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Warner Home Video presents
Imagine: John Lennon (Deluxe Edition) (1988)

"I always was a rebel. But, on the other hand, I want to be loved and accepted by all facets of society and not be this loudmouth, lunatic poet-musician."
- John Lennon

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: December 05, 2005

Stars: John Lennon
Other Stars: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono
Director: Andrew Solt

MPAA Rating: R for (language, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:45m:56s
Release Date: December 06, 2005
UPC: 012569726550
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+D+D B-

DVD Review

The list of legendary musicians who have "gone too soon" is entirely too long, and all we have are their recordings and our thoughts about what music we might have experienced had they lived longer. Arguably the most beloved of these is John Lennon, who was not only a major part of the most influential band of all time, The Beatles, but who was also a prominent solo artist and an important sociopolitical figure.

Lennon's life was first chronicled for mainstream America in director Andrew Solt's 1988 project, Imagine. Narrated by Lennon himself, Imagine is a compilation of interviews, footage of recording sessions, and bits depicting the singer/songwriter's life away from his work. The star power is immense as well, with appearances by just about everyone who has ever been associated with Lennon, including Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, as well as his wife, Yoko Ono, and producer George Martin.

It begins with a fly over Lennon's Tittenhurst Estate in Ascot, England, where we find him and Ono getting out of bed. This first sequence, which also includes an early songwriting session in which the song that lends its title to this film is discussed, sets the tone. The film takes us through Lennon's childhood, and onto the birth and mega-success of The Beatles. A good deal of time is spent on The Beatles, naturally, but the focus remains on Lennon, a tough balance that is handled smoothly by Solt, and this really pays off during the time spent on the "Sgt. Pepper" years, as he openly discusses the effects that drug use during that period had on his psyche and his overall view of the world. Paul was never shy about his experiences with LSD, but Lennon tells these stories with such grace and humor that it's easy to forget that such recreational activities were (and are) frowned upon by society. During one interview, Lennon spins it as coincidence that the title of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds can be abbreviated "LSD."

The most interesting aspect is the amount of behind-the-scenes access we are granted to Lennon's personal life. Not only is footage at home with Yoko prevalent, but there are many intimate stories told by his first wife, Cynthia Lennon, as well as John's son with her, Julian. There's also the controversial press conference John and Yoko staged in bed to promote peace, and a somewhat intense run-in with cartoonist Al Capp, who chastises the pair for their nude photos among other things he deems morally wrong.

After the breakup of The Beatles and Lennon's solo career, Imagine ends with Yoko Ono reflecting on the days leading up to his murder in New York City. It is truly touching and sad, to watch her struggle to get the words out about those days, and Solt covers this tragic event with a great deal of class. This is a subtle final 10 minutes that is set to All You Need Is Love, and I firmly believe that John, himself, wouldn't want his death to be portrayed in any other way.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The video is in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the transfer isn't exactly one you'll use to demo your home theater. The main problem stems from the state of the source material, which is very old, resulting in a bunch of grain and other blemishes. Colors are faded and unspectacular, and not helped at all by dirt and marks in the print. It's just really disappointing that there appears to have been very little restoration for this rather high-profile DVD release.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: For such a music-heavy feature, it's also disappointing that the audio track isn't better than it is. The 2.0 track doesn't seem to bring the music to any speakers other than the fronts, and the dynamic range is as limited as can be. Sure, the source material for the audio is old as well, but we only need to pop in those Beatles Anthology discs to hear just how good many of these tunes can sound on DVD.

Audio Transfer Grade: D


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Complete James Dean Collection
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. John Lennon Trivia Track
  2. Acoustic "Imagine"
Extras Review: A nice collection of extras begins with the option to watch the feature with a trivia track, which consists of subtitles that provide textual information about various aspects of Lennon's life, often going into greater detail than what's presented in the film.

A Tribute to John Lennon: The Man, the Music, the Memories is a 14-minute featurette that is basically a reflection on the legend's life with Yoko Ono, producer David Wolper, writer/co-producer Sam Egan, director Andrew Solt, supervising film editor Bud Friedgen, and editor Bert Lovitt.

John and Yoko: Truth Be Told is five minutes from an interview where the pair talks about society and their role in shaping it.

There's also an acoustic performance of Imagine by Lennon and his band from a 1971 Attica State benefit show at the Apollo Theatre. This is a must-see for Lennon fans who would especially appreciate stripped-down versions of classic tunes.

Island House is an eight-minute tour of the lake house at John and Yoko's Tittenhurst Estate. This includes more candid footage of the Lennons' personal life, making it worth your time as well.

There's also a trailer for Warner Home Video's James Dean DVDs, but the final Lennon featurette is The Headmaster Looks Back. This is a nearly 10-minute sit-down with William Ernest Pobjoy, the headmaster of Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool. Pobjoy doesn't pull any punches in talking about Lennon as both a student and a person, making this the most interesting of the extras.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Imagine: John Lennon is an exploration into Lennon's personal affairs, and intimate home videos make this a picture that is well worth revisiting, especially for fans. Warner Home Video's new deluxe edition DVD features audio and video presentations that are lacking by today's standards, but a nice collection of extras is on board, though, delving even deeper into the genius of John Lennon.


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