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Blu-ray Music DVD Review: AC/DC – No Bull (Director’s Cut)

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Stop me if you've heard this one before.  The director's cut of AC/DC's No Bull is a lot like slapping lipstick on a pig.  While the simile may not be appropriate for political debate, it does apply to this director's cut of AC/DC's No Bull.  

The package of the re-released No Bull tells us there were problems with this film upon its initial release.  Director David Mallet (who also directed the band's Donnington show from The Razor's Edge) was once again behind the camera for No Bull.  We're told Bull rushed for release in 1996 and that Mallet wasn't entirely pleased with the results. 

Now, the film has been re-cut and the sound re-mastered for a re-release on DVD and Blu-ray.  I can't speak to whether or not this director's cut improves upon the perceived flaws of the first incarnation but I can tell you this is still not a great watch.

The show was captured on the band's Ballbreaker tour in 1996.  The band is playing the massive Plaza De Toros in Madrid, Spain.  There are thousands of excited, energized rockers in the crowd enthusiastically pumping their fists in the air, singing every word to every song.  The sheer tonnage of the decibels being projected could stun a herd of bulls yet beneath all the bombast this show feels decidedly smaller.  The riffs are big, the presentation is huge, but the experience is much less.

The performance was filmed in Super 16mm and the transfer to Blu-ray has not yielded a crisp, high definition visual experience.  That won't be as much an issue for folks who opt for the standard definition DVD, but it is a disappointment for Blu-ray viewers.  There is only so much that can be done when it comes to improving the source material, but Blu-ray discs cost more and fans who plunk down the extra for the improved visuals will be disappointed.

If that was the only problem here, it would be easy enough to recommend the SD disc.  Unfortunately, the sound isn't great on this set either.  Rock and roll the AC/DC way is supposed to be big, loud, aggressive, and in your face. 

The surround sound mix of No Bull fails in that regard.  Angus Young's opening notes on "Hell's Bells" are pushed to the rear speakers.  When brother Malcolm joins, the sound never intensifies or grows.  It's one example of a recurring phenomenon throughout the film and it's frustrating.  It robs one of the great live bands of their signature on-stage power.

Even though this re-packaging of No Bull didn't live up to my hopes, watching it did get me a little bit excited about their upcoming record Black Ice on October 20.  Maybe this will be the tour where the band is able to release a live document that lives up to the band's live legend.

Check out the trailer No Bull in Windows Media and QuickTime.

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About Josh Hathaway