MVD Visual // 2006 // 52 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // October 28th, 2010
A look at the final 24 hours of the life of Marvin Gaye...
You're not going to watch the Final 24 series for a light and easy time, but even by those somber standards, Marvin Gaye: His Final Hours is perhaps the most depressing thing you'll ever see. It's positively horrific how a man whose beautiful music enchanted and uplifted so many people could spend the last hours of his life in a squalor that would be beneath most crack addicts. The show chronicles every last minute in excruciating detail, but it also includes a look at Gaye's talent and success that, if anything, highlights just how truly awful his decline was. You'll mourn the massive waste of talent and opportunity that Gaye's brutal death was even more once you realize the details seen here.
Gaye, of course, was possibly the most successful soul singer of all time, responsible for such classics as "What's Going On?" and "Mercy Mercy Me." He couldn't, however, escape the demons of his past -- in particular, the severe abuse and beatings he suffered at the hands of his father, Marvin Sr. It was Marvin Sr. who, after a drunken argument with a drugged-out Gaye, shot him to death on April 1, 1984. What Final 24 does is not only examine exactly how and why that murder occurred, but how the combination of Gaye's self-destructive nature and Marvin Sr.'s cold narrow mindedness made it almost inevitable. Given the complex and twisted history between the two men, seen here in detail, it seems, to a degree, that there could have no other end to the story.
Like the other episodes in the Final 24 series, this is full of reenactments in which actors play the roles of Gaye, his father, and others involved. These segments are surprisingly successful in depicting the last hours of Gaye's life. Seeing Gaye, ensnared in a cocaine addiction so intense that he was reduced to gobbling it up like candy, is truly heartrending. That his last days were spent either in the company of sleazy junkies and dealers who were exploiting him or fighting viciously with his father, who resented and was jealous of him, is even more painful, considering how the best of Gaye's music conveyed the joy of love, life, and, happiness so effortlessly. Unfortunately, it's in discussing Gaye's music that the show falters. The show does give a good history of Gaye's musical career but because the producers weren't able to license any of Gaye's songs, the show can't completely convey just how important Gaye's music was and why his death was such a huge loss. There are interviews with members of Gaye's family as well as his biographer David Ritz (who also co-wrote "Sexual Healing," Gaye's biggest hit) and while their insights into Gaye's family and mental state are invaluable, they're less successful in explaining his musical importance. Still, these interviews are worth seeing, even if you're already familiar with this story, as they provide an excellent look at Gaye's life from the inside.
It's these interviews, then, that make this DVD worth seeing for Gaye's fans. Even if you've already read Ritz's Gaye biography Divided Soul, there are still some fascinating nuggets of information here. The show is certainly nowhere near as exploitative or sensationalistic as it could have been and even the most lurid revelations are handled tastefully and respectfully. It's not as recommended for newcomers, however, because the lack of any of Gaye's music will make it hard for them to understand why his story is so important. They should start with What's Going On and some of his classic Motown singles like "Heard It Through the Grapevine" first. In either case, though, viewers should be aware that this is a painful and difficult show to watch, even for this series. Gaye's death was far more brutal and tragic than most typical showbiz ODs or murders, and this episode captures it in the most unsparing terms possible. Watch it to try to understand, and then take comfort in the music, which leaves Gaye with a legacy more lasting and satisfying than his troubled life and death.
Technical specs are typical TV-quality anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer and Dolby stereo mix, both acceptable. There are no extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated