End of the Century
In all forms of art, the most respected and influential artists are rarely the most profitable, and few music acts were as influential and as often marginalized in pop culture as The Ramones. Formed in 1974, Johnny (John Cummings), Joey (Jeff Hyman), Dee Dee (Douglas Glen Colvin), and Tommy (Thomas Erdely) Ramone delivered their dragstrip-quick pop songs under the influence of The Stooges and The New York Dolls. With their unified look and names, their interest in shock ("Blitzkrieg Bop," "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue"), horror films ("Chain Saw," an homage to Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, "Pinhead," an homage to Tod Browning's Freaks), and love songs ("I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"), they revolutionized and armed generations of rockers. And their music is still inspiring, deliriously upbeat, and a great listen. Yet, especially after Johnny Ramone's passing in 2004 (after Joey's death in 2001 and Dee Dee's in 2002), Jim Fields and Michael Gramagila's wonderful 2003 documentary End of the Century offers an air of melancholy and a touch of outrage, since one of the best rock-and-roll bands never got their full due when everyone was still alive to enjoy it. The film follows the group's rise to prominence and their battles with obscurity. Raised in Queens, NY, the boys were an interesting mesh, with Joey a nerdy guy turned rock god who struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Dee Dee the constant troublemaker/drug user, while Tommy and Johnny were meant to be the glue. The struggle proved too much for Tommy, and he began the band's Spinal Tap-ish revolving door of drummers, originally replaced by Marky (Mark Bell) Ramone, who was later replaced by Ritchie (Richard Reinhardt) Ramone, who then was replaced by Marky again. The band also replaced Dee Dee when he left to pursue a rap career (samples of his stylings provides the film's biggest belly laughs). Throughout the documentary, there's a sense that the band was made because of the clash of personality between the very liberal Joey and staunch conservative Johnny something heightened when Johnny stole away Joey's girlfriend and married her. But though they chugged along for over two decades, they were always more respected outside of America than in it, and they never received the adulation or radio exposure of later acts (from The Sex Pistols to Rancid) that co-opted them. A droll and poignant portrait of the one of America's greatest rock outfits, End of the Century is breezy, covering almost 20 years and concluding with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (by a Mohawk-sporting Eddie Vedder, adding insult to injury) and Dee Dee's drug overdose. For those who don't know the band, it's a great introductory course, while for fans it offers honest, in-depth interviews with everyone connected to the story (including period interviews with Joey). Rhino presents the film in non-anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and both Dolby 2.0 Stereo and DD 5.1. Supplements consist of 11 deleted scenes (running 38 minutes) and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.