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DVD Review: Release ‘revisits’ Woodstock’s 40th anniversary

Johnny Winter at the Woodstock Festival, 1969 in Bethel, NY. This is a scene from “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Revisitedâ¿" Blu-ray.
(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

“Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Revisited” is one of the more cumbersome titles ever to grace a home video release. Parsing it requires a little history.

OK: as you may recall, Woodstock — the most famous of all rock festivals — took place in August 1969. Amazingly, given the huge amount of footage and the complexity of the editing involved, Michael Wadleigh’s documentary “Woodstock” came out a mere seven months later.

There is no need at this point to debate the almost universally acknowledged quality and significance of Wadleigh’s film, or its cultural importance to a certain generation. Nor is there any need to talk about the audio/video quality of these discs: “Woodstock” was shot nearly half a century ago, on three different kinds of 16mm stock, so the reproduction has always been (and always will be) inconsistent, but serviceable.

About a decade later, home video arrived. My brain is too small to keep straight the details of the numerous tape and disc editions to have been issued over the last 30 years.


So let’s leapfrog all the way to 2009, when Warner Bros. put out “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music 40th Anniversary Director’s Cut Ultimate Collectors Edition.” It was an excellent package, featuring the 216-minute cut — about 40 minutes longer than the theatrical release — plus three hours of extras, including (most significantly) 18 previously unreleased performances.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment — a company whose DVD/Blu-ray releases are often among the best — indulged in an irritating practice that drives video freaks crazy. They made deals with Amazon, Target, and possibly some other retailers for “exclusive editions.” That is — in addition to different configurations of packaging gewgaws I couldn’t care less about — Amazon had three tracks nobody else had; Target had three different tracks nobody else had. The only way to get all six of these was to buy the UK (or another European) edition.

Five years have passed. In lieu of a whole new anniversary edition — they’re waiting for the 50th, I’ll bet — Warner has now given us the 2009 version “revisited.” Whatever. It’s good news for those who didn’t buy it five years ago, and not so good news for those who did: the exclusivity deals must have expired, since, in addition to the standard content in the original 40th anniversary box, this new release gathers together all six of the Amazon and Target tracks, all or most of the other extras from those exclusive editions, plus another 11 tracks, 10 of which appear here for the first time. It’s the version fans would have liked to have bought in 2009, and it’s nice to finally get it.

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Revisited (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, three discs, $39.96)



ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).