DVD Review: Queen - Greatest Video Hits

DVD Review: Queen - Greatest Video Hits
Eagle Vision
All Access Review: A-
Queen - Greatest Video Hits 2012
Donning a studded, black leather jacket in the video to Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” Freddie Mercury vamped around the air-brushed set like a cabaret version of Marlon Brando from “The Wild One,” strutting down a runway with a smoldering quartet of sexy male and female dancers in tow. In paying homage to rock ‘n’ roll’s envelope-pushing past, the always dramatic Mercury cut a very Elvis-like figure, coyly straddling that line between innocent, fun romanticism and explicit sexuality – much as Elvis did.
Where the King was only filmed from the waist up in certain TV performances, Mercury and his “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” playmates only hinted at the lascivious desires boiling up inside of them. Two years later, when Queen needed a visual accompaniment to “Body Language,” Mercury – largely responsible for the video’s steamy content – held nothing back, letting all of his deepest, darkest sexual impulses loose in a writhing orgy of sweaty skin and nubile bodies . As Roger Taylor and Brian May reveal in the surprisingly candid commentary included with “Greatest Video Hits,” the engrossing new compilation of Queen videos from Eagle Vision, the racy imagery was reflective of Mercury’s extreme nature and his increasingly reckless immersion in a homosexual subculture that laughed at prudish convention. And while that side of Mercury’s life may have provided titillating fodder for tabloid exploitation, there was more – much more, in fact – to Queen’s ever-evolving marriage of musical and visual artistry than stylized carnal fantasies, as “Greatest Video Hits” so magnificently illustrates.
Spread across two discs, this collection gathers 33 of Queen’s most inspired cinematic adventures – “Flash” and “A Kind of Magic,” influenced by the movie “Highlander,” being two of the most brilliant – vividly restored and fit into a widescreen format with remixed sound. There’s the lighthearted comedic romp “I Want To Break Free,” an infamous cross-dressing parody of the British soap opera “Coronation Street” directed by David Mallet that was banned by MTV, and the highly conceptual “Under Pressure” and “Radio Ga Ga,” which mixed vintage shots of Queen’s past and scenes from the visionary 1927 science-fiction film “Metropolis.” Evidence of Queen’s cheeky nature is found in “Bicycle Race,” featuring clips of comely naked lasses riding 10-speeds around a track without a care in the world, while the simple, straight-forward performance video of Queen playing “Hammer To Fall,” “Killer Queen,””Friends Will Be Friends” and “Another One Bites the Dust” – in all its grainy 16mm glory – remind one and all of the power and majesty of Queen’s prowess as a captivating, dynamic live band.
And we’re just scratching the surface here. Iconic videos of “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and, of course, the aforementioned “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” are included, as well as later works from when Queen tried to hold it together through May’s marital problems and Mercury’s disintegrating health, such “Breakthru,” which sees the foursome enduring a rather dangerous ride atop a train, and the joyously adorable “The Miracle,” with young children enthusiastically mimicking the roles of May, Mercury, Taylor and John Deacon.
These treasures alone would make “Greatest Video Hits” essential viewing, although what renders it priceless is that savagely honest and witty commentary track. So full of great anecdotes, unflinching opinions and rare insights, it goads May and Taylor into discussing the unvarnished truth behind every single video and song in the collection. Taking viewers behind the curtain, they are brutal when assessing “Scandal,” with Taylor admitting he was bored silly while making both the song and the video and May wishing it would have been more substantive considering how emotionally invested he was in the subject matter – namely, how gossip and rumor can damage not only reputations, but lives as well, as his was by the English press. Even more scathing when the subject turns to the staging of the ridiculously decadent “It’s a Hard Life,” May and Taylor can’t help chuckling at how “stupid” they look in ostentatious costuming that made a horse of Taylor and a colorful bird of paradise of Mercury. Even Queen, evidently, knew when things had gone too far.
Providing the perfect coda to “Greatest Video Hits” is the rousing anthem “One Vision.” Directed by Austrians Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher, the video is memorable for its innovative morphing of Queen’s famed 1975 pose from “Bohemian Rhapsody” into an updated portrait of the band in 1985, but, in “fly on the wall” fashion, it also peeks in on recording sessions for the track at Musicland Studios. While May remembers the sort of bunker atmosphere of the place being rather drab and depressing, the guitarist points out how galvanizing the song was for the band and what a unifying message it had for fans, as well. Even if it’s not entirely thorough – the videos for “Innuendo” and “The Show Must Go On” are missing – “Greatest Video Hits” is, in a sense, a similar vehicle for that communal vibe May found so appealing. Watch them all and bask in the warm Queen-related nostalgia that, chances are, someone else is also experiencing in a place that, suddenly, doesn’t feel so far, far away.
-            Peter Lindblad

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