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Waterfall Home Entertainment presents
George Harrison: The Quiet One (2003)

"I don't really fancy 21. I much rather liked 20....nice round figure and all that."
- George Harrison while celebrating his 21st birthday, 1964

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: January 27, 2003

Stars: George Harrison, Tony Calder, Rod Othen
Other Stars: Tony Calder, Rod Othen, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Pattie Harrison, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir George Martin
Director: Spyros Melaris

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:00m:00s
Release Date: January 28, 2003
UPC: 805203301196
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Whenever a celebrity of the magnitude of George Harrison passes on, media coverage tends to be respectful for a while. A grace period, you might call it. Sadly, it's not long before it's back to the run-of-the-mill with journalists dividing up into two camps: those who treat the legacy with respect (authors like David Fricke, Anthony De'Curtis and the late Timothy White come to mind) and the vultures who manage to have 500 page "unauthorized" tomes on the market within 12 to 18 months. Same rule of thumb applies to video tributes thrown on the market faster than Cindy Adams making a beeline to her word processor every time Julia Roberts breaks a nail.

So with feelings of extreme trepidation I sat down to watch George Harrison: The Quiet One. Based on packaging alone, I immediately percieved it as falling into that latter category, bad artwork and all. But while I'm happy to report that it's nowhere close to being a worthless piece of gossipy fodder, it's not going to make you forget The Beatles Anthology.

Most of the demographic this documentary is aimed at without a doubt knows the basics about the six-string genius of The Fab Four: the so-called quiet member of the group who got no more than a tune or two on the early records, flowered as a songwriter more than equal to Lennon and McCartney from Rubber Soul onward, married Eric Clapton's future wife, dabbled in Indian music and the film industry, loved fast cars and valued his privacy. Yet there was so much more to this Liverpool lad made good. Unfortunately, the producers of this one hour documentary felt it necessary to restate things even the most casual fan already knows, which is the first of many shortcomings that mar what little effectiveness it possesses.

Okay, negatives out of the way first. Since this is an "unauthorized" production, that means no latter day Harrison cronies like Clapton, Tom Petty or Eric Idle appear, which is quite a big detriment. Via those friendships, projects like The Concert for Bangladesh, the Traveling Wilburys supergroup and Handmade Films productions like Time Bandits and The Life of Brian came into being, which showed just how creative and multi-faceted George Harrison could be. Sadly there's little or no discussion on these notable accomplishments.

Like a last minute wake for which the invitations went out too late, only a quartet of interviewees are gathered to lend their perspectives. And although George Martin and Paul McCartney are among them, it's only via oft-seen and recent archival footage that their appearances are possible, so nothing new there. That leaves us with Rod Othen, a mate of George's from his school days and Tony Calder, a PR agent from the early days of the band to do most of the talking.

Although both men mostly rehash the obvious, there are a few moments where we hear tales from the inside unbeknownst to even the most ardent Beatleologist. One such case revolves around a Liverpool area concert Othen attended circa 1961. Following the performance, during a reunion with his former Liverpool Institute schoolmate, a very cocky John Lennon planted himself into the conversation only to be sharply rebuted by George who in no uncertain terms tells his musical partner to "piss off."

Gems like those get lost in a very haphazard approach by the editors who tend to zig-zag in terms of chronology. One minute we're in the midst of a newsreel focusing on the Beatles' trip to India in 1968. Suddenly without rhyme or reason, we're transitioned to two BBC news reports on the near-fatal stabbing attempt on Harrison's life in 1999. To say the effect is jarring is an understatement. Then again, those stories are so well done that they wind up being fascinating despite just being thrown in our lap.

Other inclusions worthy of mention include a charming interview with George on his 21st birthday surrounded with trinkets of appreciation, a post-wedding press conference with first wife Patti shortly after their nuptials and a joint conversation with sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar (a Harrison idol), recorded around the time of George's involvement with the Chants of India album; you can just feel the mutual warmth between these two men and how much they meant to one another.

My overall view of George Harrison: The Quiet One is not unlike the feeling you get looking at a old high school yearbook. Some turns of the page make you cringe, others form a smile and create a nostalgic yearning for the past...and some will make you wonder what were we (or they, in the case of the producers of this disc) thinking?

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Save for some of the Beatles-era file footage in need of restoration, most of the production has a shiny straight-to-video look, so no major complaints. Some of the more recent clips vary slightly as far as quality (a few are slightly grainy and may have been low generation copy video sources), but if they don't bother me (Harrison song title pun not intended), they won't annoy you.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Broadcast quality. Vintage footage has some snap, crackles and pops but that's to be expected.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. 32 page booklet
  2. Bonus interview CD
Extras Review: A discography that only lists single releases (the uninitiated might think that George never put out an album!), a small, text-based, hard to read biography (even on big screens) that doesn't even get his date of birth correct and no chapter page option (although they are indexed). Very "grotty," as A Hard Day's Night-era George would have stated.

Other extras are decidedly mixed, including a 32-page booklet that could have been titled "George Harrison For Dummies" (although there are a few nice rare photos included) and a bonus CD of audio interviews where the quiet one unfortunately lives up to his nickname as John, Paul and Ringo do most of the yakking, particularly in the first part of the program.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Although a definitive biography remains to be made, George Harrison: The Quiet One is a spotty yet heartfelt attempt to fill the gap in the meantime.


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