Please put down the torches. The mediocre rating you see attached to this review is in no way an indictment of Queen, one of rock history’s most iconic bands fronted by, arguably, the best male vocalist of all time. No, this mediocre rating is specific to this two-disc DVD collection of Freddy Mercury and Co’s music video oeuvre.
Queen: Greatest Video Hits features 33 clips starting with the band’s mid-1970s breakthrough, continuing through their reign as the kings of stadium rock in the early and mid-1980s, and concluding right at the dawn of the 1990s. (Mercury died in 1991 of bronchopneumonia resulting from AIDS.) For the most part, the music videos — especially the earlier clips on Disc 1 — seem relatively primitive by today’s standards, but they serve as a great time capsule of the burgeoning art form. Plus, the music is undeniably terrific.
Unfortunately, every video featured in this collection has been available on DVD for about 10 years. (The videos on Disc 1 were presented in the same order in a 2002 release; ditto for the clips on Disc 2, which previously came out in 2003.) Even worse, the new DVD case brags that “all videos are restored and shown in widescreen.” Unfortunately, pretty much all these videos were filmed for a full screen format, so the video quality here is actually quite horrible. “We Are the Champions”, specifically, looks like it was filmed through a lens that had been dipped in soup. Meanwhile, “The Invisible Man” is randomly presented in its original full screen format. At least the new DTS 5.1 Surround track is appropriately muscular.
During their run, Queen — Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor — amassed 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles and, somewhat surprisingly, 10 number on DVDs. With that last statistic as my (admittedly flimsy) excuse, I’ve decided to break down each video using exactly 10 words. (NOTE: if you’re one of those people who considers contractions like “don’t” or “that’s” to be two words, please go away.)
1. Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen’s most spoofed video — thanks, Muppets — inspired the DVD cover.
2. Another One Bites the Dust: Mercury’s swagger is almost as strong as his ‘80s mustache.
3. Killer Queen: Definitely deserved a better video than Queen on BBC TV.
4. Fat Bottomed Girls: Mercury replaces “Killer Queen” fur coat with ample chest hair.
5. Bicycle Race: More naked butts than an episode of American Horror Story.
6. You’re My Best Friend: Must’ve lost power on set; what’s with all the candles?
7. Don’t Stop Me Now: Great song, but the video could’ve used more zombie killing.
8. Save Me: The rare non-performance/stage-based clip experiments with animation.
9. Crazy Little Thing Called Love: Freddie…leather jackets and knee pads do not go together.
10. Somebody to Love: This is my favorite Queen song. No dancing penguins spotted.
11. Spread Your Wings: Filmed on a snowy hillside. Could’ve used that fur coat.
12. Play the Game: Wintry landscape to flames in background. I’m sensing a theme.
13. Flash: Any Ming the Merciless cameo is all right by me.
14. Tie Your Mother Down: Wins prize for smokiest video, Taylor is invisible on drums.
15. We Will Rock You: Reused “Spread Your Wings” costumes/set. See, recyling is good!
16. We Are the Champions: Witness how a harlequin leotard launched a timeless sports anthem.
1. A Kind of Magic: Questionable effects, but Mercury is perfectly cast as a magician.
2. I Want It All: Mercury graduates from epic mustache to a finely-trimmed beard.
3. Radio Ga Ga: Classic about TV overtaking radio might be Queen’s greatest video.
4. I Want to Break Free: Shocked it took Mercury and company this long to crossdress.
5. Breakthru: The greatest video Queen ever filmed on a moving train.
6. Under Pressure: Hope you weren’t expecting to see Queen or David Bowie.
7. Scandal: Crushes tabloids WAY before they really became a royal pain. (Get it? Queen…“royal pain.” Never mind. Let’s move on.)
8. Who Wants to Live Forever: The band hosted a full orchestra for this haunting tune.
9. The Miracle: Kids stand in fantastically for Queen. Four incarnations of Mercury!
10. It’s a Hard Life: Freddie’s feathered costume = his most outrageous outfit…that’s saying something!
11. The Invisible Man: More painful: the videogame theme or Deacon’s silly cowboy hat?
12. Las Palabras de Amor: Deacon is frustratingly casual as Mercury/Taylor each wear tuxes.
13. Friends Will Be Friends: Fan club members got to appear/sing in this clip.
14. Body Language: How kinky? It became the first video MTV ever banned.
15. Hammer to Fall: Rainbow stage lights battle skintight lightning bolt pants for supremacy.
16. Princes of the Universe: Features a sword fight between Christopher Lambert and Mercury. Sold!
17. One Vision: Fittingly references DVD opener “Rhapsody”; didn’t need aggressive split screens.
The videos — mostly variations of the band performing on a stage — are not presented in chronological order, though Disc 2 does seem to focus more on the mid-to-late 1980s. (You’ll have to ignore the truly unsettling morphing effect used for the band members on the Disc 2 menu.) Taylor and May provide commentary for each video. The duo is alternately self-effacing, good natured and cranky as they discuss the genesis and making of each video while saying things like “My God we were thin!”
Though the music is obviously incredible, I can’t recommend this particular release unless you really need to have these two previously released discs in the same case.