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Waterfall Home Entertainment presents
John Lennon: The Messenger (2002)

"I think anybody who assassinates a world-famous person should, in future, be called Mr. or Ms. X, so their name is eradicated... so their name is taken out of time."
- Victor Spinetti, in a recent interview

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: October 29, 2002

Stars: fans, mourners and hangers-on of John Lennon
Other Stars: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Rock Hudson, Jack Benny, Edward G. Robinson, Groucho Marx
Director: Spyros Melaris

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (morbid fascination and Enquirer-type details)
Run Time: 01h:00m:07s
Release Date: September 10, 2002
UPC: 805203300199
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

If you consider yourself a fan of John Lennon, steer clear of this ugly and disrespectful hodgepodge. A collection of news footage, even if only remotely related to Lennon, his widow Yoko Ono and The Beatles, John Lennon: The Messenger opens with reports of Lennon's murder, shots of grieving fans, interviews with "outer circle" friends (whose close friends would participate with news cameras in the wake of a cold-blooded assassination?)—including his pharmacist—and goes downhill from there. The perpetrator of this heinous crime appears in vintage footage from an interview with Barbara Walters. (Walters is never shown; I would have preferred the murderer had not been, either.)

Further news/interview footage of Lennon and Ono, including some from their famous bedside press conference, as well as a brief bit of The Beatles in India that we've seen in better vehicles is layered with excerpts from various audio interviews (some of this audio is extended on the bonus CD). One studio engineer who worked with Lennon in later years cashes in on his rub with fame; his sorrow seems to be that he didn't save all the lyrics written on slips of paper the musician left around the studio.

If you must have rare newsreels of the boys, it is here, but mostly inaudible, especially several minutes with Ringo and Brian Epstein. Rock Hudson, Jack Benny, Edward G. Robinson and Groucho Marx are captured upon their arrival at the Hollywood Bowl to see The Beatles. The remainder is speculative opinion with other peripheral characters telling tales out of school. Oh, and some copycat band called The Overtures reconstructs a song they think Lennon might/would have written, and fill in a bit of the soundtrack with other Beatles-style songs.

There is very little substance here, and while various related bits are cut together, there seems no rhyme or reason to the order in which these themes are presented. Overall, this reads like the National Enquirer, and may be interesting to those who "want to know."

And the title? Don't even get me started... Bad taste from beginning to end.

For the real goods, spend some time with the copious talking heads included in Miramax's A Hard Day's Night release or better yet, the two excellent documentaries included in MPI's The Beatles: DVD Collector's Set.

Rating for Style: F
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: It is very difficult to rate this transfer. A mix of various source materials (most of which appears to have been in dubious condition to begin with), the image is quality is poor at best. The problems that come with aging and degrading video and/or film are rampant from start to finish. There is little to recommend here.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio on the main feature is also deeply flawed. While some sections are moderately clean, others are gratingly bad, making for a very uneven experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Packaging: Unknown
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus CD In His Own Words
  2. 32-page booklet
Extras Review: The DVD contains the main feature, In Spite of All the Dangers, as well as a 9-screen text biography (difficult to read as it is white text overliad on a black & white image), a discography that attempts to cover albums and singles (Lennon's post-Beatles work only) and a dozen or so photos of JPG&R.

The only material that saves this release from total disgrace lies in the bonus CD audio disc entitled In His Own Words.

Tracks one through three seem to be John Lennon and pal Victor Spinetti (I think I recognize his voice) discussing their collaboration on the staging of Lennon's In His Own Write with an uncredited interviewer. This audio track is very clear but has little new of interest.

Track four is a very hissy and brief early Beatles-era interview in which Lennon is asked about the Rolling Stones.

Track five is tough to listen to as the audio is loud but its quality is quite poor. It has Lennon in Canada speaking to the press about peace activities.

Tracks six through fifteen is a set of brief vintage Fab Four material with the boys answering questions from the press, with some segments in better condition than others.

A 32-page "Super Colour" booklet is enclosed, printed in black & white. This mini-biography is perhaps the most interesting part of the package.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

John Lennon was a man whose life was already too public. If you must know what his pharmacist thought of him, this disc's for you. Not much here for anyone else.


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