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Image Entertainment presents
Ramones: Raw (2003)

"It's not hard, not far to reach
We can hitch a ride
To Rockaway Beach.."

- lyrics from Rockaway Beach

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: September 28, 2004

Stars: Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Marky Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Tommy Ramone, C.J. Ramone
Other Stars: Drew Barrymore, Carly Simon, Al Lewis, Lemmy Kilmister, Uncle Floyd Vivino, Gilbert Gottfried, Mario Cantone, Kurt Loder, Bono, Robby Krieger, Deborah Harry, Chris Stein
Director: John Cafiero

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language, brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:45m:11s
Release Date: September 28, 2004
UPC: 014381227826
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- A-BB A

DVD Review

[The following was written a few weeks before the recent death of guitarist Johnny Ramone (John Cummings), who died of prostate cancer on September 15, hence no mention of it during the course of the review. No disrespect to the likes of the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, or fill-in-the blank with your own personal favorite, but in my estimation the Ramones were probably one of the most important rock and roll bands to ever strap on guitars in my lifetime. Gabba-gabba-hey.]


I'll readily admit to an unweening bias when it comes to The Ramones (Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, Marky, Tommy and later even C.J.), who in my humble opinion are probably the single most influential band in my long, torrid rock history. They're the leather-jacket-clad New York quartet credited with starting the whole punk revolution back in 1976, spawning an army of English lads to strap on guitars and learn a couple of power chords. And though the band never seemed to earn the proper amount of public adoration they deserved, they always seemed to have the respect and adoration of a revolutionary musical movement they seemed to spearhead. It's been a long strange trip since 1976—Joey's death from cancer, Dee Dee from an alleged overdose, Johnny suffering from pancreatic cancer—but the band's music has persevered, remaining largely unchanged as fads and trends came and went.

Ramones: Raw is like a fanzine of sorts, one put together by the band itself, and consists of a series of random on-the-road and backstage footage, most apparently shot by drummer Marky, from all points in the band's career, from all around the world; it would be a stretch to classify this as a documentary really, rather it's more like a video scrapbook. Director John Cafiero hasn't put the material together in any real semblance of order, nor does he include any kind of formal voiceover to connect the pieces together, and instead bounds from segment to segment, allowing the goofy banter of whoever happened to be on camera to provide the narration. So a history lesson this ain't. If you want history, wait for the documentary The End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones.

The odd stuff—like the disturbing visual of seeing Marky on the toilet, C.J. getting a bare-assed flu shot or Dee Dee trying to buy a Rolex—is wedged between wild footage of crazed Ramones fans in South America literally attacking the band's van (all shot from inside the vehicle by Marky), which Cafiero here compares to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Mixed in between the road mayhem and wacky antics are live performances, ranging from a 1980 show in Rome to a 1988 set in Finland to a concert at New York's The Ritz, as well as a rarely seen clip of the band doing Take It as It Comes with the added surrealness of guest guitarist Robby Krieger from The Doors. And lest we forget about Dee Dee's ill-fated solo stab at rap in the late 1980s, well that bit of strangeness is included here as well. Whoa.

A collection of random footage like Ramones: Raw is not really for the casual observer; it would be like watching home movies of someone you didn't know or care about. For fans, though, this is a treasure trove of seldom seen television appearances, soundchecks, performances (including the Touring claymation video) and a loose look at what went on when the band was not onstage, and the accompanying commentary track from Johnny and Marky does its best to connect all the dots.

Gabba gabba hey!

