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Case Number 18908: Small Claims Court

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You Really Got Me: The Story Of The Kinks

MVD Visual // 2010 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // May 14th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Victor Valdivia is a well-respected man about town, except for the "well-respected" and "about town" parts.

The Charge

One of the most important and most-loved bands of the last 40-plus years.

The Case

This is a textbook example of how not to do a music DVD. You Really Got Me has all of the components for a great music bio: interesting story; licensed music; and backstage, interview, and performance clips from throughout the band's career. Sadly, the documentary is so sloppily assembled that even the most die-hard Kinks fans will find it a struggle to get through.

It's too bad You Really Got Me is so shoddy, because the story of the Kinks is one of the most notable and possibly controversial in rock & roll. Emerging in the 1960s alongside The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Yardbirds in the post-Beatles wave of the British Invasion; The Kinks quickly emerged as stars in their own right. Their 1964 hits "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night" are momentous three-chord stompers that remain landmarks in rock history; it's impossible to imagine hard rock, heavy metal, and punk without them. The Kinks were poised to become megastars alongside their compatriots, but for various reasons the band's career stalled suddenly. Much of the problem was that singer-songwriter Ray Davies and his brother, guitarist Dave, had an infamous love-hate relationship that frequently erupted into outbursts of onstage violence. The band's stage show became so rowdy that in the late '60s, the American Musicians' Union banned The Kinks from performing in the U.S. for three years. This period of enforced seclusion would forever alter the band's career. Their music would become more insular (if not, at times, downright impenetrable) and their sales and profile in the U.S. would suffer considerably for several years afterward. Though they would eventually become an arena-rock band in the late '70s with albums like Misfits (1978) and would also later enjoy some lightweight top-40 hits like "Lola" and "Come Dancing," The Kinks' post-'60s work has always been contentious. While Kinks cultists insist that these albums deserve reappraisal, most other music fans have long since come to the conclusion that the band never really lived up to the potential of their earlier classic songs.

It would have been interesting if You Really Got Me made the argument that The Kinks' '70s and '80s work is as important as their early hits. It would have even been interesting if the film argued the band peaked with "You Really Got Me." Sorry to say, the documentary does neither, mainly because it's so incoherent that it's hard to figure out what it's trying to say. Performance clips from various eras are slapped together into a chaotic jumble, with '60s clips bleeding into '80s performances and then back to the '70s for no particular reason. None of the clips are identified, so you'll have to guess when and where they were filmed. Some songs are allowed to play in their entirety, but others are chopped to pieces or interrupted by interviews or narration. The decisions appear to be arbitrary; there's no way that anyone could possibly argue that the band's cover of Elvis Presley's "Milk Cow Blues" is more important than their classic hit "A Well Respected Man," yet it's the latter that's mangled to bits while the former plays uninterrupted. It's the documentary's narration, however, that's the most appalling. Not only is it meager, leaving out significant pieces of information, but it is actually lifted, word-for-word and without any attribution, from All-Music Guide's biography of the band. That's amazingly shameless, even for a cheap DVD like this one.

The technical quality isn't much better. The quality of the archival footage varies, so some clips look better than others. That does not explain, however, why some clips are matted with black bars for artificial widescreen and others are left in 4:3 fullscreen. Again, there is no rhyme or reason to the choices; as with everything else on this DVD, the black bars were apparently done just because someone felt like it. The Dolby stereo mix is also uneven, with some songs so hissy and soft that you'll barely be able to make out the melodies. There are no extras.

Ultimately, it's hard to recommend You Really Got Me. The Kinks' story is one of the most fascinating in rock & roll and their music has probably inspired more debates amongst music fans than almost any other artist's, but you won't get any of that from this DVD. The presentation is so sloppy and disorganized that even the presence of some remarkable rare film footage isn't enough to make this worth buying for anybody, including Kinks fans. Viewers would be better served buying some Kinks anthologies like Rhino's Greatest Hits Vol. 1 or The Kink Kronikles instead and decide for themselves what side of The Kinks divide they're on.

The Verdict

Guilty of not doing justice to a story that deserves better.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 60

Perp Profile

Studio: MVD Visual
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Concerts and Musicals
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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