Queen – Days of Our Lives, Blu-ray (2011)
Documentary Director: Matt O’Casey
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment EVB334079
Video: 1.33:1 1080i HD
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Extras: Alternate videos, additional interviews, deleted sequences.
Length: 221 minutes
When I was downsized a couple of years ago, I was told I could stay on a bit longer to “tie up loose ends.” Small consolation. During that interim, I put up the following quote from Roger May’s lyrics to the Queen song “Hammer to Fall.”
Toe your line and play their game
Let the anesthetic cover it all
Till one day they call your name
You know it’s time for the hammer to fall.
No one ever took it down while I was there. As the lines indicate, Queen was not just a popular rock band popular; it could also be a searing commentator. This entertaining documentary Days of Our Lives relates its story, from its inception in the early ‘70s to today. That’s right, I said “today.” The band didn’t dismantle after lead singer Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991. Nor did they soldier on for a few years like The Doors after Jim Morrison’s death. Along with the surviving members Brian May and Roger Taylor, many people are interviewed, including Paul Gambucinni, a roadie Peter Hince, and their manager Jim Beach. Strangely, no wives, ex-wives, or lovers of band members give their two cents.
In their twenty-year career with Mercury, Queen rose to become one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world. Many regard their performance at 1985’s Live Aid as one of the most dazzling and mesmerizing in rock history. The band sold 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles, and 10 number one DVDs. It’s been recorded that they sold over 150 million albums, but some estimate it’s as high at 300 million.
Mercury had a stage presence unrivaled by even Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. You can see it from the many rock videos he appeared in with the group. He struts and moves balletically, sometimes with great humor as in the drag video “I Want to Break Free.” When you see a Queen concert, you can’t take your eyes off his dramatized gestures, his somehow expressive buck teeth, his well-choreographed turns and arches, and his voice which had an astounding range, easily slipping into falsetto. (Listen to “The Show Must Go On.”) Even when he’s sitting down, he commands your attention, like in his last video “Days of Our Lives,” filmed in black & white shortly before his death of AIDS. (Oddly, that video is not among the ones included as extras.)
This documentary captures that. It also conveys the edginess of living the rock & roll life. Brian May relates that in the seventies, the group almost went bankrupt and had to ration petty items. And of course there are the divorces and uninhibited lifestyles that members like Mercury followed (and probably have died of).
Perhaps for licensing reasons, the film does not include the more flamboyant videos like “Radio Ga Ga,” which skillfully blends black-and-white footage from Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film Metropolis. And instead of that other song that also features well-edited black-and-white footage – “Under Pressure” – the version provided as one of the extras is a concert performance. It isn’t bad, and David Bowie valiantly tries to not get upstaged by Mercury. Also, there could be more extended vintage concert footage in this film. The clips from the ‘70s are only a few seconds long.
Despite some puzzling choices, the film does capture some memorable moments. One stands out. As May is interviewed outside of a theatre years after he performed there, two middle-aged women are caught in the distance. They suddenly stare at him, marveling at their good luck at seeing Brian May, whose good fortune and talent has to be the envy of every aspiring rock star.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.