There’s been a real renaissance of Queen-related video releases lately, and it’s no wonder; the seminal English rockers were as noted for their visual spectacle and showmanship as for their ornately produced music.
The band’s visual spectacle—as well as its music—is given a proper presentation in three recent Queen-centric releases from the Eagle Rock company.
Queen: Greatest Video Hits collects all of the band’s music videos in one set for the first time ever, kicking off with the promotional film they made for “Bohemian Rhapsody” that was recognized as one of the progenitors to MTV. Some of the clips on this two-DVD set are performance videos, but the band’s high concept pieces for songs such as “Radio Gaga” (which inspired the name and style of today’s top female vocalist) and “I Want to Break Free” (with the Queen boys in full drag, and Freddie Mercury doing some memorable vacuuming). Disc one focuses on the band’s 1970s output, while the second DVD presents Queen’s more sophisticated 1980s videos. This set offers no insight or commentary on the band’s history, or behind-the-scenes info on the making of these videos. It simply presents the clips one after the other, but represents the most complete collection of Queen videos yet released. Sound quality varies, which is to be expected, as these pieces are from a variety of sources, but the set does an excellent job of presenting the band’s biggest and best songs as they appeared on television.
Hungarian Rhapsody is a concert Blu-ray captured from a 1986 concert in Budapest that found Queen at peak performance level and popularity. Playing to a stadium packed to the rafters with rabid fans of the band, Mercury, guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon were firing on all cylinders, showing why they were the biggest band in the land. Mercury, in particular, was in peak form at this show, prancing, dancing and bringing his trademark flamboyance to every note and gesture. This concert—which featured a well-chosen set list that included Queen’s biggest hits and heavily focused on the band’s then-current album A Kind of Magic—has been lovingly presented on this exquisite Blu-ray/two-CD set. The Blu-ray offers a beautifully shot concert film from the show, while the CDs present the crisp audio from the show and include some songs that weren’t used in the film. An invaluable addition to any Queen fan’s collection, this is quite possibly the best representation of the band’s live magic to be released, and sadly, it represents a concert from Queen’s final tour prior to Mercury’s death from AIDs-related causes in 1991.
The irreplaceable vocalist’s life and death are well-documented in The Great Pretender, a Blu-ray presentation of a recent BBC documentary film about Mercury. A companion piece to the wonderful, thorough documentary about the band’s career, Days of Our Lives, The Great Pretender is a video biography of Mercury that primarily focuses on his solo activities away from the band, including his failed first solo album, Mr. Bad Guy, and his subsequent, far more successful collaboration with opera singer Montserrat Caballé. It includes little-seen footage of Mercury’s forays in ballet and theatre, and has some fascinating interview clips that provide insight into the shy man behind the legend. Ultimately any biopic about Queen or Mercury will be a bittersweet experience with a sad ending, and The Great Pretender is no exception. The depth of his loss is profound and still deeply felt as Queen members May and Taylor attempt to keep the band’s legacy alive with replacement singers including Paul Rodgers and, lately, Adam Lambert. They shouldn’t bother. Mercury was one of a kind, as these three excellent releases prove. He was the magic.