The Blu-ray Disc
American: The Bill Hicks Story is presented in 1080i high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This isn’t really a film that needs to be seen in high-def, as most of the archive footage is shot on video, and thus, riddled with the expected artifacts. The photo-animated sections look decent, mostly enjoying a boost in color over what standard definition could provide. The few instances of actual talking heads have a bright, slightly glossy appearance, but the transfer can’t overcome occasional shimmering, haloing and edge enhancement.
Audio is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that’s more dynamic than your average documentary, mostly due to the rock score that features a number of songs from Hicks’ own band, Marblehead Johnson. Front channel narration is clean and clear.
There are extras galore in this two-disc set, although quantity seems to trump quality a lot of the time. Most of the bonus material is presented in 1080i. The first disc includes an hour of additional interview footage, a post-screening Q&A at SXSW and a revisiting of Hicks’ Dominion Tour with his family.
The second disc contains two more hours of interviews, more than an hour of featurettes that look at festival reactions, tributes and some of Hicks’ favorite locations, and 14 deleted and alternate scenes. Unfortunately, there is no play all option for the deleted scenes, and after one finishes, you are brought back to the top menu rather than the deleted scenes menu.
The best feature in the package is a collection of 18 rare clips that feature Hicks doing standup from all eras of his life. The trailer to his short film Ninja Bachelor Party also makes it into this section. Like the deleted scenes, these clips have no play all function.
Also on the disc are clips from Hicks’ audio journal, an interview with Nick Doody and a trailer for the film. All in all, the bonus material approaches six hours.
The Bottom Line
While its shortcomings as a documentary are numerous, there’s enough here to recommend, especially with the wealth of bonus material available.