Ramones- Raw

DVD released: September 28, 2004.
Approximate running time: 105 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33.1 Fullscreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
DVD Release: Image Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99



Reviewed by:
Ian Jane on December 21, 2004.

Quick links: [video] [audio] [extras] [overall]
The Film

The Ramones, in their hey day, were one of, if not the, finest rock and roll bands in the world. They’re widely considered one of the pioneering punk bands and their influence on modern music is undisputable. The Ramones left their mark on music history and their ‘1-2-3-4’ countdowns, buzz saw guitar riffs and short, fast songs are almost instantly recognizable by anyone who has ever been even remotely interested not only in punk rock but in rock and roll in general. 

In short, these guys are legendary. 

Ramones – Raw, the first official Ramones DVD release, provides fans with a ‘fly on the wall’ look at the band spread out primarily over their last eight years or so of existence before they finally called it quits with the release of Adios Amigos. This documentary is assembled from a lot of the band’s personally shot private footage, a lot of which was hot on handheld video cameras by Marky Ramone, who shot over two hundred video tapes worth of material during his stint as drummer, and this footage shows a lot of the good with the bad. 

Highlights from the over one hundred minute running time include the band running from a mob of screaming fans in Brazil (odd, considering how celebrity status seemed to elude them their entire career in North America, at least by comparison), some footage from a European tour shortly after the Berlin Wall came down, and a whole whack of great live performances, television appearances, odd little cartoons and claymation bits, and everything else you can think of. 

Sadly, as this footage progresses over time, so does the disintegration of the band members’ friendship and you can see in certain scenes how their interaction with each other turned from jovial and fun to cold and almost spiteful. 

While this sounds great in practice, the task of editing down and making something coherent out of two hundred video tapes worth of amateur home video footage is a daunting one. Director John Cafiero does a good job of making sure that some truly great moments are shown the light of day but with the mammoth amount of material that he had to work with, not surprisingly the documentary is a bit of a mish mash rather than a coherent band history or biographical documentary of any kind. It simply is what it is – a lot of interesting home movie footage spliced in amongst some pro-shot TV footage resulting in an uneven film. 

Regardless, there is so much excellent material in here that it is easy to look past the shortcomings of the presentation and focus on what it gets right – though the majority of the film focuses on Johnny and Marky more so than the other band members, probably because the two of them got along well enough during the period over which this material was recorded (something you can’t really say about the other band members at this point). 

There’s a lot of great casual backstage footage, interaction with fans, and in the end it feels almost like looking through an old picture book – the lack of coherency backs this up and the little vignettes do really almost feel like moving snapshots of the band in decline.





Video 2.5/5

Given that a lot of this documentary was shot on a handheld video camera and that a large portion of the rest of it is made up of old archival footage that wasn’t recorded or stored under the best of conditions, and it is understandable why Ramones – Raw doesn’t look as good as some people might have hoped it would. Some of the footage is fuzzy, a lot of the colors are flat in a few scenes, and there is some noticeable damage to the source materials used to compile the film. That being said, the movie is perfectly watchable, especially for those of us who remember watching a lot of old school punk material via VHS bootlegs – over which this is a decent improvement. The 1980 concert footage looks remarkably good though, which is a nice surprise, and while the image quality overall is far from perfect, it’s not that bad either.

 



Audio 2.5/5

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is just as all over the place as the video quality is, and for the same reasons – once again it all boils down to the source material. Most of the time you can hear what’s being said without any problems, but in a lot of the older footage there is some tape hiss, there are some drop outs in quality, and there are some audible background noises that prove mildly distracting. Given the basis of the documentary though, these flaws are forgivable and none of them are so major as to really take away from the material.



Extras 4/5

First up is a full length commentary from Johnny and Marky Ramone, joined by director John Cafiero (who more or less plays mediator here – keeping the discussion on track). The two band members sound about as enthusiastic as a lump of mud to be on this track, but that doesn’t stop Cafiero from trying his best to get them to loosen up a bit and spill the beans about their life and times. The track does a pretty good job of giving a basic run down of the history of the band, and while at times the two Ramones are eerily silent here, there are other times where they do chime in to clear up some issues relating to what may be happening on screen. They don’t have a lot to say about late front man Joey Ramone, for some reason, leading on to speculate that they may not have been on the best of terms when Joey passed on. 

Aside from the commentary, there’s a lot of great bonus footage on this DVD as well. There are eighteen deleted scenes available, some of which repeat what we’ve already seen in the documentary, just with a slightly different take. These aren’t particularly revelatory but they are moderately interesting and worth checking out once or twice. There is a scene were Eddie Veder introduces The Ramones into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame that is rather touching, bust most of this footage is just the band goofing off. 

The highlight of the extra features is a thirty minute set recorded live in 1980 for Italian TV featuring The Ramones live in Rome. While the text that appears on the screen introducing the songs is messed up, they performance is great and the show is of pretty decent quality. They play through as man of their instantly recognizable songs as fast and furious as they can and seeing them live here is a nice way to offset some of the less than ideal documentary footage. 

Next up are TV appearances from Space Ghost: Coast To Coast, The Howard Stern Show, The Uncle Floyd Show, Up All Night (with Gilbert Godfried!) and 120 Minutes. These are all worth checking out and there are some funny moments contained in each of them. 



Overall 3/5

Despite some of the issues with the editing, and the a/v quality, the good certainly outweighs the bad on this release and Ramones – Raw is an essential disc for Ramones fans or music fans in general.



Film Rating DVD Rating
Director: John Cafiero
Film:

Writer: N/A
Video:

Released: 2004
Audio:

Cast: The Ramones
Extras:

Overall:

 


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