Backbeat (1994) - Special Edition

Genre(s): Biographical / Drama / Musical
Universal || R - 100 minutes - $19.98 || January 25, 2005
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2005-01-31

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Iain Softley
Writer(s): Iain Softley (screenplay), Michael Thomas (screenplay), Stephen Ward (screenplay)
Cast: Sheryl Lee, Stephen Dorff, Ian Hart

Theatrical Release Date: April 15, 1994

Supplemental Material:
  • Director and Actors Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Interview with Softley and Ian Hart
  • TV Featurette
  • Casting Session
  • Director's Essay
  • Photo Gallery

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French

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.::THE FILM::.

Backbeat tells the story of what many call the "Fifth Beatle," Stuart Sutcliffe (played by a very young Stephen Dorff) and his relationship with his best friend John Lennon (Ian Hart) and his new love Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee). This is a very fascinating film to watch because everyone knows about The Beatles and their massive success, but people know little about Sutcliffe and the integral part he had in the formation and foundation of the legendary group. Some people even credit Sutcliffe with coming up with the band’s name. Most people think that former drummer Pete Best was the "fifth Beatle," but after seeing this film, it is very clear that Sutcliffe could have been a huge part of the bands success had he not died at such a young age.

Director Iain Softley begins the film by showing how close Stuart and John were with one another. He emphasizes their friendship and brotherhood greatly throughout the film, but we sense their closeness in the opening 5 or 6 minutes of the film. Then the film gradually starts with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Pete Best heading into Hamburg, Germany to start off on their quest for being rock stars. We see them playing at various clubs and it is clear to the entire audience that these guys have something very unique and special about them. The musical sequences are among my favorite things about the film. Director Iain Softley mentions many times in the behind the scenes extras that he chose Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), David Pirner (Soul Asylum), Mike Mills (R.E.M.) and Henry Rollins to record the musical sequences in the film. I definitely must say that they all did a great job in bringing that crisp rock and roll sound of the early 60's to life.

The film then enters the classic "love triangle" sequence we often see in Hollywood films. One day while playing at a club, Stuart spots Astrid (who was a photographer) and the two have love at first sight. Stuart begins to spend more time with Astrid then he does with the band, which begins to upset John very much. Stephen Dorff does a great job as Sutcliffe during the course of the film. He does a solid job of maintaining his accent (as does Sheryl Lee as Astrid) and is very believable throughout. Ian Hart does an equally as impressive job as John Lennon. Any time you have to play someone who is such an icon, you know you will be scrutinized for every move you make and I must say that Hart holds his own very well. The rest of the cast does a solid job as well, but the heart of the film is the relationship between John, Stu and Astrid. John loves Stu like a brother and does not want him to separate from the band while Stu loves Astrid and does not wish to separate himself from her. In the end, Stu chooses his love for Astrid over possible (and eventual) superstardom. Unfortunately, Sutcliffe ended up dying of a brain hemorrhage at only the age of 22, so he was never alive to see what The Beatles would become.

Overall, it is a very interesting film to watch because it is a story of an iconic rock and roll group that not many people know. The film has solid acting and is very entertaining throughout thanks to the performances and the good music sequences.


I must say that the extras on the collector's edition DVD are much better than I was expecting for a film that was so small and released about 10 years ago.

The first extra is A Conversation With Astrid Kirchherr, which was the most interesting of all the special features. Kirchherr herself does a voice-over talking about Stuart and the group and at the same time, they show a montage of the actual photos she took while the band was in London.

The Deleted Scenes aren't very impressive or anything special. Both of them are just expansions on the relationship between Stuart and Astrid. The first deleted scene is an extension of scene we already saw in the film and doesn't add much to what we already knew about the two. It is basically a 1-2 minute sequence where Stu is trying to tell Astrid a joke. The second deleted scene is just another love scene between Astrid and Stuart, which is nothing new since the film already has many love scenes between the two.

Iain Softley Interview For the Sundance Channel is a 28 minute interview where Softley practically covers every aspect on the making of the film from conception of its idea to the birth of the film. He discusses the pre-production aspects on writing the script and him trying to contact the real Astrid (which he did) and members of The Beatles and their families. Softley then talks about the casting of the film, which he says was not easy task because of the iconic nature of the people they had to cast. He then discusses many aspects on the production of the film and later on where he was able to show the film at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was received very well. Overall, it is interesting to watch, but does get a little tiresome towards the end.

The next extra is an Interview with Iain Softley and Ian Hart, which runs about 10 minutes. Director Softley and actor Ian Hart discuss various aspects on the making of the film. Hart and Softley discuss the research into the film, some of the stories from the set as well as their favorite scenes from the film. It is a solid extra, but several of the aspects on the making were already discussed in Softley’s prior interview with the Sundance channel.

The collector's edition also includes a commentary by Softley, Hart and Stephen Dorff. It is a pretty average commentary for the most part. You could tell that Softley and Hart recorded their commentaries separately from Dorff, which is awkward at times. For the most part, they did a solid job of editing both commentaries into one. Dorff mostly talks about Stuart and his background with The Beatles as well as his accent and overall experience on the set. Softley and Hart speak on the background of the characters as well as various stories from the set and Softley's difficulties with particular scenes he had to shoot.

The TV Featurette is a behind the scenes extra that you might find on HBO or Showtime. Again, it is quite standard, but I still enjoyed it because you get a chance to hear from all the actors involved with the film.

Finally, the film includes a Casting Session (which shows Stephen Dorff as well as other actor’s auditions), Directors Essay (which just reiterates what Softley discussed in the prior extras) and a Photo Gallery, which is… you guessed it, photos from the set of the film.


The video and audio features are pretty solid. The video transfer is good, but not great. Some areas of the film are a little grainy but nevertheless, it never hinders the film because it is a film that is driven by dialogue and characters for the most part. The audio on the film is very good. All the musical sequences come off as very energetic and animated, which is how they truly were I am sure.


I did enjoy the film and the collector’s edition DVD very much. I had heard about this film a few times, but I never got the chance to see it. I was happy to finally see it after all these years. The extras are solid for the most part. It would have been nice to see more interviews with the rest of the cast as well as members of the actual families, but that isn’t always easy to do when you’re making a film on such legendary icons. It also would have been nice to see an extra on the recording of the musical tracks for the films rock and roll sequences too. Overall, die-hard Beatles fans as well as moderate Beatles fans (like me) are sure to enjoy this Collectors Edition DVD of Backbeat for its good performances, lively musical sequences and the very interesting story behind the group before they became international icons.