Gang of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets
Music Video Distributors // Unrated // $19.95
Review by Chris Neilson | posted June 6, 2008
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
In 1989, Maria Beatty, director of straight-to-video adult titles such as The Sassy Schoolgirl and Box of Laughter, Part II: Converted to Tickling, knocked out a quickie doc about the mid-20th Century American literary movement known as the Beat Generation. Gang of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets includes the Beat figures William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), Gregory Corso (1930-2001), Diane Di Palma, and Ed Sanders. Post-Beat poets and performance artists who appear include Jim Carroll, Henry Rollins, Marianne Faithfull, Richard Hell, John Giorno, Anne Waldman, and, Lydia Lunch.

Rather than going to the trouble of doing research, compiling archival footage, going to some of the locales relevant to the Beat Generation such as San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, and doing in depth interviews, Beatty simply had the participants come into the studio and say or do whatever struck their fancy. She then took that material and sliced and diced it into a flavorless 60-minute video montage filled with cheesy '80s era video effects, capped it off with a crappy no-budget score, and called it a day.

If anybody said or did anything of note in the interviews conducted for Gang of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets it didn't survive going through the meat grinder of Maria Beatty's video editing bay. The resulting string of 3 to 30 second snippets have a limited narrative structure, but no substance.

The DVD
The Video:
The original analog video recordings probably never looked good, but age has done them no favors. Colors are wildly inconsistent and subject to bloom, and the image is riddled with macroblocking and other video compression errors.

The Audio:
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio options are provided, but both suffer from serious audio distortions and high background noise levels.

The Extras:
Short updated audio biographies on each of the participants are included, but they amount to nothing more than muddled Wikipedia-derived crib notes.

Final Thoughts:
Gang of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets is a train wreck of a documentary thanks to poor preparation and horrific editing. If the original interviews have survived, perhaps somebody could make something useful of them, but nobody should consider sitting through this just to see a few minutes of any of the participants.



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