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Music Video Distributors presents
Legends of Country: Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline (1990, 1993)

"She's still Butcher Holler, as far as I can see."
- Minnie Pearl, on Loretta Lynn and her hometown of Butcher Holler, Kentucky

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: May 24, 2002

Stars: Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline
Other Stars: George Jones, Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Eddy Arnold, Roy Clark, k.d. lang, Mel Tillis, Charlie Dick, Duane Allen, Owen Bradley, Waylon Jennings, Patti Loveless, Minnie Pearl, Conway Twitty
Director: Mark Hall

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:40m:51s
Release Date: March 20, 2001
UPC: 022891280828
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- B+C-C D

DVD Review

It's a double dip, a look at two of the all-time queens of country music, together on this one disc. Come on down to the Grand Ole Opry, and let's compare and contrast.

Loretta Lynn: You're Looking At Country

"Through all the fame and fortune, and under the constant glare of the public spotlight, she never really changed from the sweet and innocent yet feisty honkytonk girl of her first record."
Johnny "K" Koval, narrator

If you think that this quotation from the opening narration means that you're in for a valentine to Loretta Lynn, you're right. Produced in 1990, this documentary recites the biographical facts that are familiar to country music fans, and to anybody who has seen Coal Miner's Daughter—born and raised in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, married young and whisked off by her husband Doolittle (Moonie to his friends) to Washington state, Loretta Lynn then started moving up the ladder of country music, first winning a competition at the state fair, then amateur nights, then onto radio, and television, and to that pinnacle of country music, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

There's a whole lot of interview footage with Lynn, who seems to have told many of these stories countless times before; the best new clips are of her and her husband revisiting the home she grew up in, and their tales of their first date. They seem tremendously genuine and warm, especially when relating their days of barnstorming across the country, sleeping in their car, trying to find any DJ who would play her record, Honkytonk Girl.

Kitty Wells paved the way for female country singers, and Patsy Cline was on top as Lynn was coming up, but Lynn gets a lot of credit for introducing a female point of view into her songs. Tunes like Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' and Fist City alert the listener that this isn't a woman to mess with. She points to Wells' Honkytonk Angel as an inspiration, but also, early on, paid a nice tribute to Cline—when Patsy was in the hospital after a car accident, in 1961, Lynn went on the radio, wished her well, and dedicated a rendition of I Fall to Pieces to Patsy. (There's even a bizarre bit of footage of Cline, performing Walkin' After Midnight in some misguided early music video, featuring the singer wrapping packages at a convenience store.)

Soon Lynn gets a little more uptown—the venues are bigger, the backing bands are tighter, and though she still seems to remain very nice, a bit of the diva creeps in. The documentary glosses over some 1980s battles with stagefright and burnout, but does offer some nice images of this coal miner's daughter at the top of the pyramid, with Dinah Shore, and Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Carson, and even Kermit the Frog. This isn't a searing portrait, or even much of an intimate look at her, but her warmth shines through, and there are some especially good old television clips of her performing.

Remembering Patsy

"She did whatever she wanted to, and it really comes through in the music. She broke some rules."
Trisha Yearwood, on Patsy Cline

Made in 1993, thirty years after Cline's untimely death in an airplane crash, this second half of the double bill is true to its title: it's largely reminiscences about Patsy from family, friends and colleagues, as well as younger country singers who know her only from her records. (The Hollywood companion piece to this one is Sweet Dreams, and if you've seen that movie, again, many of the facts will be familiar.) Things start with idyllic Kennedy images of Camelot, and comparisons of Patsy to Elvis; happily for us, things get a lot less grand, and the concentration for the bulk of the hour is on the music.

The earliest television clip is from 1957, with Cline performing Walkin' After Midnight on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. Given her brief career, there isn't a whole lot of narrative to fill in, so happily we're given long clips of Patsy singing. And could she ever—there are terrific versions here of staples of her catalog, including Lovesick Blues, Stupid Cupid, Strange (originally written for the Everly Brothers) and of course, Crazy. Willie Nelson, who wrote this last one, even strums a few bars for us himself. Michelle Wright reads from Patsy's letters, a necessary device, I guess, given that actual interview footage of her is scarce, and that the correspondence is evocative of her charm and salty tongue.

She was one of the first country acts to play Vegas, which sounds as if it was a withering experience; far more rewarding was a gig at Carnegie Hall. (Practice, practice, practice.) Her early death was truly a shattering loss, the country equivalent of the day the music died—given the extraordinarily high quality of her work in six short years, it's impossible even to imagine what she might have done had she had a career as long as Loretta Lynn's.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Picture quality isn't particularly good in the newly recorded interviews, and the archival clips of course vary in quality. Transfer to DVD seems workmanlike, with too much contrast and frequently insufficient resolution.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The music sounds generally fine, but this DVD is no substitute for spinning CDs of the songs on display here. Some hiss and ambient noise can be heard pretty steadily through both documentaries.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring George Jones: Live in Tennessee & Same Old Me, The Outlaws: Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, Country Legends, This Joint Is Jumpin', The Very Best of The Mamas & The Papas
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The Lynn documentary has fourteen chapter stops; the Cline, twelve. An original trailer and five others from the distributor's catalog are the only additional extras on hand.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

If you're a fan of their music, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn probably seem like old friends, and these documentaries are fond if familiar looks at their lives. If you're new to either or both, you may enjoy them as well, but you'll probably get a better feel for them by seeking out a greatest hits CD. Some old television clips of Cline especially make this DVD worth a look for the faithful.

 


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