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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Surround
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Czech, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Hindi, Bulgarian
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary - Director and Producer, Director, Executive Producer and Cast
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - Remembering Ritchie
  • 2 Music video - La Bamba - Los Lobos, Lonely Teardrops - Howard Huntsberry

La Bamba - Collector's Edition

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 105 mins . M15+ . PAL


According to Don McLean in his rather famous epic song American Pie (for younger readers it isnít just the title of a teen booby and baked goods sex fest), it was the day the music died. It carked it again when Madonna murdered the song a little while back, but that's another story entirely...

Herein lies the mostly true tale of one Richard Valenzuela, more commonly known as Ritchie Valens, a 17-year old prodigy who burst onto the fledgling rock'n'roll scene in 1957, quickly earning the rather ominous tag of 'the new Elvis' (not that Mr Presley was particularly ancient at the time). He managed to clock up three massive hit singles, including his unique rock take on the originally rather Spanish La Bamba that the movie takes its name from. Conceived, written and directed by Luiz Valdez, and refreshing in that it involved input from Valens' actual family (in fact many of them even have cameos), it is a story which lends itself brilliantly to the film medium.

Starting out in a Californian fruit picking labour camp, we soon see the Valenzuela family up and leaving on the return of Richie's (the spelling changed later) brother Bob from prison. And what a charming fellow he is! Essentially an arrogant and cocky, self-centred, tequila swilling, Harley-riding, drug-dealing sleaze bag with a hair trigger violent temper (the kind of guy a girl just dreams about), he soon turns things rather upside down for his family after commandeering Richie's sweetie Rosie, getting her pregnant, and causing all manner of trouble. However I'm getting sidetracked again, as this isnít his story.

We follow Richie's rapid rise to stardom, as he meets blonde and blue eyed all-American gal Donna (who one of his three hits was named after), totes his guitar with him security-blanket style most everywhere he goes, joins a band called The Silhouettes, gets their utterly dreadful singer's nose out of joint well and truly, goes it alone to great success and lands a deal with Delphi Records, via their resident svengali Bob Keen.

Chart toppers and screaming fans follow, Richie tastes the fruits of success when he buys a blue Thunderbird and the touring begins. The now slighlty renamed Ritchie's recurring nightmares of a plane crash continue (I donít know if this was story embellishment (for obvious reasons) or fact) as he jets around the country, gigging and making TV appearances aplenty. Oh, and we even get a cameo from DJ Rick Dees (of Ayy Teee Top Fordee fame and Disco Duck infamy) in his travels.

The career and family sides of the story are interwoven quite brilliantly, giving the story a fleshing out that puts it a cut above what it would have been if simply following the rock'n'roll career angle. There is much agro between Ritchie and Bob, the latter getting a tad sulky over the attention his brother is getting, yet they still retain an obvious love for each other. The inevitable culmination of his ever-so-brief eight-month rise to stardom, when the plane Ritchie, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper are in crashes during a storm just outside of Iowa still comes as a mighty jolt. The fact that he won a coin toss to get the plane ride just makes it all the more tragic, when at only 17 who knows what sort of a mark he may have been able to make in the books of musical history had tragedy not struck?

"I'm gonna be a star, and stars don't fall from the sky do they?"


Firstly, Columbia just HAVE to clean up their opening title-card ad thingy, it's looking rather shabby to say the least. From there we are delivered directly into a dream sequence that is so grainy I was absolutely dreading what lied ahead, as there was the most obvious case of blockiness I have ever seen on DVD throughout much of it. Mercifully on delivery from the dream sequence we are presented with a near pristine print, which remains that way throughout the film (except when the dreamy parts recur). A caveat on my last comment, my vision was quite impaired towards the film's rather emotional end, so if it deteriorated then I do apologise...

The film is presented in its cinematic ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. I only spotted the very occasional speckle on the print, and was most impressed with the image quality for a film that is 14 years old, although on the odd occasion there was some quite noticeable edge enhancement. The colour is lush, black levels were spot on and I didnít even notice the layer change, which is always worthy of applause.

Once again congratulations are in order for the Sony Pictures DVD Center, they really do come up with some amazing work.


