• D.O.A.: A Right Of Passage

    Released by: MVD Rewind
    Released on: December 15th, 2017.
    Director: Lech Kowalski
    Cast: The Sex Pistols, Generation X, The Rich Kids, Joe Strummer, Nancy Spungen
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    Lech Kowalski's 1980 documentary, D.O.A. (his premiere film as a director), is an interesting look at the early years of the birth of punk rock. Given the subtitle 'a rite of passage,' this movie takes interview and concert footage of some of punk rock's earliest bands and edits it all into a ninety-five minute snapshot of the late seventies scene. It’s a pretty fascinating snapshot of some influential bands playing live and often times in front of crowds that don’t quite know what to make of them.

    Not only does this film contain some great interview footage with a very stoned looking Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen captured not too long before their notorious end. The movie also contains some behind the scenes shots from the first North American Sex Pistols tour and some Terry And The Idiots footage as well.

    The musical performances/tracks contained in the documentary are as follows:

    Anarchy In The U.K. - The Sex Pistols / Oh Bondage Up Yours - The X-Ray Spex / God Save The Queen - The Sex Pistols / Pretty Vacant - The Rich Kids / Liar - The Sex Pistols / Kiss Me Deadly - Generation X / I Wanna Be Me - The Sex Pistols / Pretty Vacant - The Sex Pistols / No Fun - The Sex Pistols / New York - The Sex Pistols / Rip Off - Sham 69 / Borstal Breakout - Sham 69 / I Wanna Be A Dead Boy - The Dead Boys / Holidays In The Sun - The Sex Pistols / EMI - The Sex Pistols / Bodies - The Sex Pistols

    What separates this film from the other punk rock documentaries of the time is that it does an interesting job of showing how certain authority figures saw the movement as a threat. The footage from The Sex Pistols’ show in Texas (for more on that, click here!) does a good job of demonstrating how people tend to lash out against things that they don't understand or are afraid of. Seeing them play in front of a crowd made up of a strange mix of rednecks, punks, bikers and cowboys is at a venue called Randy’s Rodeo better known for hosting country music shows more than anything else is quite a sight to behold.

    But, as is the norm with this type of material, the real reason to watch this one is the music. The majority of the material is Sex Pistols stuff (watching the guy in the wheelchair on the floor at one of their shows is odd!), fitting as this was based around their tour more or less. But there are a lot of other great 'old school' performances on here too, including a live song by The Dead Boys and some footage of Billy Idol and Generation X before he turned into suck in the eighties.

    Interestingly enough, Kowalski got funding from Tom Forcade, the publisher of High Times Magazine who appreciated the confrontational nature of The Sex Pistols. The whole thing was shot without permission from the band, their manager or their record label at the time making it very much a work of guerilla filmmaking - this shows at times, it’s clear that there was no access to fancy camera setups, this all looks very rough at times. The film has an air of bleakness to it in a lot of ways – Sid Vicious would kill Nancy Spungeon only a few months later, then overdoes himself the next year. Forcade would take his own life as well in 1978.

    It’s worth pointing out that, according to this article here, due to music licensing issues, two Iggy Pop songs included on the original version of the movie have been replaced with alternate versions on this Blu-ray.


    D.O.A. is presented in its original fullframe aspect ratio on this 50GB Blu-ray disc with the feature taking up just over 23GBs of space on the disc. The movie wasn't shot under the best conditions and there a few times when the movie isn't lit very well but aside from that, this transfer isn't bad at all. The colors look decent enough, print damage - though present - isn't overly distracting. For an old indy documentary on punk rock that was shot mostly in bars and clubs on 16mm, everything looks just as good here as you could realistically expect it to. Compression artifacts are a non-issue and there are no noticeable problems with any heavy noise reduction or edge enhancement. This seems like a pretty accurate representation of the original source material.

    The only audio option on the disc is an LPCM 2.0 Mono track in English with optional subtitles offered up in English only. Every once in a while you might pick up on the odd instance of hiss but otherwise the audio here is pretty clean. Range is understandably limited by the source but the track is well balanced and it gets the job done with no real issues.

    The main extra on the disc is ''Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was,'' a feature length two-hour long documentary, presented in high definition, about the making of D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage. Produced by Richard Schenkman this piece is made up of exclusive new interviews with PUNK magazine founder and Ramones cover-artist John Holmstrom, music journalist Chris Salewicz, photographer Roberta Bayley, Sex Pistols' historian Mick O'Shea, former Rich Kid guitarist and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure and original D.O.A. crew members David King, Mary Killen and Rufus Standefer. Additionally this piece includes never-before-seen interview footage of Sex Pistols founder Malcolm McLaren and some archival interview footage with John Lydon (all decked out in a P.I.L. shirt). Holmstrom and Bayley tell some really interesting stories here as their way was paid for by Forcade who was becoming increasingly manic in his attempts to help Kowalski document all of this. As you’d imagine there are a lot of interesting stories to be told here and this makes for genuinely compelling viewing. It’s a shame that Kowalski himself declined to be interviewed for this, but MVD has done a nice job of getting together as many people as they were able for this look back on the insanity of the film.

    The disc also contains the film’s original theatrical trailer, a bonus trailer for Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes, a nice sized still gallery, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie included in the same case that contains the same extras as are found on the Blu-ray disc. Also included inside the keepcase alongside the two discs are a twelve-page insert booklet of liner notes containing an essay on the film penned by Holmstrom and a double sided poster.

    The Final Word:

    D.O.A. does a good job of capturing the early years of punk from both in front of and behind the stage. MVD’s presentation is solid, presenting some rough around the edges material looking about as good as you can realistically expect it to, and doing a very fine job of documenting this film’s history with the Dead On Arrival documentary. Anyone with even a passing interest in the early years of punk should consider this essential.

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

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      totally forgot about this one! Hesitatingly checks out amazon.ca....
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Hmmmm, 47 dollars. No, I don't think that I will.