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White Star presents
The Real Patsy Cline (1986)

"Nobody ever replaces certain people. So I've stopped looking for another Patsy Cline, because there's not gonna be one."
- songwriter Harlan Howard

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: January 20, 2005

Stars: Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Mel Tillis, Charlie Dick
Director: Mark Hall

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 48m:00s
Release Date: October 26, 2004
UPC: 032031174498
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Like all truly great vocalists, Patsy Cline sang from her soul. Her rich, powerful voice, marked by a distinct emotional throb, thrilled audiences during her all-too-brief career, and still captivates today. Hits like I Fall to Pieces, Walking After Midnight, Blue Moon of Kentucky, and, of course, Crazy brought country music into the national mainstream and broke down its gender barrier. Sadly, at the height of her fame in 1963, Cline was killed in a tragic plane crash. She was only 31 years old.

Cline's music, however, has never left us, and Sweet Dreams, a very good 1985 biopic with Jessica Lange, provides some insight into her independent, gutsy spirit. Following close on its heels, a 1986 television documentary, featuring comments from those who knew her best, promised an even deeper examination of the singer's talent and character. I looked forward to viewing The Real Patsy Cline in the hope of getting a clearer picture of the singer's early struggles, professional triumphs, and personal travails. Unfortunately, though, the profile severely disappoints, relying too much on anecdotes and testimonials, and not enough on film clips, recordings, and biographical storytelling. The result is a maddeningly sketchy, unbalanced portrait that ignores large chunks of Cline's life and fails to properly chronicle her career.

With appalling brevity, the film skims over Cline's childhood and early life, all but ignoring a brief first marriage and her efforts to break into the music industry. Although we're told she was far from an overnight success, Patsy quickly nabs a record contract and is on her way, and colleagues such as Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Mel Tillis, record producer Owen Bradley, and songwriter Harlan Howard (who penned I Fall to Pieces) offer rather bland reminiscences of their relationship with her. We learn Cline was "salty," "full of life," could "tell a joke," and possessed a charismatic, magnetic personality—interesting observations, but hardly the type of depth one expects and desires.

Even the recollections of Cline's husband, Charlie Dick, seem superficial. Their tempestuous, often volatile relationship forms the crux of Sweet Dreams, but Dick rarely opens up about their well-publicized troubles. He does relate an amusing (if personally unflattering) anecdote about the birth of their second child, and talks about the severe car accident that almost killed Patsy, but his rambling comments become tedious over time. The film also focuses far too much on the generalities of country music tours in the early 1960s and gets bogged down in the minutia of Cline's fateful last flight.

A few lengthy clips of Cline singing on television provide a glimpse of her unique and mesmerizing talent, but such a legendary performer deserves a much greater showcase. Why, for instance, must we watch Willie Nelson sing Crazy instead of Patsy? We all know he wrote it, but she immortalized it. Even if there's no existing footage of Cline performing the song, hearing a recording of it over a photo montage (not a bunch of interviews) would be preferable to Nelson's rendition. There's just got to be more video of Cline out there, and it's a shame The Real Patsy Cline couldn't or wouldn't use it.

Sweet Dreams turned me into a fan of Cline and made me hungry to learn more about her, but despite some revealing moments, this plodding, lifeless profile fails to capture her essence. So I guess I'll have to keep searching for the real Patsy Cline, because she's certainly not here.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The clean source material yields an acceptable fullscreen transfer, although the image possesses little vibrancy or depth. Sharpness is fine, and the vintage clips look relatively clear, but an overall flatness predominates. In short, the program looks its age, despite the absence of any noticeable print flaws.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: A hollow timbre pervades the Dolby stereo track, but Cline's vocals sound warm and full. The interviews and narration are always clear and understandable, and a few audio effects nicely enhance moments of drama.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras of any kind are included on the disc.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

The Real Patsy Cline often seems more about husband Charlie Dick than the immortal singer, as it dwells on his recollections at the expense of her marvelous music. A few interesting anecdotes give us the faintest sense of Cline's personality, but not enough to justify the introspective title. So skip this perfunctory profile and purchase a few of the singer's timeless CDs instead. That's the real Patsy Cline.


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