The Grateful Dead Movie

The Grateful Dead : The Grateful Dead Movie

Perhaps one of the best-known icons of the Grateful Dead, the  dancing skeleton was reworked as Uncle Sam by artist Gary Gutierrez for the opening animation of 1977’s The Grateful Dead Movie, where it dances, jams, and rides a motorcycle through psychedelic  scenery, leading viewers into the live performances at the core of the concert film. Years out of print, The Grateful Dead Movie is back, and the Uncle Sam skeleton’s glorious jig is now even more illuminated, thanks to Blu-Ray technology.

Filmed over a five-night stand in October 1974 at the Winterland Ballroom – and co-directed by frontman Jerry Garcia –  the film documents a high point in Dead lore. It marked the final shows before an extended hiatus, and it also marked the return of drummer Mickey Hart after a three-plus year absence. Take away all of these milestones, though, and what you have is a solid documentary with stellar playing by the band. Choice cuts like “Eyes of the World,” with its cascading breakdowns, and the heart-tugging  “Stella Blue” highlight the performance footage, which are interspersed with film of the crew setting up the Wall of Sound, blissed out audiences reveling during the performances, and often-comical commentary from Deadheads in attendance during the run.

The Blu-Ray release takes The Grateful Dead Movie to another level, though, with remastered audio and restored footage from the original negatives. If that wasn’t enough, a second disc includes 95 more minutes of live footage culled from this run, including meandering, improvisational readings of “The Other One,” which segues into “Spanish Jam” and “Mind Left Body Jam” before concluding, and the classic jam vehicle “Dark Star.”

The Grateful Dead Movie’s return is a reason to celebrate.  It is brighter, clearer, and sounds better than ever, a visual reminder of the magic of the Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead Movie is out now on Shout! Factory.

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