The Beatles: Destination Hamburg
Other // Unrated // $19.95 // February 19, 2008
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted February 10, 2008
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The Movie:
It must be my DVD Talk karma to review unwatchable Beatles documentaries. I may have scraped the bottom of the barrel with Beatles' Biggest Secrets, but while Destination Hamburg doesn't quite sink to those lamentable depths, it's not too far above the low-water mark. Ostensibly containing "never before seen footage," Destination: Hamburg is yet another paint-by-numbers history of the Beatles, sunk by pedestrian narration, poor quality archival images, and a soundtrack totally devoid of Beatles music (I guess we have Michael Jackson to thank for that).

It's pointless to review the history described herein, as it is well-known to every Beatles fan, and there is nothing new, or even particularly interesting, divulged here. Starting of course with John Lennon and the Quarrymen, this "epic" lurches on through the nascent Beatles years, and gets them to a point of worldwide domination in about 45 minutes or so of air time.

I certainly didn't see any footage that was revelatory--it's all the same old, same old, only in this instance seemingly third or fourth generation, with lots of damage, fading and extremely low contrast. Unlike Beatles' Biggest Secrets, which at least had a few seconds of actual Beatles talking, this is all silent footage. The musical soundtrack has at least a tangential Beatles connection, having been provided by Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers.

The Beatles Anthology still remains the gold standard of documentaries about the Fab Four and it's just comical after a while that so many bargain basement producers with access to public domain footage think they're going to contribute anything other than a few unintended laughs with their efforts.

The DVD

Video:
A simply 95% hideous 1.33:1 collection of (as noted) public domain archival material makes up the bulk of this piece. There are occasional seconds' worth of decent looking moments, mostly still photographs. Truly lamentable.

Sound:
The soundtrack, such as it is, is fine, with the omnipresent narration front and center and Tony Sheridan's contributions relegated mosly to the background.

Extras:
This where things get truly bizarre, folks. What might have been an actual neat extra, a 30 minute 1968 UK radio interview with John, Paul and Ringo has been transferred at Chipmunk-like 45 rpm speed (no, I'm not joking). Was this done in some bizarre attempt to avoid copyright issues? It is certainly one of the weirdest things I've encountered. There are also music-only versions of the Tony Sheridan numbers used as underscore.

Final Thoughts:
Stick with the multi-disc The Beatles Anthology from a few years ago. This is simply a waste of time and money.



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