of the earth on command. Therefore, a surround sound mix would be unnecessary. And so we have a stereo mix. This mix is completely adequate for the task at hand, that is, making sure we can clearly hear the people onscreen. The sound here is just fine and I wouldn't ask for any more.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: n/a

Extras Review: No extras, and, for the first time in my life, I'm happy about it.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

I cannot impress upon you highly enough the need for you to avoid The Real Las Vegas. The only reason I would suggest watching it is to learn what to not do when making a documentary, or if you need something to put you to sleep in a hurry.


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