Friday, September 28, 2012

It's a Kind of Magic, And We're Glad We Saw It: Our Review of "Queen - Hungarian Rhapsody: Live in Budapest '86" (2012)

Andrew: Hello readers! Sarah and I went to a smaller movie theatre in West Hartford last night to catch a limited engagement showing of a documentary/concert film about my favorite band of all-time, the British rock band Queen, called Queen – Hungarian Rhapsody: Live in Budapest ’86. Sarah, we didn’t even see a trailer for this, it was more of a promo that showed before the showing of Cosmopolis we saw. It caught my eye for obvious reasons and so I looked it up and discovered it’s only showing in limited theatres around the globe (you can find all the listings on Queen’s official site here: but sadly, thankfully we caught the last day of showing in the United States. I knew I wanted to see this, I thought we had missed it because the promo we saw said they were only doing two showings last week and we missed them both, but thankfully I checked their official site and saw there was one more.

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, electrified the Hungarian crowd during their 1986 concert in Bulgaria, which was filmed for this documentary/concert film.

The structure of the film was pretty simple – the first twenty minutes or so is a straight-up mini-documentary using behind-the-scenes and interview footage with the band as they talk about writing songs for the movie Highlander(more after the jump)

Sarah: And about how they were about to embark on a European tour in the summer of 1986, where we saw some cool footage of the size of the audiences they played to and some of the neat locations they played at.

A: It was nothing too revealing but it was neat for me, as a big Queen fan, to see another side of them I hadn’t seen before. In particular I liked seeing their bassist, John Deacon, explain some of the things they did because he retired from the band after Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991 and doesn’t do public engagements with their drummer and guitarist, Roger Taylor and Brian May, anymore.

And it was neat to see Freddie in his element in the recording studio and being his cheeky self in interviews, where I noticed he was constantly smoking a cigarette. I’m just babbling here, Sarah what did you think?

S: Yeah that part was interesting because apparently he wasn’t fond of doing interview and so it was very interesting to see him open up in the videotaped interviews they used. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I didn’t think I would, going in I was like, “Ugh, a concert movie?” Because concerts aren’t really my thing.

But this was awesome. It definitely made you feel like you were there in Budapest during the concert part. We had the theatre all to ourselves so it was really fun to sing along with the music and take pictures like we were actually in the audience. It was just a really cool experience.

Segments of the concert part where inter-spliced with behind-the-scenes footage of all the band members, individually showing bassist John Deacon (left), drummer Roger Taylor (back) and guitarist Brian May (right) doing things off-stage during their European tour.

A: It really was! And yeah, sorry Queen (because they actually released this film) we took photos of your concert movie. Hope you don’t mind!

But yeah, it was really neat! Because after the documentary part it became all concert footage of this concert they played in Budapest. It was the first time they had ever played in Hungary, it was during the Cold War and they were playing in the Eastern Bloc for a rare time and what was pretty neat about this is that the Hungarian government was so excited for them to be performing there that they footed the bill all the cameras and crew that shot this movie. It was all Hungarian issued, and I think they said they shot 25 miles worth of film?

S: Yeah, they had 17 cameras shooting a total of 25 miles worth of film to get this concert. That’s ridiculous.

A: So then they put this together years ago but it was digitally remastered and released. It was really cool that they did this, and I can’t stress this enough, Queen is my all-time favorite band and if time travel really existed I would use it purely to go back in time and see bands like Queen perform in person. So this was a neat thing to see because you truly get to see Freddie Mercury for the front-man that he was. (By the way, I loved how there were cups of water and of beer sitting on top of his piano during the concert!)

S: Definitely. It was almost all about him, really. The other band members were obviously a huge part of the documentary and the concert but Mercury was the one with the most life and movement and captured the audience and held them. It was interesting and cool to experience this on the big screen.

Mercury taking to his piano to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody," Andrew's all-time favorite song.

A:  Now, this particular concert took place in 1986, eleven years after Bohemian Rhapsody came out, so this was later-day Queen and they sang a number of their “newer” songs, but they did do some of their classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody”…

S: “Radio Ga Ga”, “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions”…

A: “Hammer to Fall”, “Tie Your Mother Down”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”…

S: And even a cover of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti!”

A: It was a nice mix of their older hits and newer songs at the time. But the way it was shot, some of those cameras are right up front so Freddie really fills the screen and at times it really felt like we were in the front row at the concert in Budapest.

S: It felt like we were in the stadium watching them on the Jumbotron! I didn't think I'd have as much fun as I did.

A: So while this was totally cool, it also made me a little sad because A.) I know I’ll never actually get to see Freddie Mercury live, I can still see Queen as they’re constructed today and I hope to do so soon because Brian May and Roger Taylor are still rocking out with guest singers like Adam Lambert; and B.) the movie takes place towards the end of Mercury’s life and he does mention at one point in the documentary how he’s not too fond of touring so much at that point because it tires him out so much.

Brian May is still rocking out with custom-made Red Special guitar, which he made with his father as a teenager. Andrew would love to see him and Taylor in person someday still.

At the time he would have been 40 and so he would have been at it for a while and his style of stage antics lends itself to tuckering himself out on stage. But by 1986, and this is sort of disputed still, he may have already had the HIV virus and been on his way to the AIDS that would end up killing him. So we don’t know if he WAS sick at that point, and the film doesn’t linger on that point, but you can’t help but wonder.

S: Yeah, the film doesn’t really talk about it but it’s sort of in the way he acted and said things to reporters.

A: He sang the songs differently than the album versions, he certainly conserved his energy on stage for certain parts, and he wasn’t a young Freddie Mercury by that point. So it was kind of interesting but sad at the same time.

I’m really glad we saw this…

S: Me too. Because not too many people got the chance to see this in theatres I’m guessing and it was a really cool experience.

Even in death, Mercury was completely and totally able to hold our undivided attention with his stage antics.

A: I hope it comes out on DVD because we’d definitely like to own this and I think it would be cool for people who didn’t get to see it in theatres to watch the DVD and maybe see a side of Queen they hadn’t seen before. This isn’t a standard movie, so our grading scale is a little skewed here, but it’s Queen as a Queen fan I’m sure other fans would feel the same about this as I did.

If you happen to be in a country where Queen - Hungarian Rhapsody: Live in Budapest ‘86 is still playing or will be playing in the future, it’s a definite must-see in theatres.

(Out of Five clapboards)

Photo Courtesies: Queen


  1. All I can say is that I'm jealous.

    Queen rocks. Period.

    1. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am that we got to see this.