Universal thinks the Who is alright

Who DVD set sports new interviews, concert footage

Theatrical feature films are the lifeblood of the major studios' home entertainment divisions, supported by catalog, direct-to-video and TV-DVD releases.

But from time to time a studio will venture out on a tangent, which is precisely what Universal Studios Home Entertainment is doing when it steps into the music DVD market with two documentaries on seminal British rock band the Who, an acquisition near and dear to the heart of division president Craig Kornblau.

"On a personal level, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to help bring the definitive documentary of this legendary band to home entertainment audiences," said Kornblau, also president of Universal Pictures Digital Platforms. "As they did for anyone growing up in the 1960s and '70s, songs like 'My Generation,' 'Baba O'Riley' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' served as anthems of my youth."

"Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who" and "Amazing Journey: Six Quick Ones," both feature-length films produced by Spitfire Pictures in association with Trinifold Management, will be released Nov. 6 on DVD by Universal. The films were conceived as complementary pieces of work, one for a wide audience and one for the diehard rock fan. Musical guests commenting on the influence of the Who include such rock 'n' roll luminaries as Sting, the Edge, Eddie Vedder and Noel Gallagher.

"Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who," the film for wide audiences, will make its worldwide debut Sept. 12 at the Toronto International Film Festival -- just in time for the 40th anniversary of the Who's first North American appearance. The film chronicles the history of the band through never-before-seen interviews with surviving band members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, rare and recently discovered concert footage, artist profiles and more.

"But 'Amazing Journey' is far more than a trip down memory lane," Kornblau said. "It reveals the enduring influence and continued vibrancy of a band whose groundbreaking songs, virtuoso musicianship, experimental production techniques and electrifying stage shows pushed the envelope of rock as no other band has before or since.

"I was instantly intrigued by the commercial potential of this project, especially since its release would coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Who's first performance in the United States," he added. "Then, when I learned that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey had not only authorized the project, but also were interested in helping to promote it, I knew we had to jump on it."

The companion film, "Amazing Journey: Six Quick Ones" features four segments on the musical abilities of band members Townshend, Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon. A fifth part, "Who Art You," explores the Mod culture that spawned the band's visuals, while segment six, "Who's Back," chronicles the 2003 recording of "Real Good Looking Boy," the Who's first new studio recording in more than 20 years.

The two films will be released in one two-disc set that also includes a companion book and bonus content. Extras include a video scrapbook showcasing a dinner with Moon; the tragic 1979 Cincinnati concert in which 11 fans were crushed to death in a rush to get into the Riverfront Coliseum; and the celebrated 2000 Royal Albert Hall concert, in which the Who were joined by such guest musicians as Bryan Adams and Vedder in a benefit for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Also included is the earliest known footage of the band, filmed in 1964 at the Railway Hotel when they were known as the High Numbers.

" 'Amazing Journey' transcends all generational barriers and offers a profoundly personal account of rock history," Kornblau said. "As an authorized piece, the film is the definitive anthology of one of the most important bands of our time. We are very pleased to be able to make this film available to those who already love the band and, perhaps more importantly, to showcase its legacy to those who may have not had the good fortune to have seen them perform live."