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Featured DVD Review: Behind the Burly Q

April 9th, 2011

Behind the Burly Q - Buy from Amazon

This is the second documentary on burlesque I've reviewed and with Burlesque being a bigger hit than expected, could there be a real revival in the art form? If so, will Behind the Burly Q win over new converts?

The Movie

Behind the Burly Q tells the story of Burlesque from its origins in the 1920s to its heyday and finally to its decline when TV took over as the staple entertainment and theaters had to either switch to porn or shut down. There are many, many people interviewed for this film, including several surviving performers of burlesque, many of whom were in their 80s when they were interviewed. There are also a few of the relatives represented here (Alan Alda's father was in Burlesque starting out as a "tit singer" before becoming a straight man). We hear a bit about the history of the art form, how it evolved, the misconceptions around it. (For instance, it wasn't just naked ladies all of the time.) The film is comprised of equal parts talking heads and archival photos / clips.

The film's strength is the sheer number of interview subject, who tell countless stories on a number of diverse subject. This diversity is both a strength and a weakness, as the movie rarely spends any time on any one subject, so at times it lacks cohesion. Also, while many of the stories were touching or funny, there were quite a few that were rather depressing, and the change in tone is a little sudden at times. (It's better that they went there instead of just glossing over the negatives.)

There are a lot of interesting stories to listen to and plenty of archival footage to look at. It's not the most cinematic documentary I've seen, while the information is perhaps not as in-depth as some would like. The collection of anecdotes is enough to makes the movie worth checking out.

The Extras

Extras starts with a seven-minute featurette on the 2006 reunion, where we get to hear a few more stories. There's a seven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. There are 22-minutes of additional interviews, which is a great treat for fans of the movie. Ephemera is a five-minute featurette on some of the costumes worn by the performers. Finally, there is a photo gallery, a text based timeline, and trailers.

The Verdict

Behind the Burly Q is a very solid documentary that is not cinematic enough or in-depth enough to be truly great. That said, even if you just look at it as a collection of anecdotes, there are more than enough that are worth listening to that the film as a whole is worth watching. And with enough extras on the DVD, the overall value rises from the rental level to the purchase level.

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