I remember meeting Joe Strummer when I was about 16 or 17 and, after talking for some time about my musical aspirations, him being appalled that I hadn't see the film The Harder They Come. Shamed by the charismatic frontman of The Clash, and stymied by the terrible selection of videos available to me near my hometown in Connecticut, it took a trip to New York City and a visit to my friend whose parents still had a Betamax player to find out what all the fuss was about.
The digital age has made things a tad easier.
For more than 40 years, critics and audiences from all walks of life have sung the praises of filmmaker Perry Henzell's gritty, groundbreaking masterpiece that brought reggae music to the international stage, helped make Jimmy Cliff a worldwide star, and demonstrated that music and art can change the world. Now it's been restored in glorious HD and is available on iTunes and VHX via www.thehardertheycome.com in both download and streaming formats.
"Perry strongly believed in the power of Art to bridge cultural boundaries," said Justine Henzell, the Chair of Interntaional Film Management, the film's original producers. "Having his film available to the world in this manner is a dream come true."
IFM and its partner Syndctd Entertainment distributed the restored film into theaters last September for a one-night only special theatrical event. As part of the 360-degree approach to re-launching the classic film, an official merchandise line has been created with a fresh spin on vintage artwork from the movie.
"Consumers are looking for something special in the box when they purchase a DVD or Blu-ray. We want to translate that experience with an HD quality digital download straight to any fan's computer, laptop or tablet, along with official clothing as depicted in the film, at a discounted price, and VHX has provided that solution." say Syndctd Entertainment co-founders Philip Camino and Jonathan Chaupin.
This homegrown Jamaican film, co-written with award-winning playwright, Trevor Rhone, has gone on to become one of the best regarded independent features of all time. The 1973 U.S. launch of The Harder They Come led to four decades of smoke filled late night-screenings around the world. When Bob Marley and the Wailers first toured America later that year, they appeared in many of the same theaters that were screening The Harder They Come.
There is probably no more identifiable reggae album than The Harder They Come's original soundtrack album. Along with Bob Marley's catalog, it introduced the world -- and especially the US -- to the genre and is still a touchstone, with Rolling Stone magazine recently ranking it the third greatest soundtrack of all time (behind only behind Prince's Purple Rain and The Beatles' Help!).
Written and performed by Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, the Melodians, Scotty, The Slickers and Toots and The Maytals, the twelve tracks span a wide range of Jamaican music styles popular at the time the film was shot in the early 1970s. Music aficionados should note that the soundtrack consists entirely of songs written and/or performed by Jimmy or hand-selected for the film by Perry Henzell from his personal record collection.
This article is copyright 2014 by Jeff Slate. No part may be reprinted or referenced without permission and/or attribution. All rights reserved.