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White Star presents
Bobby Darin: Beyond the Song (1998)

"My dad on stage was sort of a master showman—very comfortable. He just had a passion...a real interest in life. And I think that goes back to, deep down, him knowing he wasn't gonna live; he wasn't gonna have a full life."
- Dodd Darin

Review By: David Krauss  
Published: February 21, 2005

Stars: Bobby Darin, Andy Williams, Dick Clark, Connie Francis, Tony Orlando, Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante, Robert Goulet, George Burns
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:05m:06s
Release Date: February 22, 2005
UPC: 032031294592
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AB+B+ D-

DVD Review

The late Bobby Darin is currently enjoying a long overdue renaissance, sparked in part by the uneven, self-indulgent, yet highly respectful Kevin Spacey biopic, Beyond the Sea. Fans of the entertainer welcome the resurgent interest, but can't imagine why Darin's explosive talent and brash, electric presence ever went out of style in the first place. An incredibly versatile singer, best known for his immortal swinging version of Mack the Knife (and such infectious pop hits as Splish Splash, Beyond the Sea, and Dream Lover), Darin rivals Sinatra in the crooning department, but also tackles country, folk, R&B, gospel, and rock tunes with supreme command and confidence. No other performer in history has crisscrossed so many genres, yet Darin does it with awe-inspiring ease. His death in 1973 from complications following heart surgery robbed the world of one of its all-time great artists, and a man to whom music meant everything.

A peerless nightclub performer, Bobby Darin did it all—singing, impressions, jokes, witty banter, impromptu dance steps. He could also tinkle the ivories, strum a guitar, pound the drums, and blow a mean harmonica. Yet for such an accomplished musician, it's cruelly ironic that a ticking clock would become the most dominant instrument on his personal soundtrack. Sadly, time was a luxury Darin could never fully afford or enjoy, thanks to a bout with rheumatic fever at age 8. Doctors didn't expect the young Walden Robert Cassotto to live past his 15th birthday, but through sheer will, ambition, and a deep love of performing, Darin kept his weak heart at bay and achieved more in his 37 years than most people do in twice the time. Just look at his résumé—Grammy-winning singer, Oscar-nominated actor, instrumentalist, songwriter, political activist. So what if the press called him cocky and egotistical, or jeered when he boldly stated he hoped to be a legend by age 25? Darin was a man on a mission, and like a syncopated rhythm, everything in his life was move, move, move, as he raced to make his mark and create a legacy in an unforgiving, often cruel business. His heart finally gave out, but his soul lives on in his music.

And that music takes center stage in Beyond the Song, an insightful, often exhilarating documentary that celebrates Darin's impeccable artistry through rare TV and concert clips, archival footage, recorded reminiscences from Darin himself, and interviews with those who knew him best. Dick Clark, Andy Williams, Connie Francis, and Tony Orlando offer absorbing perspective on the public and private Darin, but the most personal and perceptive comments come from Darin's son, Dodd, who touchingly examines his dad's complexities and contradictions. Dodd's articulate remarks help bring Darin down to earth, and allow us to see the sensitivity lurking beneath the bravado.

The 65-minute program—blandly narrated by Keith Olbermann—doesn't shy away from the entertainer's tumultuous personal life (his childhood illness, high-profile marriage to actress Sandra Dee, and the dark family secret that nearly destroyed him), but hearts and flowers are kept to a minimum, so we can revel in Darin's extraordinary musical gifts. The man may have been physically frail, but on stage he exudes vitality, juicing up audiences with his powerful pipes, slick moves, and boundless enthusiasm. From his very first television appearance in 1956 (singing Rock Island Line) to his last in 1973 (taped only a few months before his death), Darin never gave less than his best, and his performances remain potent and exciting today.

Of course he nails Mack the Knife, but watch him rip into Once in a Lifetime, strut his stuff on Higher and Higher, probe the subtle emotions of If I Were A Carpenter, and raise the rafters with fellow legend Judy Garland as they duet the rousing Lonesome Road. By using complete performances instead of brief clips, Beyond the Song allows us to fully appreciate Darin's unique style, and how he could embrace almost any musical form. Sure, Darin could belt with the best of them (the finale of Mack still produces spinal chills), but some of his most beautiful singing can be found in 1960s folk and protest tunes, as stripped-down arrangements highlight the purity of Darin's voice, and his passionate yet understated delivery enhances lyrical meaning.

Despite his early death, Darin never achieved the iconic status of Presley, Garland, Monroe, or Dean, possibly because he defies categorization. But Beyond the Song finally gives Darin his due, placing him alongside the century's great singers, and painting a compelling portrait of courage, perseverance, and, most of all, heart.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: White Star provides a top-quality transfer, featuring a clear, nicely detailed image marked by solid black levels and bright color. The condition of the vintage clips varies, but all are eminently watchable, and some of the color footage from The Andy Williams Show and Darin's own early 1970s variety hour looks very good indeed.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby stereo track handles the wide-ranging source material quite well, so Darin's vocals always fill the room. Only the oldest clips possess any noticeable hiss or distortion, but most performances sound clean and crisp, with stable levels and above-average fidelity. The interviews and narration are always easy to comprehend, but the music particularly shines. Soft ballads enjoy a lovely resonance, while Darin's powerhouse swing and rock numbers sound rich and full.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Generous chaptering allows one to quickly jump to a favorite song or performance, but that's the only "extra" offered.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Look out, ol' Bobby is back! Beyond the Song gives us what Beyond the Sea does not—the real Bobby Darin singing and swinging in all his finger-snapping glory. This engrossing, meticulously produced documentary concentrates on Darin the performer, but still provides a full-bodied personal portrait that makes us respect and admire both the man and his marvelous music. Highly recommended.


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