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End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones

Rhino // Unrated // March 15, 2005
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Preston Jones | posted March 6, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

The Ramones hit the music scene in the late Seventies with all the force of a runaway piledriver - Johnny's relentless electric guitar, Joey's gangly, slightly creepy and unintelligible lyrics, Dee Dee's maniacal bass playing and Tommy's bedrock drumming all combined to create a uniquely New York sound that revolutionized the then-burgeoning punk movement, giving it a face, a sound and attitude to spare. What began as four disparate personalities united by a common cause, The Ramones would go on to leave an indelible mark on future musicmakers - look no further than the current spate of punk-flavored pop bands if you need proof.

Directors Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia's warts-and-all examination of the phenomenon that still is The Ramones - End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones - can be uncomfortable, if not downright disturbing for fans of the band. The portrait painted by the band members, associates and friends is not a rosy one; Joey and Johnny long hated each other, while Dee Dee antagonized the group with his antics and Tommy attempted to hold it all together long enough to get their particular brand of magic down on wax. Despite the internal strife, The Ramones in their "original" incarnation lasted long enough to crank out three albums which, to this day, are regarded as classics of their genre.

Interviews from the "original" Ramones - Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy - are included in the documentary, which does a pretty concise job of covering the genesis, ascension and eventual decline of the band. It's to the filmmakers' credit that they don't sentimentalize (too often) just how influential this band of musical misfits truly were and continue to be. While not exhaustive, it does come close enough to revealing the men behind the carefully constructed facade - a humanizing and occasionally emotional look at four guys from Queens who changed the world of music, one three-minute blast at a time.

The DVD

The Video:

While The Ramones are known for their gritty, scuzzed-up image, did a documentary about them necessarily need to look that way too? End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones is offered here in a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that frankly, looks about as good as the VHS screener I have of the same film. Washed out, grainy images and interview segments mix with high-contrast, blown out location footage of Tommy Ramone revisiting the old neighborhood - a really subpar presentation of what surely could've been cleaned up a little before release. The archival footage is understandably worse for the wear, but the more recent interview footage should look better than this. A disappointing visual effort.

The Audio:

Where the picture lacks, the disc almost makes up for in the audio department - English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 stereo are offered and damn, does that wall of Ramones guitar hit hard in surround sound. A great soundtrack of late Seventies, early Eighties punk rock groups explodes out of the speakers like you're standing front and center at CBGB's - a great mix that allows for clean, clear dialogue during the interviews and gut-thumping aural presentations of such Ramones classics as "Judy Is A Punk" and "Blitzkrieg Bop."

The Extras:

Surprisingly, there's no commentary track from the directors - you'd think that the men who spent several years pulling the project together would want a chance to talk about their film. What is on hand doesn't flesh out the film much, but it's better than nothing. Most of the bonus material has either been excised from or left out of the finished documentary - a one and a half minute deleted scene titled "Clem Burke as Elvis Ramone," presented in fullscreen; two minutes, 54 seconds of a Joey Ramone radio interview, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen; three minutes, 34 seconds of Marky Ramone demonstrating his drumming techniques, presented in fullscreen; interview excerpts from Johnny, Richie and Dee Dee Ramone and Joe Strummer, all in fullscreen (3:19, 3:15, 3:58 and 4:01, respectively); two minutes, 28 seconds of excerpts from Tommy Ramone's interview in Forest Hills, presented in fullscreen; interview excerpts from Debbie Harry & Chris Stein and Richie Adler, presented in fullscreen (6:41 and 1:54, respectively) as well as Tommy Ramone explaining "Who Wrote What on The First Three Albums" (four minutes, 16 seconds and presented in fullscreen). The non-anamorphic widescreen trailer for End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones is also onboard.

Final Thoughts:

End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones is an excellent documentary, hitting all the necessary marks and including some truly great Ramones classics that will sound kick-ass in your home theater. Unfortunately, the image is such that it will detract somewhat from hearing these Seventies punk songs remastered in 5.1 - perhaps re-watching it with the picture off is an option. The bonus features help flesh out the story a little further - fans of this seminal group will likely snap this up no problem; casual fans or the curious would do well to give this a rental spin first.

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