$19.99 RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 150 Minutes

Theatrical Trailer
Deleted Scene: "Clem Burke as Elvis Ramone"
Joey Ramone radio interview from FM 106.3
Johnny Ramone interview excerpts
Richie Ramone interview excerpts
Marky Ramone drum techniques
Joe Strummer interview excerpts
Tommy Ramone interview excerpts
Debbie Harry and Chris Stein interview excerpts
"Who Wrote What On the First 3 Albums" by Tommy Ramone

Note: Due to an unavoidable technical issue, this review has no screencaps. They’ll be back with the next review!

There’s a pretty good chance that if you hung out in the New York City rock scene between the 70s and 90s you ran into Joey Ramone. Here’s my Joey story:

My friend Pat and I were in the Village, headed down to someplace on Avenue A, by way of St. Marks Place. As we got to the corner of Third Avenue and St Marks we saw a commotion – some kid was laying in the middle of the street, surrounded by a crowd. It turned out the kid had been in a fight at a nearby club, The Continental. He had been slashed with a knife, run out of the club and then been clipped by a cab. He was on his back in the street, bleeding and crying.

Someone called an ambulance and the crowd grew. Behind me I heard some assholes catcalling, yelling out that the kid was a pussy. Finally, one of the assholes said, “Take my picture!” He went out to the kid, kneeled down next to him and smiled for the camera.

That asshole was Joey Ramone.

The Flick

Here’s the thing about every single rock documentary – they all start the same way. They have to set the music scene so that you can understand why the band whose story you are watching was important. Invariably said band will have changed all the rules and attitudes of music, and the documentarians want you to understand what the status quo was before they show you how it was demolished.

End of the Century, being a rock doc, does that. Thankfully it does it well, and it does it quickly, because it soon becomes apparent that the interesting thing about the Ramones wasn’t that they changed music in any way, but that they managed to stay together in order to do it.

Other bands might have had more high profile dysfunctions, but the Ramones easily slips into the history books as the band with the most interpersonal animosity and hatred – and they somehow managed to stick together for over twenty years. And they managed to do that while never quite getting the level of success that they so desperately craved.

Like most New York City kids I grew up immersed in the Ramones. I spent a lot of years of my life in Forest Hills, the neighborhood they came from – I remember wandering around trying to figure out where Dee Dee and Tommy might have hung out. Directors Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia do a great job of following the four punks out of Queens using almost nothing but their own words and recollections.

Joey Ramone, of course, died before the film was made, so we have archival footage of him, as well as the memories of his mother and brother. The Joey stuff is inevitably sad – he comes across as nothing so much as a wounded boy.

Dee Dee died at some point after the completion of the film, but Fields and Gramaglia got plenty of footage of him – including his groundbreaking explanation for why the hell he recorded a rap album. Dee Dee is alternately funny and pathetic. The guy’s a mess, and you have to respect the fact that he made it as long as he did. All the surviving Ramones also speak – including Ritchie Ramone, dressed bizarrely in a suit.

The most surprising Ramone has to be Johnny, though. The guy comes across as nothing but a complete and total asshole. He’s in your face and unapologetic about being a completely selfish and nasty person. After a while you have to admire that in him – the guy has been a prick since day one, and like his hairstyle and clothes he’s stuck with being a dick for decades.

Some of the stories are incredible. They aren’t Hammer of the Gods level mudshark fucking- they’re stories about the band driving in a van for an entire tour and almost never talking to each other. They’re about Johnny walking offstage after the final Ramones performance and not even saying goodbye to anyone. They’re about the petty small things that plagued the band for its entire life, and because they’re so relatable they’re very fascinating.

The oral history aspect of the band is great, but the real treat is the live footage of the Ramones, much of it from their very early days before anybody even knew what CBGBs was. The band was simply fierce – their live sound is unlike what they caught on records.

Unfortunately not all of the live footage contains live sound – on some of the scenes record material is overlaid. I imagine the sound elements of that footage wasn’t up to snuff, but it is disappointing.

One of the more surprising things to me was that not only were the Ramones never terribly successful but that they very much wanted to be. It’s sort of just assumed that bands from the “punk” era eschewed mainstream success, but the Ramones furiously courted it and strangely never found it. Again, growing up in New York it was impossible to imagine that the Ramones didn’t get played on the radio, but according to the film they had a real problem crossing over out of their small fanbase. It’s sort of amazing – what the Ramones played was simply pop music with different guitars – they’re very much what would have happened if the Beach Boys grew up riding the F train instead of waves. And brain damaged. This would have been something I would have liked to see explored more.

The End of the Century serves both as a perfect introduction to the Ramones and an advanced course for fans. There are not a lot of music documentaries that leave me feeling like I really learned all that much – The Beatles Anthology was one of the few and that was about fifteen hours long. Usually rock docs are nice for the footage. End of the Century doesn’t sport much interesting footage beyond the early concert stuff – the Ramones weren’t documenting themselves. But the movie manages to create the kind of comprehensive and interesting picture that you usually only get from picking up a book.

Funny, sad, compelling and with a completely awesome soundtrack, End of the Century is one of the finer rock documentaries of all time.

8.8 out of 10

The Look

The picture quality goes from decent to awful, depending on where the footage you’re watching comes from. Obviously a lot of the older, archival material looks like crap, but even the newer stuff isn’t that strong – it looks to have been shot on 16mm and video. The film is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.

6.0 out of 10

The Noise

There’s a Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 track. The 5.1 track is surprisingly poor – the hissing and ambient sounds from many of the interviews becomes quite aggressive in this mix. At any rate the great Ramones songs were lo-fi stereo masterpieces, and they sound great in 2.0.

7.0 out of 10

The Goodies

All you really get is a number of deleted scenes, which add up to about 38 minutes. At least one of the scenes – Tommy going over who wrote which songs – is vital for any fan’s understanding of the music. None of the deleted scenes seem completely extraneous, but that was the only one that I wish had been incorporated in the film somehow, as the authorship of songs was something I kept wondering about.

Not really an extra, but the menu screens all play classic Ramones tracks – but not all the way through!

7.4 out of 10

The Artwork

An iconic image of the band with their classic logo. You don’t get much more representative than this. It’s a touch generic, but when you realize that these guys kept the same outfits and haircuts from the 70s to the 90s, that can’t be helped.

8.4 out of 10

Overall: 8.8 out of 10