Jimi Hendrix :: The Last 24 Hours
Label: Music Video Distributors
Author: Tom Doggett
Plenty of pop icons have met a tragic demise at an early age. Janis Joplin, John Lennon, and Tupac Shakur are some of the most recognizable legends that passed on too soon. Frequently, a cloud of mystery surrounds the death, although the merits of most of the conspiracy theories remain questionable. To those outside of the fanbase looking in, their deaths seem quite straightforward, and it seems that some of those theories have no basis in truth. The rumor mill continues to churn, though. It's almost as integral to pop culture as the icons themselves.
Somewhere along the line, ideas began to develop about Jimi Hendrix's death. It all began when it was discovered that the woman he spent his last hours with gave testimony that conflicted with the word of the officials involved. People began to question what really went on that fatal night. At some point, a DVD had to be made, and this is the outcome. The film is as much a celebration of Jimi's life as an exposing study of his death. Near the end, though, the producers of "Jimi Hendrix: The Last 24 Hours" try to make sense of the limited information to create their own vision of the truth.
There are no significant extras to think of, so the documentary is the whole entire package. There is a 32 page booklet inside with Hendrix's abbreviated life story and some nice pictures, but the DVD portion is strictly standard. Thankfully, instead of jumping right in, the filmmakers outline Jimi's life in the spotlight, describing his immense talents as well as his abnormal behavior. Hendrix was a tortured soul, and the free access to women and hard drugs had a significant effect on his mind and body. Additionally, he was a prototype case of getting screwed by a record contract, living in poverty relative to his rock star friends. Using beautiful still photos, occasional concert footage, interviews, and some irritating re-enactions, Jimi's adult life is framed in the film. Numerous allusions to the mystery are thrown in, but the "Last 24 Hours" are not addressed in full until the second half of the film. This actually turns out to be a blessing, as the final minutes are far from compelling.
When the film tries to investigate the shady characters and events surrounding his death, it fails miserably. For starters, there isn't exactly an abundance of evidence to begin with, a good 25-30 minutes is spent spreading this "evidence" as thinly as possible. Only two experts are relied upon, and they represent the entirety of the interviewing process with respect to Hendrix's death. Most of the evidence consists of the discrepancy between the stories of the police and Jimi's mistress, which is far from concrete evidence, especially considering the amount of drugs that she was on at the time. Additionally, the deductions of the filmmakers conclude with the idea that Jimi was drowned in red wine, instead of choking on his own vomit as previously claimed. They do not go into the medical details enough to validate this argument, instead focusing only on the fact that his death might not have been as originally stated. Keep in mind, all of this is done using dramatizations, which are incredibly cheesy and alter the documentary aspect of the film. By using these, the filmmakers are able to recreate the situation as they please, instead of relying on any sort of factual basis. Regardless of the presentation, not nearly enough evidence is provided to plant suspicion or even interest in the audience.
The film appeared to be building to something, and I began to expect a revelation at the end as to who might have been behind Hendrix's death. The only thing the film does, though, is to broadly hint at the guilt of his manager. Despite suggesting earlier that the government was trying to quell youth uprising by taking down prominent icons, they don't even bother speculating on this at the end. From the beginning, the idea that the government would murder Jimi, who was not an especially political figure from the sixties, is quite outlandish. Especially after planting this idea in the viewer's head, there is simply no reason to omit it from the end, unless they knew all along that it had no basis. In essence, the filmmakers admit to the consumer that they have nothing to run with, which made me feel cheated for having to sit through something that wasn't really leading towards anything.
Technically, "The Last 24 Hours" struggles as well. A significant portion of the film features terrible editing that can't match the voice with the picture, which is hard to watch at times. There are several interesting clips (especially the movie he appeared in), but the poor decision to cheapen the story with dramatizations drags down the narrative. The mystery story fails in both aspects, failing to build drama or provide a satisfying conclusion. In terms of filling in the information about Hendrix's last day, the documentary does its job. In trying to create any dramatic tension, though, the filmmakers fail. There was not too much documentary material to begin with, and the execution is poor. Jimi's death may be a mystery, but "The Last 24 Hours" did not convince me.
Content: 6 of 10
Layout: 4 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10
Originally posted: February 8, 2005