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directed by Bob Smeaton
USA 2003


In the summer of 1970, a train journeyed across Canada, carrying some of the greatest rock bands of the time: Janis Joplin, The Band, The Grateful Dead, and others. For five days they lived and partied together, giving free concerts, as a protest against the high ticket prices ($14 for a ticket) when and where they stopped; Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary. The train was called “The Festival Express”, but was by Rolling Stone magazine nicknamed, “The Million Dollar Bash”, and became the party to end all parties.

Peter Biziou, who won an Oscar for “Mississippi Burning”, recorded not only the concerts, but also the journey itself, the jam-sessions and conversations on board the train, as it moved thru Canada. But because of legal arguments, the cans of film were shelved, and was considered lost, until 1994, where, by chance, the cans were found in the National Film Archives of Canada, in next to pristine condition.

Bob Smeaton (“The Beatles Anthology” and “Hendrix: Band of Gypsies”) edited the footage and recorded interviews with those still alive, and thereby created what now is considered the last rockumentary of the era. A historical document, the holy grail of rockumentaries and a great film.

Henrik Sylow


Theatrical Release: September 9, 2003 (Toronto Film Festival)

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DVD Review: Optimum - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Henrik Sylow for the Review!

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Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:25:15 (4% PAL speedup)

1.78:1 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.60 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital English, 5.1 Dolby Digital English
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Optimum

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• 10 Bonus tracks with interviews
• Extended interviews (19:18)
• The Making of 'Festival Express' (14:18)
• Photo gallery
• Trailer

DVD Release Date: February 28, 2005
Keep case

Chapters 26





Comments When playing on PC, the DVD has serious ghosting issues, but when playing on stand alone, there are none. Also, the original footage is very grainy (16mm blown up to 35mm), contra the newly recorded HDTV interviews which are as crisp as can be. Apart from these issues, it is a great transfer.

Where the OAR is 1.85:1, the R2 DVD is 1.78:1. Whether a overscan or opening of the matte, only a comparison with the R1 1.85:1 can tell.

The film itself, is, as "Woodstock" presented in Dynamic Screen, changing from 1.85:1 to 2.67:1 (using two 1.33:1 images side by side). As the film was recorded on 16mm, Smeaton maybe should have kept the original 1.33:1 format, rather than using the theatrical widescreen format. But that was his artistic decision.

The DVD comes with two tracks. The original 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo and the new 5.1 Dolby Digital remix. The sound was originally recorded by Hanley Sound, who also recorded Woodstock, on a mobile unit and was for this film remixed by producer Eddie Kramer (who produced names as Jumi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Santana). The 5.1 track really opens the soundstage, making the audience come to live, while keeping the center speaker live feed. A great mix. The R1 has an additional DTS track.

The DVD comes with 10 bonus tracks not appearing in the film, each with a short introduction by the artist or related personal. Next comes a short making of, and finally art gallery and trailer.

 - Henrik Sylow



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