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American: The Bill Hicks Story Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60; 1080p/24 (special features)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 2
  • Studio: BBC
  • Blu-ray Release Date: June 7, 2011
  • List Price: $29.99

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American: The Bill Hicks Story - Widescreen

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

American: The Bill Hicks Story is a truly captivating story about one of the funniest people of our time. Bill Hicks, often compared to Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor for the way he allowed his real life experiences and political views to inform his comedy, was a comedian for over fifteen-years before he reached an untimely death from pancreatic cancer at the young age of thirty-two. This portrait from the BBC tells his story, beginning in his years as a rebellious southern teen raised in the home of Southern Baptists, sneaking out to perform, through his rise as a recognizable figure on the comedy circuit and eventual struggles with drug and alcohol addiction that nearly took his life. Getting himself clean and sober, Hicks would never find the big audience in the States that he was looking for, it would take a break through with Canadian and eventually British audiences more responsive to his self-deprecating and cynical world view of religion and U.S. Foreign policy to allow him a taste of superstardom.

American: The Bill Hicks Story uses interviews and narration from the Hicks family and his friends and acquaintances to paint the picture of this misunderstood comedic talent and it will have you enthralled throughout its entire hundred-minutes or so.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

A large portion of The Bill Hicks Story is sourced from old, poorly recorded video footage and old photographs, and it arrives on Blu-ray in a 1080i/60 AVC/MPEG-4 encodement from the BBC, so this documentary will never look like a pristine, glistening example of high definition. Still, there are various HD interview segments interspersed and some CG visual effects here and there that look quite good.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

This is a case where a lossy soundtrack might have done the job just as well as the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that is provided. There’s not much going on here to show off the sound, and much of it is once again from poorly recorded archival footage. The surround channels are only filled with some barely audible ambience. Still, the narration and dialogue in the center is clean and intelligible.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

This is where the real treasure trove is, extended across two discs, you’ll find the extended interviews from the film (1080p) plus numerous featurettes that included Q&A panels with Hicks’ family and friends, the filmmakers and more. Best of all, there is an abundance of rare clips of Hicks performing some of his stand-up routines.

The supplements provided with this release are:

  • Extended interviews Part 1 (1.78:1; 1080p/24):
    • Bill’s early life
    • Creating characters
    • The comedy begins
  • Featurettes (1.78:1; 1080p/24):
    • Austin panel at SxSW
    • Dominion tour
  • Extended interviews part 2 (1.78:1; 1080p/24):
    • Early annex years
    • Heading to LA
    • Back in Houston with the outlaw comics
    • The dark years
    • Going sober
    • Performing in the UK
    • Diagnosis
    • Bill tells his friends
    • Love, laughter & truth
  • Featurettes (1.78:1; 1080p/24):
    • Festivals in UK & USA with the Hicks
    • Hicks at Abbey Road studios
    • Kevin shoots his film in LA
    • 15th anniversary tribute
    • Comedy School
    • Dwight in London
    • Making of Arizona Bay
    • The ranch
    • Deleted Scenes
    • Early & Alternative Scenes
  • Rare clips:
    • Annex – Girls
    • Annex – Eating
    • Annex – Mom comes to town
    • Funny bone – UFO
    • Indianapolis 1 – Dad’s a goober
    • Indianapolis 2 – Jaws killed my lord
    • Outlaws get Religion – Jesus is pissed
    • Outlaws get Religion – School rivalry
    • Sacramento – Housekeeping!
    • Sane Man – Bill you don’t fit in
    • Sane Man – Non-smokers
    • Spellbinders – In hospital
    • West Palm Beach – Childbirth
    • West Palm Beach – Did God make a mistake
    • Bill & Dwight – Bat & ball
    • Bill at waco
  • Ninja bachelor party trailer
  • Bill’s audio journal clips
  • Audience reactions trailer

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

An excellent biographical documentary for a lost talent that many in his native land probably never heard of, American: The Bill Hicks Story will offer a good opportunity for his humor and legacy to be revisited.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004UA8D28[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
American: The Bill Hicks Story - Widescreen

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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