Blu-ray: AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY (2011)
For fans of the cult comic Bill Hicks, this disc is a goldmine. Presented in MPEG-4 AVC 1080i, this documentary looks as sharp as one could hope for. For its photo animated sequences, the filmmakers used vibrant colors and they pop in this Blu-ray. Black levels are mixed, but that is certainly due to the varying sources of the photos and video footage comes from. The few talking head interviews toward the end are crystal clear with skin tones perfect. I didn’t notice any digital anomalies at all.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is front heavy, but that can be very expected due to the nature of the project. Even in rough VHS quality video footage, the filmmakers bring out the audio as clearly as possible.
The special features are voluminous. It’s like getting a second film for the price of one. The extended interviews just go deeper into many of the episodes from Hicks’ life. His friends and family give added depth to what made the comic tick, especially his spiritual side. Deleted scenes do the same only with the photo animation technique in place. The disc also includes Hicks’ audio journals; the one recorded while he was lonely in L.A. is rather touching. Another audio treat is an interview with then-student-and-new-comedian Nick Doody. When Hicks asks Doody to open for him, it gives insight into who Hicks was.
Hicks’ family is involved in many of the featurettes. The featurette is a nice Q&A at the SXSW festival in Austin. The Dominion Tour featurette follows the Hicks family touring the Dominion theater in London where Hicks had one of his most legendary performances, meeting the people who helped put the show together. Another featurette shows the Hicks family attending film festivals in U.S. and the U.K., which gives insight into Hicks’ legacy. Another one shows the Hicks at Abbey Road studio remastering Bill’s music. The family also gives their thoughts on what it felt like to attend the 15th anniversary tribute in the U.K. This featurette also talks with fans and why they think Hicks’ comedy transcends time.
Some of the other featurettes look at Hick’s friends. The Comedy School featurette talks with the comics interviewed in the film about how they and Hicks approached the creation of comedy. One looks at Kevin Booth’s documentary on the U.S.’s war on drugs. Another has Dwight Slade discussing his comedic impressions of visiting and performing in London. “The Making of Arizona Bay” takes a deeper look into Hicks and Booth’s music collaboration. “The Ranch” has Booth taking viewers to his family’s ranch where Hicks experimented with drugs.
Of course one of the best features is rare comedy bits from Hicks. The one on the guy who told him that the Jews killed Jesus is hilarious.
In total the additional features is nearly five hours of material. If you’re a fan of Hicks, or even stand-up, this is must own.