24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Review


Michael Winterbottom’s Ode To Manchester & Factory Records

If groups like Joy Division and the Happy Mondays are your thing, this cheeky trip back to that music scene is a pure delight. 24 Hour Party People is a tale of groundbreaking music, happy times and larger-than-life characters that fueled Manchester’s Factory Records and Hacienda nightclub. An independent label that broke many important Punk and New Wave acts during its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, the story of Factory Records’ Tony Wilson is creatively told with comedic flair and vision.

Michael Winterbottom’s ode to the Manchester music scene takes a clever and self-aware approach spun by its dynamic lead performance from Steve Coogan. The freewheeling music comedy stars Coogan supported by a cast which includes John Thomson, Lennie James, Shirley Henderson, and Paddy Considine. The movie wisely never takes itself too seriously, a perfect approach to the punk and post-punk acts that sprung from Factory Records.

Blown away in 1976 by a then-unknown local punk band called the Sex Pistols, TV personality Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) starts a uniquely anarchic record label. Soon Wilson is promoting everyone from New Order to the Happy Mondays on his newly formed Factory Records and soon after founds the epicenter of Manchester’s music scene during the 80s, the Hacienda nightclub.

… takes a clever and self-aware approach spun by its dynamic lead performance from Steve Coogan

Rich in period detail and atmosphere, 24 Hour Party People takes a different tact than most musical biopics about a certain music scene or specific groups. Coogan is brilliant as Tony Wilson, the wild figure who serves as the central character for telling Manchester’s story during this memorable era. It’s a touchstone performance for the British actor that permanently elevated his career.

The funny movie is cleverly self-aware in its improvised comedy and veers into mockumentary territory, while still capturing the essence of the Punk and New Wave music that came together in Manchester. The groups still get their due, including Ian Curtis and Joy Division in a ghoulishly funny moment when Tony Wilson visits his casket.

It may be hard for “outsiders” to completely get everything happening in 24 Hour Party People and what it truly means. This has been made with an eye on the audience already having some familiarity with Manchester’s music scene from this period. Even if you haven’t heard any Happy Mondays or the Buzzcocks, Steve Coogan’s inspired sense of fun and wit as Tony Wilson is worth checking out in this amazing ode to Manchester.

Video

Filmed on an ancient Sony DSR-PD150 only capable of SD resolution and at PAL frame-rates, 24 Hour Party People has serious visual limitations. Director Michael Winterbottom’s work is a very poor HD effort primarily due to its rough source material. This has soft, erratic definition with crushed black levels and was shot that way by design. An inconsistent contrast and limited color fidelity scream standard definition video. Nightclub scenes explode in bursts of neon colors and shadows. Expect grainy video with limited detail.

Released by MVD Visual, they’ve licensed their “HD” transfer from MGM and it carries over the same sins found on MGM’s original DVD. Namely, the movie was originally shot at 25 frames-per-second PAL. It results in this upscaled 1080P version running about five minutes slower than the movie’s native PAL video found overseas.

The main feature runs 117 minutes, encoded in AVC on a BD-25. It’s a decent compression job all things considered, as the noisy video was weak on DVD, much less Blu-ray fidelity. There may be marginal improvements in transparency and efficiency over MGM’s DVD, but don’t expect miracles.

Audio

The audio for 24 Hour Party People by comparison gets a much bigger upgrade on Blu-ray, enjoying a fine surround mix in lossless audio. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has an active, energetic mix with thumping bass. A well-defined soundstage is bolstered by refined channel separation and smart surround moments.

The live music rocks and receives an expansive footprint with clear vocals. Dynamically mastered, the whip-smart dialogue rests comfortably in balance with the wider range of the music.

There is a question of how much the transfer’s PAL to NTSC slowdown affects the pitch of the audio. Nothing seems appreciably off, but only a hardcore listener may notice the difference.

A secondary stereo presentation in 2.0 PCM is included. Optional English SDH, French, Spanish & Portuguese Subtitles play in a yellow font.

Extras

24 Hour Party People has been released on Blu-ray in North America for the first time as part of MVD’s Marquee Collection. MVD carries over the same set of special features found on MGM’s DVD release. It’s a strong bunch with a couple of interesting audio commentaries and a couple of featurettes only found here or on the MGM DVD.

However, it should be known that more special features and deleted scenes exist that are missing here. Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment put out a region-free BD in the UK with a picture-in-picture video commentary and the remaining deleted scenes. That disc is problematic for many North American displays with its native 1080i 50Hz video.

Audio Commentary with Steve Coogan and Producer Andrew Eaton – An easy listen with humor and insight for Coogan’s and this movie’s fans.

Audio Commentary with Tony Wilson – Worth hearing to get Wilson’s firsthand impressions of Coogan playing him and his comments on Manchester. Lots of colorful local music history is recalled during the movie.

Manchester: The Movie Featurette (11:04 in SD) – Director Michael Winterbottom and Tony Wilson share their thoughts on the movie, among other topics. It’s a well-rounded behind-the-scenes exploration worth a look for fans.

About Tony Wilson Featurette (05:29 in SD) – Another archival featurette that delves into the myth and persona of Tony Wilson as played by Steve Coogan.

Photo Gallery (04:56 in SD)

Eleven Deleted Scenes (SD) – A variety of deleted material, most running no more than a minute.

Original Theatrical Trailer (SD)

MVD Trailers (HD) – Trailers for Art School Confidential, Autumn in New York, Barbershop, Bright Lights Big City, Getting Even With Dad, Man From Earth, D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

24 Hour Party People
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Summary

Steve Coogan shines as the wild Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records, in this funny and smart tribute to Manchester’s music scene back in the 1980s.

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