You may not know the name Danny Fields but he has been instrumental in some of history's most impactful bands of the last half of the 20th century, signing, managing or being involved with bands like The Ramones, Iggy and the Stooges, the Velvet Underground and the Doors, to name a few. The New York-based music executive is the subject of a documentary covering some of his exploits, titled Danny Says.
Written and directed by Brendan Toller, the film follows in some of the same vein of music documentaries like We Are Twisted Fucking Sister, where it looks at the subject and provides interviews with them and any influential figures in their life as they try and show how the subject got to where they are. However, the film includes ample interviews with Fields at various points in his career, but also helps illustrate a story or stories with animations to help show the silliness or the tension of an event.
Fields' life is certainly an interesting one; he left Harvard Law School after his first year and went to life in Greenwich Village. He hung out and partied with a variety of people, a good portion of whom happened to be talented in various ways, such as Andy Warhol. The film suffers from a paradox, because while Fields' backstory is nice, Danny Says tends to want to sell itself as what this guy saw in all these people, and it does not do this very well. Sure, Iggy Pop is here (and a couple other people) to share their thoughts about Danny, but Danny's recollections about say, Nico, or Lou Reed, and why he liked their music or their presence, comes off as incomplete.
Put in another way; Danny Says does have some moments of engaging stories and anecdotes, but you almost have to put the time in before coming in to the movie. Normally I would not begrudge such things but this time I'm compelled to. For someone to appreciate Fields' impact to music and to punk rock specifically, there had to have been some handholding done as to the reasons why his role should be appreciated, or why we are sitting and listening to him. I don't feel like this work while menial, would have gone a long way towards a plebe's worldview of Fields and would give them a further appreciation for it. As it stands, it's just some musings of a guy who was around a lot of musicians in his 30s and 40s.
After watching Danny Says and seeing some of the things in Danny Fields' life that are going to continue to last decades after Fields has left the Earth, my reaction was ‘eh, not bad.' And I feel like it should be more than that, but the movie never really delivered on this. As much as I enjoy documentaries about music, musicians or musical figures, I was left hollow by this.
1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen rules the day, but the film juggles material from several sources, including 4:3 footage, and older black and white film too, without any issues that weren't already inherent in the source. Contemporary interviews look fine with no edge enhancement or haloing, colors look good, especially in the animated scenes, and darker moments have a little crush to them but are fine as well. There's little to complain about in this transfer.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for Danny Says, hardly a surprise given the music in the film. But when the guitar in "Search and Destroy" kicks in, or the drum for "Light My Fire," there is a certain power to them that echoes through the home theater setup. Interviews sound clear as a bell and directional effects and channel panning are present, though they could have been a little improved upon in terms of frequency. A minor blemish on solid sonic source material.
There is a bunch of additional footage the final cut left out, starting with a Q&A with Fields (52:39). Next up is the complete audio from the conversations between Reed and Fields (38:20) where he talks about the Ramones and other items. Michael Alago has an interview outtake about Fields and Henry Rollins on here next (1:35), while Justin Vivian Bond and the Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat outtake (3:40) is somewhat self-explanatory. A promotional film with Nico and the Stooges (6:08) that Elektra did is included here in his restored glory, and Toller talks about how he got to Fields, what made him an interesting subject and occasional challenges in getting the movie made (13:54). The trailer (2:23) completes things.
It was interesting to learn a little more about Danny Fields than I did coming into Danny Fields, but it feels like a bit too inside baseball for large portions of the film which hampers it more than enhances. Technically it looks and sounds fine and the additional footage is nice, but it certainly could have been a better film than what we actually witness.