Songs:
Blitzkrieg Bop
Teenage Lobotomy
Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World
Rockaway Beach
Touring
Cretin Hop
I Don't Want You
Judy Is a Punk
I Can't Make It on Time
Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?
I Just Wanna Have Something to Do
Rock n' Roll High School
Pinhead
Take It as It Comes
She's the One
Sheena Is a Punk Rocker
I Don't Wanna Grow Up


Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Ramones: Raw has the alternatingly grainy, faded color you might expect from a series of over 20-year-old camcorder footage shot by a rock band. With that said, some clips do look decent, while others look a little shabby by comparison. Color levels fluctuate clip to clip, though the concert footage (much as with the audio transfer) fares dramatically better.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is presented in 2.0 surround, but considering 99.9% of the material is recorded from a hand-held video camera, the content is not necessarily an exercise in high fidelity. Voices are clear, but there are some moments of distortion that is more a result of the recording process than the transfer itself. The concert footage, on the other hand, sounds terrific, and doesn't suffer nearly the same degree of harshness that the majority of the hand-held footage does.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 46 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
18 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
8 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by John Cafiero, Johnny Ramone, Marky Ramone
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Here's a case where the audio commentary should be considered the primary audio track, because it is not just a perfect adjunct to the film, but it actually serves as a narrative.

Director John Cafiero, who seems to often know more about the band than the band does, is joined by Johnny and Marky Ramone, and the three of them discuss the random string of clips that make up Ramones: Raw, which aren't really presented in any order. While it's funny to count how many times Johnny admits to not remembering most of the specific things happening onscreen—or perhaps he was just dodging Cafiero's sometimes lame questions—the bulk of the commentary sports enough historical input from Johnny and Marky to help make some of the hodge podge footage a bit clearer. Recorded after Joey's death, but apparently before Dee Dee's, to say nothing of Johnny's recent pancreatic cancer, this is quick walk through of the band's history from two of the main members. My suggestion is to listen to the commentary on your first viewing.

There's something of a fan-friendly rarity here as well, with plenty of replay factor. It's seldom seen concert footage entitled I Ramones (27m:28s), recorded in Rome in 1980 for Italian television, and some of the concert performances sprinkled throughout the doc are lifted from this show, which was held in the shadow of The Vatican. The boys crank through 12 songs, including a rare performance of I Can't Make It on Time. The set list includes:
Cretin Hop
Blitzkrieg Bop
Teenage Lobotomy
Rockaway Beach
I Can't Make It on Time
Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
Rock n' Roll High School
I Wanna Be Sedated
Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
Let's Go
Commando

There are 18 deleted scenes, most of which is more mish-mosh footage of moderate interest. It's worth a look, however, for a concert clip of the band performing Chinese Rocks from Finland in 1988. Also provided are a wealth of television appearances, none being particularly noteworthy except as curiosity pieces. In a weird bit of history repeating itself, Joey and Marky do show up on a clip from The Howard Stern Summer Show with a George Bush Sr. impersonator, who is spouting all sorts of anti-Saddam jokes. Joey does a brief a capella variation on the chorus of Pet Semetary, changing the lyrics to "I don't wanna be buried, in an Iraqi cemetary." Strange symmetry, indeed. The brief TV clips are as follows:
Space Ghost Coast to Coast (04m:27s)
The Howard Stern Summer Show (03m:27s)
Uncle Floyd: I Just Wanna Have Something to Do (04m:04s)
Uncle Floyd: Rock and Roll High School (04m:31s)
Uncle Floyd: Ramones Interview (03m:55s)
USA Up All Night: The 5th Ramone Water Balloon Clip (01m:30s)
USA Up All Night: Fishing Clip (01m:36s)
MTV's 120 Minutes: Interview with Joey Ramone (Adios Amigos) (01m:27s)

The disc is cut into a whopping 46 chapters.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Seemingly designed exclusively for fans, John Cafiero's Ramones: Raw is an occasionally disjointed collection of on-the-road footage shot mostly by the band, peppered with live concert footage, all layered underneath an optional commentary track from Marky and Johnny Ramone.

I didn't really walk away with any deeper understanding of the group, but as one of the faithful already that didn't bother me. If you're not a Ramones fan, this may seem like a silly and pointless project, but I don't think this was put together to necessarily convert over the non-believers.

Plus, the addition of a half-hour concert from 1980 and assorted rare television appearances doesn't hurt, either.

For fans, an easy recommendation.

 


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