• Buddy Holly Story, The

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: August 12th, 2014.
    Director: Steve Rash
    Cast: Gary Busey, Amy Johnston, Conrad Janis
    Year: 1978
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Bio-pics are a tricky thing in that they force filmmakers to sometimes sacrifice accuracy in the name of entertainment or, sometimes, convenience. Case in point, Steve Rash’s 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story. It may not stick to the nitty-gritty details of its subject, but it does make for a great movie regardless and while Rash deserves much of the credit for that, just as much goes to leading man Gary Busey, as Buddy Holly. Yes, that Gary Busey, seen here early in his career and obviously intent to really give his all to this film.

    When the movie starts, Buddy Holly’s star is on the rise. He and his backing band, The Crickets, are getting radio play and starting to become a draw and while the teenagers helping to bring rock n roll to the mainstream are loving every minute of it, the older generation see this as an affront to all that is good, particularly in a conservative state like Texas. In fact, even Buddy’s parents want him to give up this rock n roll thing and head off to seminary like a good boy should.

    One night when Riley Randolph (Bill Jordan), the man who runs the local radio station that’s been broadcasting his music throughout Lubbock, asks to meet with Buddy things take a change. Riley gives Buddy some records he’s gotten ahold of that are too out there to play on the air and he tells him that there’s a record producer in Nashville that wants to meet him. He and The Crickets pile into a car for the drive across state lines and hit the studio, but it doesn’t pan out the way they wanted it too and before long, they’re back home. Riley keeps helping them where he can though, and soon enough they’re off to New York to meet Coral Records’ Ross Turner (Conrad Janis). He has the band record ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and they’re off and running. Record sales explode, concerts sell out and things are going great until the band come to split up and Buddy leaves behind girlfriend Cindy Lou (Amy Johnston) for Maria Elena (Maria Richwine) and heads out as a solo artist. They’re soon married despite objections from his parents, but we all know what happens shortly thereafter…

    Even if this one does play fast and loose with quite a few of the ‘details’ of Holly’s story, omitting key players and merging others into hybrids, it remains an entertaining and really well made film. Shot with a modest budget the film isn’t particularly flashy but it doesn’t need to be as Rash is savvy enough behind the camera to play to the production’s strengths. The music, and the fact that the cast all play their own instruments and deliver their own vocals, really helps here as it’s all done with a ridiculous amount of energy and enthusiasm. As such, the live performances that are some of the film’s more memorable set pieces really shine here, and Busey proves a commanding presence. Though he’s surrounded by all manner of talented people at any given time throughout the movie, here he shows a massive commitment to the part and not only delivers a strong physical performance, nailing the mannerisms and body language of its subject, but a solidly dramatic one as well.

    The movie is well paced, nicely shot and tightly edited. It does jump over a few notable quirks and that will understandably irritate some but the positives do still outweigh the negatives to such an extent that The Buddy Holly Story remains a movie well worth watching.


    The transfer is presented framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and it looks excellent. Colors really pop here but never to the point where they look boosted or unnatural while skin tones remain lifelike and suitably organic. Black levels are nice and deep and shadow detail is strong. The uptick in detail and texture is impressive throughout the film and the image is consistently clean and clear, free of any noticeable print damage but maintaining enough grain to remain film-like in appearance. It’s a little soft in spots, but if you’ve seen the movie before you’ll know that it has always had that look. Really, there’s nothing to complain about here and a whole lot to appreciate, the movie looks great on Blu-ray.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, the only option for the feature, also sounds great, particularly when the music kicks in and the surrounds spring to life in that regard. In the film’s many quieter scenes dialogue is crisp and properly balanced. There are no issues with even a trace of hiss or distortion and all in all this sounds great – but yeah, the highlights are definitely when the film uses all that great music.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with director Steve Rash and leading man Gary Busey. There’s quite a bit of emphasis here on Busey’s love of music, rock n roll in particular, and how that helped him to get into character and really go for it with this part. Rash talks about the more technical side of things, such as how and why specific scenes were shot the way they were and about the locations and the use of music in the film. It’s quite an amiable discussion that has a nice conversational flow but which isn’t short on information, making this a very welcome addition to the disc.

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, the film’s isolated score in DTS-HD 5.1 format, menus and chapter selection. Julie Kirgo once again contributes an essay included in the insert booklet that accurately makes the case for the star power that the young Gary Busey shows in this particular film.

    The Final Word:

    The Buddy Holly Story may often come under fire for its inaccuracies but this is not a documentary, so it’s not so hard to look past that. If you’re able to do that, enjoy this one for the fantastic music and the absolutely perfect performance from Gary Busey, sadly the kind he seems uninterested in delivering these days. As to the Blu-ray, this is a strong release. If it’s not jammed with extras the commentary and liners are great and the audio/video presentation is top notch.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!