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  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
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    Magna/Magna . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . M15+ . PAL


    Thereíre not too many humanoids out there who donít have a soft spot for The Beatles. Thereíre possibly even less who havenít at some point or other felt themselves at the brink of saturation point with 'Beatlemania'. Their original albums aside, we have commemorative albums, remix albums, live albums, multi-primary-colour albums, original and never-before-released. Letís switch media for a few more cash-in opportunities. Besides their own movies, we have concerts, tributes, interviews, insights. Hell, even Ringoís cousinís brotherís second wifeís former roommate would probably warrant a three hour BBC special. Donít agree? For heavenís sake, they released a computer regenerated voice-of-Lennon singleÖ or doesnít anyone remember Free as a Bird? Anyone? Anyone?

    Gen-Y cynicism aside, one canít help but wonder how the hell there can be enough of a story left to be told to fill 100 minutes of DVD. Very very fortunately, Backbeat more than pleasantly surprises. Itís bloody fantastic from start to finish, all the more so because itís a true story. Even those enthusiasts who are familiar enough with pre-fame Beatles trivia to be aware of Sturt Suttcliffeís role in the fab-five-at-the-time should find plenty to entertain in this well delivered and excellently cast blast from the past.

    Backbeat is set from 1960, the year the young and corruptible lads from Liverpool took their first tentative foray into the exciting world of rock 'n' roll on the road, discovering sex, drugs and, well, the obvious, in a seedy Hamburg nightclub. The core of the Beatles was, at this time, best mates Stuart Suttcliffe (Stephen Dorff) and John Lennon (Ian Hart). Unfortunately, Sutcliffe canít sing at all and can barely play, but is carried nonetheless, Ďcos who needs talent when you look so damn hot? Oh, and also because Lennon allegedly has the horn for him. Now, donít be like that. Heís only human!

    Dorff is fantastic as the passionate Sutcliffe, whose real talent lies in painting, but who is strongarmed by the determined Lennon into neglecting his talent to join him in the chase for his dream. It all goes wrong when a beautiful, arty German lady waltzes into the picture. And we all know that when a German frau has set her mind to having something, nussing vill stand in her vay. (My mother is German. I am at liberty to say this).

    The focus of the film is divided between the magnetic attraction and growing relationship between Sutcliffe and the gorgeous, feline Astrid (Sheryl Lee), and the development of the band, still in an experimental phase, both musically and lifestyle-ly. This is where youíll really fall in love with the movie. The young Beatles are brilliantly cast, most particularly Ian Hart as John Lennon. The look, the voice, the onstage performances are spot on, and the interaction between the band members is exhilarating.

    We get the pure pleasure of watching these likely young Liverpudlians have a ripper of a time living the crazy rock 'n' roll lifestyle. But Backbeat delivers as more than just another tribute or cash-in by giving a good dose of the grittier side of those boys hell bent on proving themselves, with fist fights, verbal abuse and jealous rage aplenty. The film sucks you in with a build up thatíll distract you to the point where youíll forget youíve ever sat through a Beatles doco, played out against that soundtrack the world has held dear for over 40 years.


    OK, itís a 1994 film, but Iíd still like to hope that The Beatles warranted a slightly better effort than what is delivered. Backbeat is not even anamorphically presented; just a 4:3 letterbox format. Thereís noticeable noise and artefacts throughout the movie, oddly, often around the top right of the screen. Furthermore, the picture is somewhat shimmery, soft, and the colours and lighting seem rather artificial. Fortunately, the content is generally interesting enough that this is not too distracting. Perhaps it would fare better after a quiet trip to Her Majestyís opulent lavatories in Buck Palace. Perhaps only the lads themselves will ever know. Though, I have my suspicions about young Harry. If youíre reading this, Harry, please drop me a line and let me know how you found the picture, old chap.


    Ah, for shame! Let down again! We have only Dolby Digital 2.0 in English, and this really isnít enough to do the rollicking early Beatles tracks justice. On top of this, the dialogue is muffled, necessitating cranking the volume past comfort-for-neighbours levels, for comprehension. And - truth! - that wasnít just the Liverpudlian accents. The soundtrack, of course, couldnít get any better; thereíll be no wasting of anyoneís time with waxing lyrical about the talent displayed here. One can only wish that the sound formatting did the music justice. Although, to be fair, the majority of the music is as-played live in seedy, smoky Berlin bars, so itís somewhat fitting that it be more about content than quality.




    Vibrant, gritty, exciting and very real. Not only in the ridiculously well cast Beatles youngsters, but in the great capture of the era and vibe. Youíll feel like youíve both been there and bought the T-shirt. Hell, it made this reviewer want to ditch the degree, buy a guitar and leather jacket, and book a ticket to Hamburg. Except for a blatant lack of ability to play guitar. Or sing. Or look hot like Stephen Dorff. Hell, theyíre not even into rock 'n' roll in Germany any more. Itís all crazy techno and experimental drugs. Itís all too hard. I might go watch Backbeat againÖ

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      And I quote...
    "Vibrant, gritty, exciting and very real. Not only in the ridiculously well cast Beatles youngsters, but in the great capture of the era and vibe. Youíll feel like youíve both been there and bought the T-shirt. "
    - Rachel Schmied
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS530
    • TV:
          Sharp SX76NF8 76cm Widescreen
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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