D.O.A.: A Right of Passage Blu-ray Review

Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious Extremely Live

The Sex Pistols were at the epicenter of the punk music scene, popularizing a new genre of rock with the singles off their classic album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. Their raucous music and stage energy were a perfect fit for young people looking for a little rebellion in the late 1970s. D.O.A.: A Right of Passage is the ground-breaking documentary that captured their turbulent 1978 tour of the United States, right before lead singer Johnny Rotten would leave the group and end their brief reign atop the rock world. Funded by High Times founder Tom Forcade, this is the quintessential punk music documentary. Its rare live performances and sheer attitude accurately capture the raw, chaotic punk scene in all its rebellious glory.

Director Lech Kowalski (East of Paradise) followed the Sex Pistols with handheld cameras through the punk clubs and bars of their troubled seven-city U.S. tour. Mixing this with footage of other contemporary bands, interviewing punk fans in all shapes and colors, Kowalski hits on the punk movement at its glorious peak along with rare interview and concert footage of the punk rock music scene in the late 1970s. It includes live performances by the Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys, Generation X (with Billy Idol), The Rich Kids, the X-Ray Spex, and Sham 69, not to mention additional music from The Clash and Iggy Pop.

Fans of punk music should have this movie in their collection

The rockumentary’s most infamous footage has Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen in bed together, strung out and looking out of it. The Sex Pistols’ guitarist would die of a heroin overdose in early 1979, following his arrest for allegedly murdering her. Inspired by this documentary in some part, director Alex Cox would go on to make a Vicious biopic starring Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy. The documentary dutifully chronicles the establishment’s resistance at the time to punk music and what the Sex Pistols represented for many people, both good and ill.

Fans of punk music should have this movie in their collection. D.O.A.: A Right of Passage is one of those documentaries that documents a pivotal moment in rock history with rare footage and raw music, beautifully capturing the era’s zeitgeist. The concert footage is raw and unrefined, especially of the Sex Pistols’ performances. No one connected to the Pistols’ music label wanted this documentary to be made and the Pistols themselves weren’t enthusiastic about it. That being said, the vaguely underground manner in which it is cut with random interviews of punks and lively punk music is fairly brilliant. There is something wild and untamed about its rambling structure that perfectly encapsulates the punk scene.

There is a reason why this rough punk documentary has become iconic to music fans and it remains a powerful portrait of the punk scene as it existed in the 1970s.

Video

Shot in rough 16mm film with a questionable contrast and weak black levels mostly at murky club venues for punk music, D.O.A.: A Right of Passage arrives on Blu-ray in an adequate, if limited, film transfer. The 93-minute main feature receives a strong AVC encode on a BD-50, presented at its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Loaded with heavy grain, this isn’t the crispest 16mm film transfer. Fine detail is scant at best. The soft definition likely comes from the transfer itself, which appears to be an older telecine effort rather than a modern image harvest on a pin-registered scanner.

The elements used are in serviceable condition. Scratches, marks and minor film debris are present, though one could argue that fits right into the punk ethos. The Sex Pistols’ concert footage is the poorest shot, as the filmmakers were filming them without permission of the group’s music label.

Making its debut on Blu-ray, D.O.A.: A Right of Passage looks steady in 1080P resolution but doesn’t really take full advantage of the documentary’s hi-def potential. It looks passable on Blu-ray with decent clarity.

Audio

The original mono audio comes in a satisfactory 2.0 PCM presentation. The documentary includes live performances by punk groups such as the Dead Boys, Generation X (with Billy Idol), The Rich Kids, the X-Ray Spex, and Sham 69, not to mention the Sex Pistols on their 1978 American tour. Punk music was never really about pristine audio fidelity and the dynamics heard here are serviceable at best.

There is some mild distortion when the music is really pushed to its limits. The punk music sounds better recorded than some of the interviews, which makes some of the dialogue with thicker accents hard to understand in spots.

There are no subtitles aside from burnt-in and crudely done lyrics playing for the Sex Pistols. In fact, these lyrics are more annoying than anything else as most fans will already know the words. I don’t think they would have included the lyrics in the documentary if it were being made today.

Extras

The iconic punk documentary comes in a classy package loaded with goodies for collectors. This is the first collector’s edition, numbered #1, for MVD’s new Rewind Collection. Having reviewed most of their Blu-ray releases over the past year, the niche distributor has stepped their game up with D.O.A.: A Right of Passage. The Blu-ray is coded for all regions if you are looking to import this Blu-ray and DVD combo set.

The packaging is top-notch, including the slipcover. Coming in a clear Blu-ray case, the cover has reversible art. The 12-page booklet has full liner notes written by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK Magazine.

A collectible 2-sided poster of the movie’s one-sheet poster and the Sex Pistols is a nice bonus for fans.

Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was (115:23 in HD) – An elaborate, revealing documentary about the making of D.O.A. produced by award-winning filmmaker (and former MTV Senior Producer) Richard Schenkman. This recent documentary features exclusive new interviews with PUNK magazine founder John Holmstrom, music journalist Chris Salewicz, photographer Roberta Bayley, Sex Pistols’ historian Mick O’Shea, former Rich Kids guitarist and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure, and original D.O.A. crew members David King, Mary Killen, Rufus Standefer, plus never-before-seen interview footage of Pistols founder, Malcolm McLaren.

Image Gallery

D.O.A.: A Right of Passage Original Theatrical Trailer (03:48 in SD)

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! Original Theatrical Trailer (02:11 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

D.O.A.: A Right of Passage
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Movie

See the Sex Pistols and other punk bands live and in color for what is the most essential punk documentary ever made.

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