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East Side Digital presents
The Residents: Icky Flix (1976-2000)

"The head was hardly human/ The head was finally dead.
'I can live forever in formaldehyde,' he said."

- The Residents, in Harry the Head

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 27, 2001

Stars: The Residents
Other Stars: Renaldo and the Loaf, Molly Harvey
Director: The Residents, Graeme Whifler, Lon McQuillon, Jim Ludtke, Bill Domonkos, John Payson, Doug Carney

Manufacturer: Bitsweet
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (animated full frontal nudity, aggressively weird imagery)
Run Time: 01h:30m:22s
Release Date: January 23, 2001
UPC: 021561815629
Genre: alternative


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B-A C+

DVD Review

Since the anonymous avant-garde (some would say just plain weird) San Francisco band, The Residents, has been at the forefront of nearly every technological progression that has affected music over the last thirty years, it seemed odd that it took nearly four years from the inception of the format for them to release their first DVD (not counting their brief appearance on Circuit 5). However, they've made it at last, with a package of old favorites and new oddities that are sure to please their fans and baffle everyone else.

Starting off the package is The Third Reich and Roll, widely credited as the first music video and part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, along with several other of the films in this package. This four-minute excerpt from their album of the same name infamously equating pop music with fascism features the band as Klansmen dressed in newspaper as they play sixties surf music. This gives way to a scene of large painted pieces of meat that pummel a swastika made of toothpicks. That should give one a taste of what this band is all about. In nearly all of the other videos, the band appears in their trademark outfits, tuxedoes with top hats perched atop eyeball heads (except for Mr. Skull, who wears a gigantic black skull instead of an eyeball).

Every one of the seventeen pieces on this DVD includes musical strangeness (the Residents rely heavily on percussion and electronic sounds that defy description) married to visual bizarreness. Of these pieces, all but one are performed by the Residents; the other one is a notorious piece of work from Residents associates Renaldo and the Loaf, Songs for Swinging Larvae, which has been banned from television and from film festivals due to its highly disturbing story of a child's abduction and return to a most nasty home.

The Residents were not only hugely influential in the development of the music video, but they also pioneered the use of computer graphics in association with music and were one of the first, if not the very first, musical artists to include CD-ROM material on their CDs. Accordingly, much of the material here is computer generated. The early CG is predictably crude and quite pixelated, but the visions contained in them are still highly disturbing. Four of the videos, Constantinople, He Also Serves, Burn Baby Burn (from their live performance of the Bible) and Kick a Picnic are brand new.

Also included is a re-edit of the aborted video film Vileness Fats, which still makes absolutely no sense, but nonetheless instills a queasy feeling. The Residents also reinterpret American music in the form of James Brown (This is a Man's Man's Man's World) and John Phillip Sousa (The Stars and Stripes Forever set to a shooting gallery of communist figures). Wrapping up the package are distillations of the Residents' CD-ROM features, Bad Day at the Midway and The Gingerbread Man.

Residents fans pondering whether to repurchase many of the materials they already own can rest easy; the band, in an effort to make this project interesting to themselves, have re-recorded all of the music (including the Renaldo and the Loaf number) themselves on an alternate DD 5.1 track (about which see below). The new music tends to be much darker and dreadful than the earlier versions, a characteristic that parallels the band's own development.

The running time of the seventeen primary videos is that stated above; to reach the full 100 minutes claimed on the keepcase, one must find the many Easter eggs described in the Extras section.

Contents:

1. The Third Reich and Roll
2. Constantinople
3. One Minute Movies
4. Kick a Picnic
5. Songs for Swinging Larvae
6. He Also Serves
7. This is a Man's Man's Man's World
8. Harry the Head
9. The Gingerbread Man (concentrate)
10. Jolly Jack the Boneless Boy
11. Just for You (Disfigured Night Part 7)
12. The Stars and Stripes Forever
13. Where is she?
14. Burn Baby Burn
15. Hello Skinny
16. Bad Day on the Midway (concentrate)
17. Vileness Fats (concentrate)


Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The image is quite variable. Third Reich and Roll has always looked wretched, even when projected on film twenty years ago, and that state continues on this disc. It and the One Minute Movies section have highly oversaturated reds; thankfully the red-slathered Songs for Swinging Larvae does not suffer from this characteristic. The older videos have extensive smearing and lack clarity. The earlier CG efforts were never meant to be seen on larger televisions, and thus betray a huge amount of pixelation. The more modern CG is attractive, sharp and clear, as are the CGI interstitials that separate the songs when 'Play All' is selected. Overall, a decent presentation, given the limitations of the source materials.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: As noted above, the viewer can choose from the original 2.0 (which decodes in Pro Logic to an attractively broad front soundstage with a fair amount of surround activity) or a new score in 5.1. Both are excellent and have no hiss or noise nor clipping. The audio levels of the 5.1 track are significantly higher than on the 2.0 track. The 5.1 score makes extensive use of the surrounds and contains heavy directionality. There is also significant bass, which can be room-shaking at times.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Computer-animated interstitial materials
  2. Numerous Easter eggs of Residents live performances and appearances
Extras Review: The primary extra is completely unannounced. This disc is jam-packed with Easter eggs featuring live performances and appearances by the Residents, all under the name Smelly Tongues Secret Cinema. These include such varied fare as a 1999 performance of Wormwood at the House of Blues; a 1990 appearance with Conway Twitty, of all people; the 1989 appearance on Pee-Wee's Playhouse; part of the MTV short Slow Bob; performances of Cube E and the Mole Show, and a 1992 choreography of Love Leaks Out by Maurice Bejart. I won't spoil the fun of looking for these bits, but one might keep an eye out for any stray eyeball heads on the menus. Unfortunately, the video quality of these materials ranges from poor to godawful, but they're nice little bits to have. The excerpts could have been longer as well; one cuts off just as the vocals begin. They total about twelve minutes, bringing the total running time above the 100 minutes stated on the case.

There is the option to play all selections with either audio track (the viewer can also switch on the fly) or to take them one by one. The screens for the individual films contain brief production notes about each piece and credits for it; the credits are also included on the eight-page color booklet that accompanies the disc. Since the lyrics are seldom understandable, subtitles would have been a very nice extra to include, but alas, no such luck. In addition, time coding is inexplicably disabled, making verification of the actual running time a significant pain. The briefly seen interstitials are all computer generated by Jim Ludtke, who did the classic Freak Show and Bad Day on the Midway animation for the Residents, and all are nasty in one way or another. They are not separately accessible, but as far as I can manage, are only seen in 'Play All' mode. There apparently is an Easter egg which permits the interstitials to be played in succession, but I've not managed to find it. However, at the recent concert by the Residents in support of this DVD, they played the disc on what appeared to be a garden-variety Sony DVD player and managed to play all the interstitials in sequence during a brief intermission. If any reader can point out how to do this, I'd be grateful.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

A must for Residents fans, this disc is worth checking into for anyone interested in bizarre visuals, computer graphics, or heavily percussive electronic music.

 


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