Dont Look Back appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. With a movie like this, it becomes tough to separate problems from the transfer and issues inherent to the source material. Even when I tried to minimize the latter, this still seemed like a lackluster presentation.
Sharpness was generally good and usually affected mainly by the movie’s “on the fly” photography. This meant focus occasionally suffered, but that wasn’t a considerable problem, as the movie usually stayed reasonably concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement presented no apparent concerns.
Source flaws were a different issue. The photographic conditions and film stock resulted in copious amounts of inevitable grain, but other defects were more avoidable. I noticed a mix of specks, marks, lines, blemishes and other distractions. Again, I could accept the grain and some of the problems, but many of them seemed more avoidable.
Blacks looked pretty good. Though some shots came across as a bit inky, most of the blacks were quite deep and dense. Shadows varied, another factor that depended on the photographic conditions. Some low-light shots were fine, but others seemed awfully thick and impenetrable. In the end, this left us with an image that was fine given its sources but not better than that.
While the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Dont Look Back suffered from some of the same concerns related to its origins, the decision to expand its soundfield created unnecessary problems. The mix took the original monaural audio and spread it across the front in an unsatisfying manner. This didn’t come across as true stereo; instead, it just broadened the audio in a blandly diffuse manner. This wasn’t a terrible distraction, but it meant that the audio lost some punch due to its lack of focus.
Surround usage was minor. The back speakers added a little light ambience along with crowd noise during the concert segments. These added little to the proceedings.
Audio suffered from the “broad mono” presentation. Granted, I didn’t expect flawless quality given the nature of the recordings, but the way the mix muddled the material meant it lacked the expected clarity. Speech suffered the most, as the dialogue became a bit mushy. I kept subtitles on throughout the movie just because it could be tough to understand what was said. Again, some of this came from the source material, but I felt the altered soundfield diminished the impact of the audio.
Music also sounded somewhat flat as well, as the spread-out audio meant the songs failed to deliver much concision. Neither sounded poor, but they could have provided clearer definition without this somewhat distracting remix. Effects were a minor consideration, as they stayed in the background. Ultimately, the audio was a disappointment even given my low expectations for it.
Where this package excels relates to its supplements. On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary from director DA Pennebaker and tour manager Bob Neuwirth. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. We start with a few notes about the genesis and creation of the famous “Subterranean Homesick Blues” sequence and then dig into documentary-related issues. The commentary looks at how the program came to be and problems with its distribution, behind the scenes elements of what we see on screen, technical aspects of the shoot, background of various participants, and other thoughts about the era and Dylan.
All of this creates a decent track but not an especially consuming one. Pennebaker and Neuwirth cover the basics reasonably well, and we get an okay feel for things. I just wish we got more insight into the various situations and the era. It seems like there should be a lot for us to learn about what happened during the tour but we don’t find out all that much. This ends up as an average commentary.
Next we find five bonus tracks. These audio recordings provide live versions of “To Ramona”, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, “It Ain’t Me Babe”, and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. These sound surprisingly good and provide a nice glimpse of Dylan on stage at the time.
The film’s trailer essentially just consists of the movie’s opening scene: the proto-music video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. Speaking of which, we also get an alternate take of that piece. It’s similar to the better-known version except it uses a different location and Dylan has a lot more trouble with the lyric cards. It’s awkward but fun to see.
Profiles offers some text information. We get entries for Pennebaker, Dylan, and “Cast & Crew”. The Pennebaker text gives us a basic biography and filmography, while the Dylan listing mostly concentrates on his discography. “Cast & Crew” includes short notes about Joan Baez, Albert Grossman, Neuwirth, Allan Ginsberg, Donovan, Marianne Faithfull, Alan Price, Derroll Adams, Tito Burns, Terry Ellis, Howard and Jones Alk, and Bob Van Dyke. Those notations are the best part of “Profiles” since they let us know who so many of the flick’s unnamed participants are.
Moving to DVD Two, the main attraction comes from Bob Dylan 65 Revisited. This 65-minute and 25-second program collates outtakes from the original film sessions into a new documentary. We find lots more performance footage as well as more shots of Dylan in public and private.
Frankly, these clips aren’t tremendously interesting. Fans will dig the concert shots, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m not wild about Dylan’s folk stuff, so they do little for me. The other bits are intriguing mainly because they show a less barbed side of Dylan. He comes across as something of a jerk in Back, but here we see him in a nicer light. While I can’t say the material excited me, it’s still nice to check out additional clips from the 1965 tour.
Note that “Revisited” offers another alternate version of “Subterranean”. This one finds Dylan atop a roof on a somewhat windy day. This makes it tough for him to handle the lyric cards and leaves him with an irritated expression. I think annoyed-looking Dylan might be more fun.
The documentary also comes with another audio commentary from Pennebaker and Neuwirth. Again, they sit together and give us running, screen-specific notes. The material resembles what we hear in the track for the full film, as the pair go into background about the British tour as well as the nature of Dylan and his work, and we also get a lot about the technical issues dealt with during the shoot. In addition, Pennebaker provides a little insight into the assembly of this documentary.
Despite some dead air and occasional repetition of information from the first track, this turns into a somewhat more satisfying discussion. The quality of the material seems richer and we get a better feel for the era. It’s a reasonably informative and engaging chat.
This “65 Tour Deluxe Edition” of Dont Look Back also includes some paper elements. The big component reproduces a companion book composed by Pennebaker. It presents stills from the movie, Dylan lyrics, and text excerpts from the flick. Though nothing stunning appears, this acts as a cool complement to the film and creates a fun component for the set.
We also get an unusual flip book for “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. This tiny tome puts the visuals from the “Blues” video and lets you flip through them to create the illusion of movement; it’s like the simple animation kids make when they’re bored. I’m not sure what purpose this serves, but it’s kind of neat in a silly way.
Dont Look Back maintains a reputation as one of the all-time great rock documentaries, a factor it probably deserves if just for its innovations. Above and beyond those elements, though, it manages to provide a fairly fascinating look at a legendary artist as a young man. The DVD presents mediocre picture and audio but compensates with a mix of useful extras.
While Dont Look Back definitely merits your attention, I feel less sure that this special “65 Tour Deluxe Edition” deserves the extra expense involved. It retails for $49.95, while a single-disc version with all the components on this one’s DVD One goes for $30 less. I like this package’s second disc and its paper components but find it hard to justify the added cost. Leave the “Deluxe Edition” for the superfans and get the standard release instead.