Sunday, November 18, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Five Queen documentaries to stream before 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

The hardest part of filming the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody had to have been casting iconic singer Freddie Mercury. Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Whishaw were both attached to the part before it went to Rami Malek, who so far has been earning great reviews.

But does he live up to the real Freddie Mercury? Can anyone?

Mercury was such an incandescent talent and personality that you might wonder if you’re better off just watching a Queen documentary instead. Thankfully, there are a handful of decent ones out there. Here are five you can stream before or after Bohemian Rhapsody.

Becoming Queen (2004): Amazon Prime features a host of free Queen documentaries offering broad looks at the band, a la any generic, hourlong TV special. This one is notable for spending a significant amount of time on Queen’s early days and the contributions of the other three members. There’s no music, but the interviews and footage do expound a bit on the overall Queen story.

Queen: Days of Our Lives (2011): Hailed by Queen fans as one of the best and most comprehensive of the bunch, this two-hour film features in-depth interviews with the band and a ton of concert and behind-the-scenes footage, culminating in an all-star 1992 tribute to Mercury at Wembley Stadium, including appearances by David Bowie, George Michael and Elton John. It’s available via Stingray Quello (which offers free seven-day trials through Amazon Prime, Apple TV and other services).

Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender (2012): A sequel of sorts to Days of Our Lives, this Emmy-winning doc spotlights Mercury’s attempts to forge a solo career in the mid-’80s, adding plenty of depth and dimension to the Queen legend. Included here is rare audio of a collaboration with Michael Jackson, and details about his operatic collaboration with Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe. It, too, is available via Stingray Quello.

Inside the Rhapsody (2015): The song Bohemian Rhapsody is practically a movie in and of itself, so why shouldn’t it get its own documentary? Any fan of the podcast Song Exploder would probably love this 45-minute dissection of how the song was made, including Brian May breaking down its isolated vocal and instrumental tracks. It's free to stream on Queen’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/queenofficial.

Queen: Rock the World (2017): Forty years after their landmark album News of the World, this documentary pulls together long-lost footage from their 1977 tour of America and studio time recording tracks like We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. It’s available via PBS Passport, a donation-based streaming service offered by many public stations, including WEDU at wedu.org/passport. For other stations, see pbs.org.

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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