The Buddy Holly Story (1978) Blu-ray Review: And I Suppose You’re Mary Tyler Moore?

As I had briefly eluded to in my less-than-coherent rambling for Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of the Elvis flick Follow That Dream, some people only know a legend by the fact that they’ve become an icon within the world, as opposed to being remembered for what they actually did. And while the memory of Mr. Presley could very well outlive all of us, I sometimes fear that the image of Buddy Holly is perhaps only known these days to poor, misguided souls who are under the delusion that Weezer was a good group. Someday, an astronaut by the name of George Taylor will put it best by murmuring the remark “But never let it be said that we forget our heroes” to his colleagues. And he’ll be right when he does, of course – as even when we pay our respects to our icons, we tend to blur the image a bit for the sake of one reason or another.

And in the case of the late ’70s biopic The Buddy Holly Story, the fudging of the image was done so that the low-budget production could make the most of its simple storyline – wherein many liberties were taken on behalf of the filmmakers. In fact, if you’re a young student researching Buddy Holly for a class project and you’re attempting to use The Buddy Holly Story as your point of reference, you’re guaranteed an F. Unless your instructor likes Weezer, naturally, in which case he/she more than likely does not have any genuine teaching credentials whatsoever.

But back to the topic at hand, kids. Released by Columbia Pictures in 1978, The Buddy Holly Story brings us a decidedly loose account of the rise and tragic demise of rock and roll pioneer. Starring Gary Busey as Buddy Holly. Yes, that Gary Busey. Upon one’s first perception of seeing a much-younger, not-as-crazy-looking Busey cast as the late musician, they are instantly inclined to ponder whether Holly was truly supposed to look friggin’ nuts or not. And once you can effectively erase the present-day image of the very strange Gary Busey, tilt your head to the side, and squint your eyes a great deal, you can get right into the swing of things. Until he focuses on something or someone for just a little too long while he’s singing – in which case he just looks like a serial killer.

Well, since I practically avoided the subject of Gary Busey singing here, please allow me to back up and reiterate it: he sings. And plays the guitar some. And dances on stage a little here and there. All rather believably, in fact. A lot better than I could ever do, that’s for sure. In fact, when you consider Busey was 33 at the time of making the film, and plays Buddy Holly from the age of 19 to 22, you have to admit he’s doing a fine job of it – to the point where the now-controversial actor even earned an Oscar nomination way back when. (The film actually did go on to win an Academy Award for its score by Joe Renzetti.)

The story here finds Holly and fictional versions of his bandmates (as played by the great Don Stroud and Charles Martin Smith) going from being the subjects of scrutiny by the very judgmental people of Lubbock, Texas (who think his new bopper music is nothing short of evil incarnate) to big-time performers in a (thankfully) changing world. Moving to New York after one of their songs is accidentally released on a major label, Buddy Holly and The Crickets find fame, and become the first white band to play at the Apollo to boot – mostly because everyone assumes they’re black on account of the fact that their music has a beat. Granted, it didn’t really happen that way, but it still makes for good big screen motion picture drama (even if The Buddy Holly Story has a very made-for-TV feel about it most of the time), now doesn’t it?

Steve Rash (Under the Rainbow) begins a directorial career that has sadly dwindled into direct-to-video sequels to various sophomoric Universal franchises and bad sports movies here from a screenplay that was taken from a story that was adapted by a novel that was based on various accounts of what really might have happened. Maria Richwine plays the future widow; Conrad Janis, John F. Goff, and Albert Popwell (who is probably best remembered for a classic memorable part in the beginning of Dirty Harry) play record executives; William Jordan and Fred Travalena are disc jockeys; and the film also includes bits by Paul Mooney as Sam Cooke and the late Gailard Sartain as The Big Bopper himself in this fun – though in no way authentic – take on one of the few rock and roll musicians to sport thick glasses and big teeth.

But hey, at least it’s not La Bamba, right?

Twilight Time brings us a dazzling 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC upgrade over the previously-released Sony/Columbia DVD, with a presentation that looks quite impressive overall. Accompanying the feature is the 5.1 remix of the soundtrack that was on the original DVD, now presented to us in a new DTS-HD MA lossless fashion. The audio commentary from the old disc with director Steve Rash and star Gary Busey is also ported over here, and while that track itself is already over a decade-and-a-half old, it’s still a good listen – especially as Busey croons along with the tunes and makes cracks throughout. It’s a lively listen, to say the least.

English (SDH) subtitles and the movie’s original theatrical trailer are also included, and have been carried over from the Sony/Columbia DVD as well. New materials for this offbeat release about nerdy white guys with a beat include yet a third audio option – an isolated track of the film’s award-winning score in 2.0 DTS-HD MA lossless sound – and some liner notes by Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of The Buddy Holly Story is limited to a pressing of 3,000 units.

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Luigi Bastardo

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