A.K.A. Cassius Clay Review
The film:When it comes to eloquence or just the general gift of the gab, there are few sports figures that could come anywhere near Ali. Although it's debatable about how many of Ali's rants made much logical sense (his infamous 10-minute tirade/outburst about the Nation of Islam on Parkinson being a case in point), no-one can deny the man's incredible charisma. This documentary was put together in 1970 whilst Ali couldn't fight due to the revocation of his boxing license for refusing the draft. The documentary is a peculiar mix of 1970 footage mixed in with rare archival footage - the 1970 footage is at times deeply bizarre such as a staged argument between him and Cus D'Amato or Ali performing in an ill-fated musical and the narration is anything but conventional. This does give the documentary a style all of its own and it's not really too grating. The archival footage is also interesting for those who are into the history of boxing and/or Ali.Jacobs' evident adoration of Ali can be a little annoying at times but at the same time he was taking a personal risk by making a film about someone who was at the time the subject of chronic vilification.
Given the recent interest in Ali, MGM have evidently tried to jump on the bandwagon and make some money with this one. The documentary is not as brilliant as it could have been but does serve the purpose of showing Ali's biography up until 1970 skimming through his childhood, his Olympic medal and his early fights to his involvement with the Nation of Islam and his refusal to fight in Vietnam. There are a lot of DVDs about Ali out there but the fact that Ali himself was personally involved in this one makes it to stand out from the crowd. Not as brilliant as When we were kings but an elegant
The image:The film is an incredibly mixed bag - the archival footage is understandably rough and quite often grainy and/or damaged but the DVD can't really be flawed for it. It remains that the 70s footage is also quite grainy and shows signs of occasional print damage. It's definitely not unwatchable but quite rough and doesn't seems to have been remastered for this DVD. The transfer is of the usual quality for MGM - artifacting is minimal and the quality throughout is consistent if quite unspectacular. The original aspect ratio is also observed so we get a full-frame transfer.
The sound:The lip-synch went AWOL at some points on my DVD player - I originally thought it was a problem specific to my DVD player but having checked it on my DVD-ROM on my computer, the same phenomena occurs. Thankfully I didn't find this to occur too frequently but it is an annoying problem. The soundtrack is all in glorious mono and I wasn't expecting anything more as this is mostly dialogue based.
The menus: The usual basic MGM style set against stills from the movie - nothing to set new standards in DVD design.
The extras:Just the original theatrical trailer and that's it. Considering the quality extras that come with When We Were Kings one's left feeling that a little more could have been done in this department. A bit of a shame.
Conclusions:AKA Cassius Clay, despite its bizarre style, is quite an interesting piece of work and due to the rare material contained in it, makes it a must buy for any fan of Muhammed Ali. The film may also serve as a good introduction to Ali although it does stop in 1970. The image quality is probably as good one can expect from such a small budget documentary but MGM should have tried to do something about the sound (see above).