Smithsonian Channel // 2007 // 47 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // October 8th, 2009
Get ready for a wild ride.
Hardly. This DVD is so tame you could show it at Sunday school. Maybe you're really looking for a 47-minute advertisement for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that may as well have been produced by the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce. If so, enjoy this DVD. If, however, you were hoping for a more in-depth look at the cultural and historical significance of the festival, you're plumb out of luck.
Here's what this DVD, which originally aired on the high-def Smithsonian Channel, contains: a motorcycle build-off, a segment on tattoo artists, a look at a burnout contest (where contestants run their motorcycles in place until their rear tire bursts), a glimpse at a big campground where bikers camp out during the festival, and a segment on women and motorcycles. If you've ever wanted to see a contraption that blends a John Deere tractor engine with a motorcycle front end or a guy covered in burnt rubber from a spinning tire, then you'd better be pleased, because that's pretty much all you'll get. For the most part, this DVD is so superficial that you'll have a hard time caring about anything, mainly because nothing is presented in much detail. It's all pretty pictures and lots of noise. There's even a brief history of the festival that is astonishingly meager. Seriously, considering that this is the most famous biker festival in the world, where nearly half a million bikers come from around the world to party, ride, and raise hell, how is it that the only noteworthy story that this show's producers could dig up is that someone once set some outhouses on fire?
What's missing is any sense of the danger that's integral to biker culture. There are a few scantily clad women here, and even a couple wearing almost nothing but body paint, but there isn't even one profanity or brawl seen or heard about anywhere during this program. Yes, Sturgis is mainly about having a great time, but there's a lot more to it as well. There's no explanation about how it became the touchstone for bikers, considering there are at least two other famous biker festivals (Daytona and Hollister) that rival it. The DVD also fails to point out that Sturgis has seen its share of darkness as well. Reportedly, it was at Sturgis in the early '80s that the three biggest outlaw biker clubs -- the Hell's Angels, the Bandidos, and the Outlaws -- signed a treaty that carved the United States up into regions. It's also at Sturgis that several major battles, including some bloody ones, between those outlaw clubs have occurred. You won't see or hear anything about that here, though, even though it's just as important to tell that side of the story as the more lighthearted one. It's this lack of thoroughness that makes this DVD ultimately of little value.
At least it looks and sounds great. Well, not that great. The 1.78:1 transfer looks quite nice, especially since it was mostly shot on video, but why on earth is it non-anamorphic? Smithsonian is an HD channel, available only to subscribers with HDTVs, so there's no reason to not go anamorphic. The 5.1 surround mix is spectacular, with heavy use of the surrounds all over the place. There are no extras, unless you count promos for other Smithsonian DVDs.
Guilty of being little more than an extended infomercial.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Smithsonian Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 47 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated