End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2004)
"We auditioned for Hilly Kristal, and Hilly said 'Nobody's gonna like you guys, but I'll have you back.'"- Joey Ramone
Stars: Johnny Ramone, Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone , Tommy Ramone, Marky Ramone
Other Stars: C.J. Ramone, Richie Ramone, Clem Burke, Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Joe Strummer, Glen Matlock, Roberta Bayley, Legs McNeil, Monte Melnick, Arturo Vega, Ricky Salem, Charlotte Lesher, Mickey Leigh, Kirk Hammett, Captain Sensible, Seymour Stein, Danny Fields, Eddie Vedder, Rick Rubin, Lars Frederiksen
Director: Michael Gramaglia, Jim Fields
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:47m:55s
Release Date: 2005-03-15
DVD ReviewRock history tells us that without the Ramones, there may not have been a punk movement in the mid-1970s. That's common knowledge amongst fans of the three-chord leather-jacket-clad band that kicked furiously at the bloated corpse of solo-heavy FM arena rock, but I never sensed that the truth ever filtered over to the rest of the world; I still run into people who think the Ramones were some kind of novelty group. I was content with knowing what I knew: that rock heroes like Joe Strummer of The Clash dutifully acknowledge the role Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy had in electroschocking the music scene.
Filmmakers Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields' fascinating rock history doc, End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, finally brings the facts to the masses, but with a bittersweet coda. With three original members now dead—though all featured prominently via interview segments—it is almost to be expected that the most glowing telling of Ramones history comes when the band members themselves aren't here to bask in the well-deserved limelight.
But I guess that's rock and roll, eh?
Gramaglia and Fields forsake formal narration, simply utilizing interview segments and some rare archival performance footage to tell the band's history, and even though I consider myself a huge Ramones fan I came away with a lot of stories and facts I hadn't heard before, with most of it coming from Johnny, Tommy, or Dee Dee. Some of the recollections aren't pretty (Dee Dee looks positively out of it during most of his interviews), and it seems apparent that things weren't always happy-crappy with the band, but through it all the music did its whole "launch a thousand ships" thing, right on up to its disintegration. Joe Strummer, talking of his pre-Clash days, speaks of hanging out with future members of the Sex Pistols and going to see the Ramones during their legendary July 1976 appearance in England, and trying to get in backstage to meet the band. That is just one of those mind-blowing rock stories (the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, the Clash together) that really makes me wish I had a time machine.
If the interviews and history are interesting (and they are), the old CBGB performance footage found here is absolutely priceless. It might be grainy, washed out black-and-white film with marginal sound, but it bristles with an excitement that is hard to overlook. Knowing how influential the band would become, seeing these early clips (with Joey mishandling a mike stand or the band arguing during their set about what songs to play) is like watching evolution actually take place, seeing the transformation of big-bellied dinosaur rock into something sleeker and more aggressive.
I have a 13-year-old daughter, and in recent years I've been known to give her what she calls with eye-rolling exasperation "the lecture". It's not a birds and the bees talk (that's her mother's job), it's about music, specifically the Ramones and their place in rock history; repeated sessions of enduring my manifesto has rubbed off on her, which makes me glad, and when I catch her singing along to a Ramones song I get a sense of stupid pride. In the scheme of things, it's dumb stuff, but it's important to me. She can quote lines from Rock 'n' Roll High School and she knows that the whole punk scene (the original, not this latest marketing retread) owes it all to those four guys from Queens.
I think I'm going to use this doc as a teaching aid for the next version of "the lecture".
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Rhino has issued this in 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen, and as a doc made up of a variety of video sources from different time periods, I'm willing to cut some slack on the overall presentation. Image quality varies greatly, spanning everything from decent to poor, and colors often seem faded, with murky blacks. It's not a great looking disc, but how much of it is based on the original source material versus the transfer is questionable.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: Forget the 2.0 stereo option if you can, and take the 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix. Both tracks deliver tolerable, understandable interviews, and there aren't really any noticeable surround elements at all, but the music is exceptionally rich and clean (the bass is booming and surprisingly deep, as well) using the 5.1 mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
11 Deleted Scenes
Extras Review: Aside from a theatrical trailer and a foldout mini-poster insert, extras consist of eleven deleted scenes totaling about 30 minutes altogether, presented in array of full-screen and nonanamorphic widescreen. Some are silly, such as Blondie's Clem Burke as his alter ego Elvis Ramone, but an extended Joe Strummer interview oozes rock and roll cool.
The disc is cut into 12 chapters.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsIf there was ever a shred of doubt about how influential the Ramones were to reshaping the direction of rock music, this doc will clear them away. This is a detailed look back at one of the greatest rock bands of all time, from childhood on through the bitter end, all interspersed with rare performance footage and a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track that makes all of those great Ramones songs sound like they were recorded yesterday.
Rich Rosell 2005-03-14