Eagle Rock Entertainment // 1987 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // February 16th, 2013
The original 1986 concert. Freddie Mercury's last tour with Queen.
In the summer of 1986, British rock group Queen sold out stadiums across Europe, playing to more than a million fans over the course of 26 dates. Queen was the first western act to play a stadium show behind the Iron Curtain when they performed in Budapest on July 27. Veteran Hungarian cinematographer János Zsombolyai was tasked with filming the concert and he employed 17 cameras (every available movie camera in the country) to capture the action on 35mm film. This concert, before an audience of 80,000 fans, was used for the film Live in Budapest. That concert film has been given a gorgeous restoration and is now released as Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live in Budapest. Queen fans, rock concert enthusiasts, or anyone who wants to show off his or her home theatre system will love this disc.
There is hardly a pause during the concert's 90 minutes. An impressive
lighting rig hangs above a multi-tier stage upon which Freddie Mercury
constantly runs around in sweaty energetic fashion. Here's the set list:
* One Vision
* Tie Your Mother Down
* In the Lap of the Gods Revisited
* Seven Seas of Rhye
* Tear It Up
* A Kind of Magic
* Under Pressure
* Who Wants to Live Forever
* I Want to Break Free
* Guitar Solo by Brian May
* Now I'm Here
* Love of My Life
* Tavaszi Szel Vizet Araszt (Hungarian folk song)
* Is This the World We Created?
* Tutti Frutti
* Bohemian Rhapsody
* Hammer to Fall
* Crazy Little Thing Called Love
* Radio Ga Ga
* We Will Rock You
* Friends Will Be Friends
* We Are the Champions
* God Save the Queen
Queen was at the top of their form during this tour and Budapest was one of their later stops. Every song they play this night approaches perfection, so, for better or worse, those moments of slight deviation from the studio-recorded standard are almost non-existent in this live performance. The editing of the film is likewise timed with considerable precision thanks to the extensive coverage of the film cameras. It feels like not a strut by Mercury or a reaction from the crowd is lost.
With the first three songs, Queen really hits the ground running and stirs the fans into a frenzy. The editing during these opening numbers is very fast but it serves the energy of the moment. After that head-spinning start, the camera work and editing settles down a bit and I was glad for the subtle change of pace. More breathing room comes with four segments that briefly interrupt the concert to show the band members enjoying the local flavor of Budapest. Each segment is intended to glimpse the casual personalities of Freddie Mercury (shopping for art), John Deacon (strolling the streets), Roger Taylor (go-kart racing) and Brian May (riding a hot air balloon). These scenes don't add anything to appreciating the band or the Hungarian culture so I could have used much more of it or much less of it. Then again, the scenes aren't very long and they do provide a calming break from the excitement of the show.
This concert film looks and sounds excellent. The transfer is a gorgeous presentation of the 35mm footage. Colors are rich and blacks are nice and deep. The image is remarkably clean but it still retains some very fine film grain that's nowhere near the pea soup quality of the otherwise superb concert film Queen: Rock Montreal. The band looks great under the white or colored lights and cut away shots to the crowd have enough lighting detail to make them visually interesting. Seeing the sea of ecstatic fans clapping to "Radio Ga Ga" in high definition is simply awesome.
Two audio choices are supplied. A solid stereo mix with the clarity and punch to satisfy all listeners. I prefer the surround option delivered in Dolby 5.1, which provides a slightly more immersive soundscape. Crowd noise, some echo from the stage and a few playful directional effects make use of the rear speakers but it's balanced well so as not to distract from the prominent front speakers. Curiously, the center speaker is not used in the mix so this is more accurately a 4.1 surround environment. This is fine though and I didn't even notice the silent channel until I paid attention to individual speakers for the purpose of writing this review.
The 27-minute documentary A Magic Year is included as an extra on this disc. It chronicles the band's activities in the 12 months following their phenomenal set during Live Aid in 1985. Fleshed out with rehearsal footage and interviews, the film actually spends a lot of time focusing on Queen's recording of songs for the movie Highlander. It's nice to see these old clips of the band but the documentary is pretty forgettable. The disc is accompanied by a 16-page booklet with color photos and background notes on the concert.
Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live in Budapest features excellent video and audio of a giant stadium show with great rock music. The extras in the movie (scenes of the band members' down time) and the extra on the disc aren't essential but I'm happy to have them. Fans may argue over which concert film showed Queen at the top of their form but it's undeniable that they were glorious champions of rock this night in Budapest.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG