DVD Review: Queen - Greatest Video Hits

A rerelease of some of Queen's most beloved videos
  |   Comments

Throughout their illustrious career, Queen presented a unique experience for their fans, both with their complex, operatic music featuring multilayered guitars and vocals and visually, with their extensive, groundbreaking use of music videos. Queen Greatest Video Hits celebrates the latter, presenting many of the band’s videos in both restored picture and sound.

Disc one leads off with perhaps their most iconic track, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Opening with the striking visual of the four band members used on the cover of Queen II, the video mixes straight performance with images of multiple Queen members replicating the vocals. It is often considered the first modern music video, though bands such as The Beatles were making promotional films a decade before. Still, the video is as memorable as the song.

Queen greatest video hitsThe DVD does not go in exact chronological order, which makes the band’s appearance, particularly Freddie Mercury’s, on the next video, the funk rock classic “Another One Bites The Dust,” all the more jarring. Gone is Mercury’s long hair and black nail polish to be replaced by his short hair, mustache and jeans. Still, the music is what matters and the band shows that even in a regular performance clip with no effects save for some funny hats worn by Mercury, that they were on top of their game.

One of the band’s most notorious clips is the one for “Bicycle Race.” The original version of their album, Jazz, from which it comes included a poster of a nude bicycle race the group had staged at Wimbledon Stadium with a number of female models of the day. Footage of that race is shown in the video and while the original version of the video obscured the bicycle riders, they are not obscured here (admittedly you can’t see much anyways). The song is unique, with its bombastic chorus, bicycle bells and time changes. It’s a ridiculous track that Queen pulls off marvelously.

The videos for “Spread Your Wings” and “We Will Rock You,” both from News Of The World, were shot outdoors on the same set in the snow. The band’s red noses and expressions on their face seem to ask, “Why did we think this was a good idea?” On the other hand, “We Are The Champions” was shot in front of a fan club audience who were rewarded with a concert by the band after the video shoot.

Queen did the soundtrack for two movies — Flash Gordon and Highlander — with the video for the title track to the former included on disc one and showing the band in the studio watching clips from the movie on a screen. The Highlander clips are on disc two of the collection.

Disc two opens with “A Kind Of Magic,” the title track to the band’s 1986 album. The video mixes special effects similar to the album cover, while Mercury (dressed as a magician, but wearing an outfit not unlike the Phantom of the Opera) transforms an old theatre into a concert stage and the band from hobos into their usual rock star selves. It is one of the group’s better videos.

“I Want It All” finds the band replicating a concert performance. Mercury, at this point sick with AIDS, is sporting a beard to hide facial blemishes and it works to give him a tough edge to match the song. Two tracks from the band’s 1984 release, The Works, follow — “Radio Ga Ga,” the video of which was inspired by the film Metropolis and the name of which inspired Lady Gaga’s stage name; and “I Want To Break Free,” which features the band in drag in a parody of the British show, Coronation Street. The latter is often blamed for the band’s declining popularity in the United States but in reality, their previous release, Hot Space, which tried to capitalize on the success of “Another One Bites The Dust” with more dance-oriented tracks, was more likely the culprit. American fans wanted more bombast and less dancing from Queen. That being said, two videos from Hot Space are included — a performance version of “Las Palabras De Amor” from Top Of The Pops and the steamy “Body Language.”

The video for “Princes Of The Universe,” from Highlander and also from the A Kind Of Magic album, showcases the band at their most rocking, mixing clips from the film with performance footage. Watch for Christopher Lambert engaging in a sword duel with Mercury! The DVD closes with “One Vision,” which starts with the same opening as the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video, but with the faces morphing into the band’s 1986 appearance. The video shows footage of the band in the studio working on the track. Mercury is seen really pushing guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon in the clip.

The DVD is presented in 16:9 widescreen and has the original PCM stereo tracks, as well as 5.1 DTS Digital Surround Sound. Fans lamenting the fact that many of these videos were originally shot in 4:3 will not get those aspect rations here either as this is essentially a rerelease of Greatest Video Hits I and II minus the bonus discs. As such, it also does not include any of the videos from Innuendo or Made In Heaven. The DVDs include audio commentary from May and Taylor.

More than most bands, Queen left a visual, as well as audio legacy. In spite of the collection’s minor shortcomings, the videos look and sound fantastic. Queen’s videos were often as unique as the songs they accompanied. Fans wanting a complete picture of Queen need to add Greatest Video Hits to their collection.