Conspiracy theorists have had a bonanza with all manner of celebrity nonsense over
the years but somehow a lifetime of VH1 watching has left me ignorant to the questions
surrounding Jimi Hendrix's death. Jimi Hendrix: The Last 24 Hours
purports to present evidence to prove that the legendary guitarist did not just choke
on his own vomit, as decades of punchlines have suggested, but rather as part of some
sort of convoluted assassination plot.
Even though this documentary covers one of rock music's most vibrant and inventive
performers, however, the film itself is stultifying to watch. It's little more than a
parade of talking heads from the 60s/70s rock scene interspersed with newsreel footage
and ludicrous re-enactments (tinted yellow, for some reason). The film tries to make the
case that Hendrix was on to something when he told various people that he expected to
die young, even though his words sound more like the fears of a heavily delusional drug user
than a man with dangerous enemies.
The tinfoil-hatted creators of this film would
have their viewers believe that the Nixon administration and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI
(always solid villains to go to in a pinch) wanted to assassinate Hendrix for bringing
Black Panther-consciousness to the mainstream. They make vague accusations backed up
with nothing more than snippets of unrelated stock footage. This hour-long video is
thoroughly lacking in serious insight into any potential controversy.
As a Hendrix biography it's not much meatier. While it does provide a few interesting
morsels (like the performer's early stage persona as the very un-PC "Wild Man of
Borneo" and the "Black Elvis," remnants of a sideshow era) it's mostly a mess of
non-chronological facts and conspiracy-tinged mumbo-jumbo. Very little Hendrix music is
present in the film (a short clip of his cover performance of "Hey Joe" is excerpted)
and little of the wild and exciting era in which he led the rock scene is
The anamorphic widescreen video is nothing special. The stock footage varies but the
newly-shot interviews are pretty sharp, if unimaginative. Compression artifacts, however, are evident sporadically throughout the piece.
The Dolby Digital stereo audio is weirdly mixed, with some interviews far louder than
others. In order to hear all the voices viewers will have to constantly ride the
volume. Not a fun experience.
Subtitles are available in French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Dutch, but not
Just some still screens with biographical info and photos.
Jimi Hendrix: The Last 24 Hours is just another in a long line of music documentaries that lack the actual musical content of their subjects. It distinguishes itself with its conspiratorial slant, but frankly there isn't enough interesting material there to warrant the attention. Had Nick Broomfield taken on the project he would have marched up to people who might know some secrets, shoved a boom microphone in their faces, and asked them the tough questions. Too much pussyfooting and too many years past, however, leave this investigation cold.