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BEASTIE BOYS VIDEO ANTHOLOGY

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Beastie Boys
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Standard 1.33:1 et al
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  See Review
Length:  Unspecified
Release Date:  November 21, 2000

Film ****

I was a senior in high school when the Beastie Boys first broke out with their Licensed to Ill album, and boy, were we ready for it.  With “Fight For Your Right” as an anthem, we cherished the Boys for all the same reasons our parents feared them.  They were bad, and they didn't try to hide it.  They fused rap and hardcore rock into a sound that was new, raw, and dangerous.  They were the least safe sounding band to hit FM radio in a long time in the 1980's.  I can even remember our school's annual faculty show, when a bunch of teachers dressed up like the Beasties and lip-synched to “Brass Monkey”.  It absolutely floored us, because we knew the teachers had no idea what they were singing about, or they never would have done it!

But the Beasties were also video pioneers—not of the Michael Jackson variety, which meant spending more on one video than most countries' annual GNP.  Instead, they were experimenters, playing with camera angles and movements, film stocks, lenses and art design, and creating some of the video age's most memorable images.  No one need look further for proof than Criterion's new amazing double disc DVD set, Beastie Boys Video Anthology.

This is one massively loaded disc (more on that further down), but really, just to sit and watch these videos beginning to end is a treat in itself.  From the opening classical chords of “Intergalactic” to the colorful, freewheeling “Alive”, this collection documents one of rock and rap's most important groups, with plenty of musical proof as to their significance.

The images range from humorous (the giant robot and octopus battling it out amongst a miniature set in “Intergalactic” to the thrilling (the 70's cop show intro spoof in “Sabotage”), to the simply profound (the shot from the rear of a warplane looking back at the bombs as it drops them in “Something's Got to Give”. 

Of course, at the heart of it all is the music, whether the songs are hardcore rock as played by Michael Diamond on the drums, Adam Yauch on the bass, and Adam Horovitz on guitar, or punched up rap when the same boys become the MCs Mike D, MCA and Adrock respectively.

But wait, you might ask…where is the video that started it all, “Fight For Your Right”?  Don't blame Criterion…the Boys released Licensed to Ill on Columbia Records, then switched to Capitol for Paul's Boutique and their subsequent releases.  Capitol cooperated with the compilation of this DVD; sadly, Columbia did not.  It's no reason to pass up this excellent disc set, though…not by a long shot.

As with all things, the passage of time lends perspective to the Beastie Boys.  It's amusing now to think they were thought of as so bad when they first hit the streets.  They may have been guilty of an occasional four letter word or a clever double entendre (“I'm like Sam the butcher, bringing Alice the meat”), but listen a little closer and you'll hear a plea against disrespecting women from MCA on “Sure Shot”, or look more closely at the Boys work to promote good causes such as voting and Tibetan freedom, and it becomes clear that the guys may have been mischievous, but hardly devils incarnate.  Hell, compared to some of the ultra-violent gangsta rap that's been out there for the past few years, you could consider the Beasties pretty much a PG rated band.

But they've left in their wake a number of great albums and plenty of terrific music, and thankfully, show no signs of slowing down.  If you ever need to be reminded of the Beastie Boys' legacy, you don't need to do more than pop on this DVD set…it's an instant party.

Video ***1/2

This is a hard disc to rate the video on, except to say that there seems to be no problems relating to authoring or compression of the transfer.  The Boys simply use a wide variety of cameras and film stocks, from high contrast and grainy black and white to videotape, to even standard film (in which a couple of videos are even letterboxed).  In other words, the effect is purposely uneven.  If you're interested in the best looking video in the bunch, try “Alive”, which features bright, vibrant colors…there's no bleeding or image compromise.  Overall, this is a quality representation of the original Beasties' images, with no complaints.

Audio ****

Word to your mother…this disc is loud.  And I mean LOUD.  Even if you opt for stereo only over the 5.1 mixes, you're gonna need to turn your receiver down about a full ten clicks if you have close neighbors.  Seriously…it makes Twister sound like Marcel Marceau's Greatest Hits.  I prefer the 5.1, myself…it's a totally enveloping listening experience, and makes your living room the perfect place to throw a party.  The dynamics are strong, the bass will shake your foundation, the clarity of the sound is top notch…it doesn't get much better.

Features ****

It would take me pages to individually list everything this 2-disc set contains, so let me try to summarize:  most of the videos include multi-angle and/or multi-audio presentations.  Video:  in some cases, you can see storyboards, alternate shots and angles, production photos, and more.  Audio:  you can listen to commentaries by the band, the video directors, and in some cases, choose your favorite remix of the track to go along with your video selection.  If you were to go through all possible combinations, you could easily spend days with this disc…and you'd be very hungry afterwards.  Each track also comes with information on when it was released, who was involved, and photos of both album and singles covers…very cool.  There is also an interview with the cast of “Sabotage”, the director's cut of “The Robot vs. The Octopus Monster Saga”, which is a longer version of “Intergalactic” replacing the song with cheesy sound effects and more video footage…a nice homage to the Japanese monster movie.  There are also a cappella versions of some songs, and subtitles all the way, in case you'd like to karaoke.  The package also includes a cool poster.

Summary:

If you like the Beastie Boys, then you need to grab this DVD with both hands and give it a prized spot on your shelf, and treasure it as much as your copy of The Sounds of Science CD.  Even if you're not a huge fan of the group, this is still a set to check out.  Criterion has not only raised the bar for future music video compilations on disc, they've sent it rocketing through the stratosphere.