DOA: A Rite of Passage appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Should one expect attractive visuals from a nearly 40-year-old no-budget documentary shot on 16mm film? No, one shouldn’t.
For the most part, sharpness seemed adequate. Much of the program featured reasonably good accuracy and a fairly well delineated image.
However, some softness did occur at times, partially due to the documentary setting. The show appeared slightly gauzy on occasion and displayed moderate fuzziness, though most of it was acceptably distinct.
Jagged edges and moiré effects weren’t an issue. In addition, the image seemed to be free of edge enhancement.
Print flaws caused the majority of the concerns. Throughout the show, I saw many examples of speckles, nicks, marks, blotches, lines and additional debris.
Black levels were somewhat inky and muddy, and shadow detail generally looked a little thick, as low-light situations could be difficult to discern. Objectively, this wasn’t a good-looking presentation, but I can’t claim I anticipated much more from it.
As for the film’s PCM stereo audio, it varied as well. The soundfield expanded to the side speakers solely for music, and that side of matters remained erratic.
Some studio-recorded songs – like Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing” – showed good stereo presence, while most – like the Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” and the Clash’s “Police and Thieves” – remained monaural. As expected, all of the live recordings stayed mono. Given that I figured DOA would be solely one-channel, the occasional stereo presentation felt like a bonus.
Also as anticipated, audio quality tended toward the low-fi side of the street, though some of the pre-recorded tracks sounded pretty good. Again, “Nightclubbing” showed nice range and clarity, but other tracks – like “Queen” or “Thieves” – seemed distorted and harsh.
I can’t explain the low-lights in terms of those studio tracks. I’d guess that the film’s producers managed to get access to some superior tapes for the movie’s video release but not all.
That would explain the variation, as “Nightclubbing” probably came from an “update” while “Queen” went with the original 1980 soundtrack. That’s just a guess, though.
Whatever the case, high-quality reproduction like “Nightclubbing” remained the exception to the rule, as most of the material seemed pretty rough. The live tracks always came across as distorted, with little range or clarity.
The rest of the track followed suit. Dialogue remained intelligible but not especially natural, and effects – a minor element – showed similar restrictions.
Occasional instances of source issues manifested, mainly via hiss and some high-pitched noises. None of this surprised me, as I didn’t expect much from a low-budget documentary shot almost 40 years ago.
When we head to extras, the primary attraction comes The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was, a one-hour, 55-minute, 23-second piece with notes from PUNK Magazine founding editor John Holmstrom, journalist Chris Salewicz, photographer Roberta Bayley, author Mick O’Shea, cinematographer Rufus Standefer, crew members Mary Killen and David King, “original Sex Pistols fan” Lamar St. John, former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren (from 1984 and 2001),
and musicians Midge Ure, Billy Idol (from 1984) and John Lydon (from 1984).
“Almost” opens with a basic history of punk rock and then goes into elements connected to the creation of DOA. “Almost” offers good perspectives and gives us a mostly positive overview, but I can’t claim it becomes an especially engaging documentary. It does enough to keep us with it but it fails to turn into anything especially dynamic.
In addition to trailers for DOA and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, the disc throws in an Image Gallery. It offers 51 shots of the Pistols on tour and gives us a nice collection.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of DOA. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.
Along with a poster, the package features photos and an essay from John Holmstrom. These elements add some value to the release.
No one will confuse DOA: A Rite of Passage as a concise documentary. However, it offers a pretty effective look at the punk scene in its heyday. The Blu-ray brings us spotty picture and audio along with a long discussion of the film. DOA becomes a fairly evocative program.