What can I say? Hmm - well, the soundtrack has been remastered into Dolby 5.1 stereo, and it works a treat. Surround balance is quite superb, with the extra speakers being used subtly, and jumping alive when required for that little bit of extra cinematic oomph. My only whinge sonically is the difference in levels between different parts of the disc - some of the extras are incredibly quiet, whilst the Sony Pictures DVD Center promo that pops up after the film infers that their boffins have worked out a way to turn things up to 12. I daresay that Spinal Tap will be impressed, unlike my neighbours.

Audio synch was fine, except for much of Lou's miming which whilst a pretty good effort was still often very obvious. It's not really an audio feature, however I must make mention that much of the guitar miming was quite hilarious and obviously inaccurate - and I only know three chords (my punk career beckons...)

Many will have a fair idea what they're in for soundtrack-wise. All of Ritchie's music is provided by Los Lobos, whilst the general score comes courtesy of Carlos Santana and Miles Goodman. On top of all this come early rock hits aplenty from both original artists and those portraying others in the film, for example Stray Cat Brian Setzer as Eddie Cochran and Howard Huntsberry as Jackie Wilson (who was not actually made of plasticine as his re-released Aardman created Reet Petite video may have suggested). It's a great boppy score, and anybody with an appreciation for where today's music emanated from should gain much enjoyment from it.


Menus: Whilst static, we do get Los Lobos' La Bamba as a soundtrack to the main introductory menu screen.

International trailer: Brief (about one minute and twenty seconds), and in decidedly average condition, this is presented full screen and in mono. Ick.

Talent profiles: Very brief career summaries for Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales (who after appearing later in Freejack, memorable for Mick Jagger's utterly classic "okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayah, let's dooooooo it!" line, went on to such blockbusters as, ahem, Livers Ain't Cheap...), Elizabeth Pena, Joe Pantoliano, Rosana de Soto and Danielle von Zerneck. To be blunt these are an utter bitch to read, and it's not like I have a teensy widdle telly either.

Featurette Remembering Ritchie: Well, actually it's called La Bamba on Location, but anyway. This comes to us full screen, and is a brief six-and-a-bit minute long behind the scenes type affair that was made at the time of filming. Whilst featuring a lot of film footage, it does include interview snippets with Lou DP, Valdez and most intriguingly the real-life (and very big-haired) Donna.

Music video - La Bamba by Los Lobos: Sonically rather quiet, and in standard two channel Dolby, this is a quite annoying clip in that it features heaps of irritating crowd noise. Mind you I find this particular song rather annoying anyway, so your mileage may vary.

Music video - Lonely Teardrops by Howard Huntsberry: The Jackie Wilson song, much of what I said for the Los Lobos clip applies, plus this is basically just a straight cut and paste from the film. It is hardly essential viewing, but is a nice inclusion nonetheless.

Commentary - Director and cast: Featuring actors Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales, writer/director Luiz Valdez and executive producer Stuart Benjamin this was by far the more enjoyable commentary of the two presented here, especially once I got a handle on who was actually speaking when. There's much interesting information on the film and its history to be gleaned for those who wish to do so.

Commentary - Director and producer: Valdez obviously (and justifiably) loves his film, as he can natter on about it for at least three and a half hours (considering his appearance on both commentaries). He is accompanied here by producer Taylor Hackford, and whilst not as engaging as the first commentary, fans of the film should get enough from this to make it worth the time investment.


I have a great interest in the history of popular music, and basically felt like slapping myself after watching this for having not checked it out during the entire fourteen years it has been available. As a film it is a beautifully balanced tale of Ritchie's all too brief time in the limelight, featuring great music, pathos, drama and realistic portrayals of family life. The fact that most people will know how the story ends doesn't detract from the movie's ability to be at times riveting, and always engaging.

As a DVD it is another very impressive effort. Quite excellent both visually and sonically, and with a decent array of extras it is something that any fan of classic rock'n'roll should at least check out, and also a disc that anybody who enjoys a brilliantly told story should also enjoy.

Mind you if I ever hear the song La Bamba again I'll have the most almighty hissy fit...

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      And I quote...
    "A beautifully balanced tale of Ritchie Valens' all too brief time in the limelight, the fact that most people will know how the story ends doesn't detract from the movie's ability to be at times riveting, and always engaging..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Home Built
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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