The Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2012, and Brett Morgen’s (The Kid Stays in the Picture) Crossfire Hurricane chronicles the band’s remarkable career. Authorized by the band—Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts served as producers—the documentary has been put together using a wealth of documentary, news, and personal footage from group members. In a somewhat unusual circumstance, the surviving members of The Stones specifically required that their current participation in this documentary be limited to audio interviews only. Was it vanity? Perhaps. Thankfully, it doesn’t have an effect on the overall quality of Crossfire Hurricane.
The film opens with the band at the height of their decadence, at Madison Square Garden during their infamous 1972 American tour. The dressing room is filled with scene making celebrities like author Truman Capote and Andy Warhol. Mick Jagger, dressed in a form fitting white jumpsuit, is sniffing coke off a switchblade before taking the stage. Watch him perform and the guy drives the audience crazy. Jagger radiates a mix of sex and cockiness.
From there, we are taken back to learn how Jagger and the Stones became rock gods. In the beginning, The Rolling Stones, a band of British lads, attempted to make a name for themselves by covering American blues. While the young Jagger had the charm he’s still capable of exhibiting all these years later, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and the permanently depressed looking Brian Jones had little skill with the press.
In the early years of the band’s fame, shows were an absolute frenzy. As the footage shows, many concerts ended abruptly when fans literally stormed the stage. At that point, the Stones were forced to take pre-arranged escape roots or faced the prospect of being mauled to death. In the words of Keith Richards, “You stayed there until you got besieged, and then you did a runner.”
Though they weren’t really bad boys at the beginning; that was the image then-manager Andrew Loog-Oldham created for them. He decided they would be marketed as the “anti-Beatles,” the black hats to Paul and John’s white hats. Mick offers a surprisingly adept observation, “You’re thrust into the limelight in a youth-orientated thing.”It’s not about growing up. It’s about not growing up in a way. Then it’s about bad behavior. Then you’re about bad behavior. Then you start behaving badly.”
The first section of the documentary ends with a touching eulogy for Brian Jones set to “No Expectations” (his last significant musical contribution to the band) and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
From there, we are taken to The Rolling Stones tragic show at the Altamont festival in 1969. As most know, an audience member was murdered there. The footage used here is more graphic than that shown in Gimme Shelter, and very hard to watch.
The last and shortest section of the film gives us a peek into the Ron Wood era. The film essentially wraps up with the release of Some Girls and its supporting tour, thus ignoring the intervening 35 years or so. This could be seen as a weakness, but covering more than their first 15 years would have made for a long slog of a documentary.
Besides, I think few would argue that 1963-78 nearly covers the band’s most commercially successful years. For fans, Crossfire Hurricane offers a unique chance to hear member of the Stones discuss their long careers. As observers, we can decide where they fit in the long history of rock ‘n roll, but only they can give us a sense of what life in one of the most successful band’s in the history of music is like. Those candid observations alone, make Crossfire Hurricane a must-see for fans.
Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer varies when it comes to images quality due to the various sources. Some of the contemporary footage (establishing shots of different locations), looks quite sharp and seems to have been shot digitally. Of course, most of the documentary was put together using documentary footage of varying ages. Given that, it’s all fairly decent, but some television appearances are pretty rough. It’s clear that some of the original material was interlaced. As a result, some combining artifacts are visible.
The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix as well as an LPCM 2.0 stereo mix. Given the fact that some of the material hasn’t been artificially repurposed for surround sound, I found the LPCM 2.0 mix to be the better of the two. For me, the audio was just must clearer and organized. The 5.1 mix is fine, but it doesn’t have a lot of heft and sounds a bit muffled in places. As you’d expect, the contemporary interviews sound perfectly clear.
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, and Dutch subtitles are included.
Eagle Rock has put most of the special features together, with a total runtime of 26:16:
- NME Poll Winners 1964 (SD), footage of The Stones performing Not Fade Away, I Just Wanna Make Love to You and I’m All Right ;
- NME Poll Winners 1965 (SD), featuring Pain in My Heart and The Last Time;
- Live in Germany 1965 (SD), featuring (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and I’m All Right;
- The Arthur Haynes Show 1964 (SD), featuring I Wanna Be Your Man and You Better Move On.
The other special feature:
- Interview with Director Brett Morgen (SD; 10:48). Morgen details how Jagger saw The Kid Stays in the Picture and called him to direct this feature, what The Stones wanted to accomplish, as well as what Morgen sought to convey in the film.