I don't know if I've ever been as skeptical of the legitimacy of a DVD release than I was while watching You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks. Now, I've seen some unsanctioned documentaries on iconic bands in my time, but if the disc was commercially sold in stores and on website, I was always pretty certain that its distributer operated in within the bounds of copyright law--either by not using the band's music or by legitimately licensing what they did use.
And ABC Entertainment must have gone through the normal licensing channels when releasing this sorry excuse for a documentary. Otherwise major retailers like Amazon wouldn't stock it. DVD Talk probably wouldn't receive screeners either. But there were several reasons to suspect something shady was going on:
1. The picture quality of the footage was terrible. Like a video taped off TV. Surely if there were rights involved, they wouldn't have to add letterbox bars to mask part of the image and see TV station IDs (see the video quality section).
2. The filmmakers had absolutely nothing to say about The Kinks. The awkwardly read voice-over provides little insight that couldn't be found in the band's Wikipedia entry. It tells us that so-and-so left or joined the band after this or that album, but stops short of giving us any sense of the personalities and styles of these musicians.
3. Making matters worse, the footage generally isn't even from the era in question. Most of the performance come from but from a couple concerts, at least one of which can be seen on DVD elsewhere. So the film might bring up a song the band played in the '60s, but show it performed in the '80s (without ever offering the year of the performance). There are also some music videos, most of which come at the end of band's career and make the sloppy, disorganized structure feel even more lopsided. At one point, the narrator talks about what a hit "Lola" was while another song plays in the background.
I can only imagine that a company had the rights to certain Kinks footage, and cynically set out to make a documentary that used that footage and only that footage, regardless of what was needed to make the movie worth watching.
I'd love to see a documentary that really studied the shifts in sound and band dynamics of these iconic British rockers, but to call this mis-mash a documentary is an insult to an artform that requires organization, skill and thought.
ABC Entertainment's sorry excuse for a DVD is presented in the 4x3 aspect ratio. This isn't offensive on its own--most of the archival material of The Kinks was shot in this aspect ratio. However, the people behind this production commit the deplorable sin of masking over the full-screen footage with unnecessary letterbox bars, which are inconsistent in ratio. Thanks to one of the DVD's many technical flaws, we know that they only exist to hide the cheap, lazy manner in which the footage was obtained. At the start of the "Death of a Clown" video, the bars go away for a second, and if you can see the TV station watermarks and video lines at the top and bottom of the screen.
So this is the attitude that drove this DVD: "Make no effort to find quality materials, and if the footage is too shoddy to release as-is, attempt to trick the audience by depriving them a quarter of the screen."
Much of the footage comes from the concert film One for the Road, which was released on DVD with a 5.1 soundtrack that must sound and look better than the clips here. (No way it's worse).
If I thought there had been any effort to preserve sound quality, I might be a bit charitable about the muddy, distorted sound on You Really Got Me's stereo soundtrack (no optional subtitles). Even something as rudimentary as uniform audio levels eludes this mix. In addition to the awkward sound editing and distracting audio mix, the volume drops significantly mid-song at one point. As is the case with the video, there's no way the best material was used, and no way any effort was made to improve the listening experience.
They didn't care about the feature. No points for guessing how much they cared about extras. There's one menu screen with a chapter list, a "play all" button and some really ugly fonts.
Sorry, but I'd be very surprised to hear something good about this release from even the most die-hard Kinks fan.
Jeremy Mathews has been subjecting films to his criticism since 2000. He has contributed to several publications, including Film Threat, Salt Lake City Weekly, the Salt Lake Tribune, In Utah This Week and The Wasatch Journal. He also runs the blog The Same Dame and fronts the band NSPS.