Alice Cooper - Prime Cuts
When sitting down to review this DVD, my knowledge of Alice Cooper was sketchy at best: I was aware of his influence on Marilyn Manson and consorts, his appearance in Wayne's world, his alternative approach to mascara use, his recent conversion to Christianity and his bizarre appearance on Richard and Judy. What was completely lost on me is that, unlike his musical offspring, he's got a great talent for satire and moralisation. As he points out, Alice (his stage character) is all that's wrong with western society - a rock Mephisto mixed with a zombie version of a court-jester. The message seems at times to get lost in the envelope: who would realize that Dead babies is about child abuse, Only Women Bleed is about domestic violence and Hey Stoopid is an anti-suicide song? but now well into his fifties he seems to be able to still pull-off convincing musical efforts without embarrassing himself
The first DVD features the 1991 documentary Prime Cuts which goes through Alice's entire career from the late 60s to the early 90s. Thankfully there's no cheesy voice-over narration: the entire story is told by Cooper, Bob Ezrin, who produced many of the records and Shep Gordon, their manager which is a much better alternative. Alice is quite a good story teller in his own right and revounts some of the surreal events that made up his career from the alleged torturing of chickens to his bizarre encounters with Dali. The music is also seldom cut short by the interviews which is a huge plus in my book. Given that mostly fans will be buying this, they've included a tremendous amount of rare footage which is at times incredibly rough but does give a unique insight into the band's beginnings.
The second DVD is quite a bizarre mix - basically there's another documentary on this but you're supposed to play a snakes and ladders game to see it bit by bit - when you finish the game you can see the full documentary (you can skip the game by typing in Title 2 chapter 1). The documentary is about 80 minutes long and this time the original band is interviewed as well as Alice again. The period looked at is pretty much the same as the first documentary but also talks about Alice's more recent albums and collaborations up to the release of the Brutal Planet album. There's 25 minutes of a dress-rehearsal concert for his 1987 tour (featuring a guitarist with a bodybuilder's physique but a metalhead haircut) as well as song videos and more recent concert footage. There's a small amount of repetition between the documentaries but that's pretty much kept to a minimum which is appreciable.
DVD 1:Given that a great deal of the footage was rare archive footage, one would expect some of the image quality to be poor. This is indeed the case but the entire documentary suffers from a severe lack of definition and overall fuzziness: it looks pretty unimpressive and could easily be passed off as video quality. Granted there's anamorphic enhancement which given the footage it's plain pointless - as most (if not all) the footage was filmed in 4:3; we end up with the top and bottom being chopped off to give us a "widescreen" presentation - so all the concert footage tends to be shot with no headroom or half the bassist's head lopped off!
DVD 2: In this case, the widescreen presentation may be more useful as some of the more recent footage seems to have been shot in this format. That said the image quality varies tremendously between good and poor just like the first DVD.
The soundBoth documentaries have a 2.0 and a 5.1 track which is also quite variable in quality. The 5.1 mix is slightly pointless but it seems to be of slightly better dynamics than the 2.0 track. There's some parts that are incredibly badly recorded including one part where Alice is talking with some horrendous sound feedback - I realise that it's unreleased but couldn't they just have got him to redub it on top? Aside from those bad patches the sound overall is under par for a music DVD (apart from a few notable excerpts).
the menus:A 3D animation of a deserted hotel room with Alice singing on the TV - quite a nice effort a little similar to the French release of The Crimson Rivers. That said the menu is the same on both DVDs - so half the options don't work but just restart the menu animation again - really irritating! There's the option of going to the "jukebox" and just playing a song from the documentary which may be of use to some...
the extras: Given that the entire second DVD is an extra as such there's no real extras to speak of bar a photo gallery made up of two dozen photos of Alice and band throughout his career - nothing exceptional. For details of the second "extra" documentary, see above...
Apart from a bit of overlapping, both the documentaries are incredibly good given the low-quality that we've been given to expect from rockumentaries - I'm not a fan of Cooper's but I've come to appreciate him and his music through this. Fan's of the Coop will already own this - for those who aren't, this could be a good introduction if you're no stickler for video quality as this set is quite a letdown on that front.