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The Last Waltz (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

The final concert by classic rock group The Band captured on film by Martin Scorsese in 1978 as they are joined by numerous high-profile friends, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, the Staples Singers, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and others.

In 1978, Martin Scorsese captured what was billed as rock group The Band’s farewell concert appearance in the documentary/concert film The Last Waltz. This film has gone on to become highly regarded as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – concert films ever, rivaling such classics as Woodstock, The Rolling Stone’s Gimme Shelter, and Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same, and with good reason.

The Band first came to major prominence as the backing musicians for Bob Dylan and the bootlegs of their jam sessions at the now famous house in Upstate New York, dubbed “Big Pink”, The Basement Tapes only furthered their status (and helped to lay the groundwork for the genre we now know as Americana).

All the history aside, what makes The Last Waltz one of the greatest concert films/documentaries of all time apart from the high level of musicianship by the members of The Band is the stunning array of guest appearances by the group’s high-profile friends who joined them for their final show.

In addition to performing their own hits, The Band back over a dozen of their fellow musicians on some of their biggest hits, people like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, and Eric Clapton, all turn out to pay their respects to this unforgettable ensemble in the history books of rock and roll. This is a concert film not to be missed. The peppered in interview segments with Martin Scorsese and The Band also shake things up and form a blueprint for concert films/music documentaries that followed such as U2’s Rattle and Hum and countless concert video releases.

Anchoring this classic concert are the genius performances of “The Weight” with the Staples Singers, the sizzling performance of Van Morrison doing his hit “Caravan” and the closing number “I Shall Be Released” with all guest musicians chiming in. Neil Young’s performance of “Helpless” also gets special mention and see if you can spot the ‘traveling booger matte’ visual effect during his performance.

The Video

This is a new 4K digital restoration created from a scan of the 35mm original camera negative made in 16-bit 4K resolution made on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner. A 35mm print courtesy of Sikelia Productions was used as a color reference. The transfer was supervised by Martin Scorsese, Lee Kline, and Giles Sherwood. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray comes framed at 1.85:1 in an HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision HDR encodement.  Like the 2018 Eureka Entertainment Masters of Cinema Blu-ray release, this 4K release has beautiful, filmic grain, now even tighter, crisper, and more detailed. Some of the low-level noise from the dim lighting seems to look less noisy now and shadows are more nuanced and detailed. The Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible), which has core HDR metadata of MaxLL 902 nits and MaxFALL 58 nits, add good ‘pop’ to the stage lighting and vibrancy to the various colored lights as well, like the crimson, pale yellow and so on that are used to light the stage. There are also often inky backgrounds, such as during the ‘live’ performance of “The Weight” on the soundstage.

The Audio

There are three audio options included for The Last Waltz, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track remixed from the original two-inch 24-track magnetic masters in 2001 by Ted Hall at POP Sound in Santa Monica, California under the supervision of Robbie Robertson. The stereo mixes and stems made by Robertson’s mixer Dan Gilbert were used in the creation of the 5.1 mix. There is also a 2001 stereo mix in LPCM 2.0 and the 1978 stereo surround mix included in DTS-HD 2.0.  The 5.1 mix is the way you want to go for this release although it sounds great whether you choose the 5.1 or the stereo 2.0. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has fantastic dynamics, good musical lows, and a punchy midrange. The LPCM 2.0 stereo track maintains all the plusses from the 5.1 track minus the ambiance of surround channels, so you won’t be placed in the performance space and feel that “at the concert” experience. The 2.0 surround lossless mix brings a little of that spaciousness from the 2001 5.1 mix, but the matrixed surround sound doesn’t quite hit the same way.

The Supplements

I would call this Criterion release and the UK release from Eureka’s LE Masters of Cinema Blu-ray a tie in the extras department given there is some crossover as far as the commentaries, the archival jam session, and the fact that the MoC The Last Waltz came with a 100-page bound collector’s book. This does have a thin booklet with essay, but the real bonus over the Eureka is the new interview with Scorsese and an archival CBC interview with Robertson and Scorsese.

  • Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson Commentary
  • The Band and Others Commentary
  • Martin Scorsese and David Fear (1080p; 00:31:31) – A conversation between Martin Scorsese and Rolling Stone senior editor and critic David Fear about The Last Waltz and Scorsese’s work in music documentary recorded by the Criterion Collection in New York in November 2021.
  • Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson, 1978 (1080i; 00;15:03) – This 1978 interview with director Martin Scorsese and musician Robbie Robertson was originally broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s 90 Minutes Live on April 14, 1978.
  • Revisiting The Last Waltz (1080i; 00:22:31) – This 2002 documentary chronicles the making of The Last Waltz, including storyboards and conceptual art, and features segments with director Martin Scorsese and musician Robbi Robertson.
  • Outtake: Jam Session 2 (1080p; 00:12:15) – This performance features Band members Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, and Garth Hudson, in addition to their fellow musicians Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Carl Radle, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, Ronnie Wood, and Neil Young.
  • Trailer (1080p)
  • TV Spot (1080i)
  • Essay by critic Amanda Petrusich

The Final Assessment

One of the greatest concert films of all time gets a beautiful new 4K restoration and transfer and the boutique treatment on disc from Criterion with this release that is a must-have, must-own, must-watch, must-listen, reference quality release for any music lover.

The Last Waltz is out on 4K Combo and Blu-ray on March 29, 2022 from the Criterion Collection


  • Rating Certificate: PG
  • Studios & Distributors: FM Productions | Last Waltz Inc. | Criterion Collection
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Written By: Mardik Martin (treatment)
  • Run Time: 117 Mins.
  • Street Date: 29 March 2022
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • Primary Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo | DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Surround
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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The final concert by classic rock group The Band captured on film by Martin Scorsese in 1978 as they are joined by numerous high-profile friends, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, the Staples Singers, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and others. The Last Waltz (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)
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