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Sex Pistols - The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Definitive Punk Movie - Finally on DVD!

The Sex Pistols star in director Julien Temple’s bizarre and hilarious fictional documentary that charts the rise and fall of punk’s most notorious band through the eyes of its calculating manager, Malcolm McLaren. Mixing animation and midgets with footage of some of The Pistols’ most electrifying live performances, the 1980 film presents the band’s success as an elaborate scam perpetrated by McLaren to make "a million pounds" at the expense of record companies, outraged moralists, the British Royal Family—and even the fans and band members themselves.

The Great Rock Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle was called "a parable of our times" by the Guardian (UK), but most music fans simply consider it one of the best rock films ever. More than 25 years after their breakup, The Sex Pistols’ music continues to influence punk and post-punk bands the world over. The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle shows why.

Interview and commentary with director Julien Temple by Chris Salewicz
5.1 Surround Sound


Cheeky and chaotic, the 1980 The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle began life as a Russ Meyer project (co-written by Roger Ebert) called Who Killed Bambi?. Julien Temple (Earth Girls Are Easy) took over, working closely with the Pistols' former manager, Malcolm McClaren, and overhauled the script to focus almost exclusively on McClaren's self-serving recollections of turning an unknown band into a success through poor musicianship, crafty bookings, and well-publicized bad manners at pivotal moments. Temple's rococo approach evokes an 18th century riot (in which effigies of the Pistols are burned), noir-like passages featuring guitarist Steve Jones as a thief, and the unholy sight of McClaren taking a bath in palatial surroundings. There's little footage of the Pistols themselves, though what exists is choice: the band's infamous Jubilee Day performance on the Thames, their last gig in San Francisco. Years later, McClaren's contention that he pulled one over on us because the Pistols couldn't play is patently absurd. --Tom Keogh

Special Features

  • Interview and commentary with director Julien Temple by rock writer Chris Salewicz

Product Details

  • Actors: Malcolm McLaren, Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, John Lydon
  • Directors: Julien Temple
  • Writers: Julien Temple
  • Producers: Don Boyd, Jeremy Thomas
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Shout Factory
  • DVD Release Date: May 17, 2005
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0008G2748
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,229 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sex Pistols - The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

They're ok I guess but they can get really boring.
To pad the film out to 100 minutes with solo videos/footage just didn't seem to fit.
The Great Rock & Roll Swindle is now a documentary about The Sex Pistols.
Dorrie Wheeler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Will Errickson on March 27, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This movie is probably more enjoyable for Pistols fans than for others; plus Pistols fans will be able to tell when Malcolm McLaren is, er, stretching the truth a bit: "But my greatest invention was what they called 'the Punk Rock'" he hisses from behind a leather S&M mask in the opening sequence. There's some sharp, funny stuff here, as many of McLaren's "commandments" for rock'n'roll stardom can be seen today in pop: the cynicisms of executives and marketers who have no real interest in music; the "pre-fabricated" band; the commodification of rebellion.
Thing is, the Sex Pistols were greater than even McLaren could have ever imagined. Compare the cheesy, corny sequences, many with McLaren, to those in which Johnny Rotten is on-screen: Rotten's intent is so gleefully mad, so mesmerizing and ferocious, that it completely undercuts Malcolm's prancing about, his art-school theories, and his impresario pretensions. Watching Johnny, Sid, Steve and Paul in rehearsal (singing "No Feelings") or in a "video" ("God Save the Queen" and "Pretty Vacant") or live on-stage in Dallas and San Francisco (their last ever gig) is a real thrill--equal parts subversion (Johnny) and stupidity (Sid). Really, these are the best parts of the film....
Except for the classic scenes of Sid Vicious, all filmed less than a year before he died. Here Sid stalks Paris, clad in spiked leathers, engineer boots, and a bright-red swastika T-shirt, mocking the populace and stealing sweets. He kisses a poster of Clint Eastwood. He attacks a prostitute. And later that night he appears to a sell-out crowd, clad in tuxes and ball gowns, and astonishes them with his immortal trashing of "My Way."
Wisely, the film ends after that. I mean really, what could have topped it!
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Format: DVD
It's good to see this film finally out on DVD, but the movie deserved a better DVD release than this one -- not because it's an accurate telling of the Sex Pistols' story (it's not) or because it's even particularly coherent (it's not), but because it's an extremely entertaining and bizarre period piece.

First of all, this sorta (some might say "pseudo") documentary tells the story from the perspective of the band's manager Malcolm McLaren, who is a BS artist of the highest order. Other reviewers have already laid out all the claims he makes -- he created the Sex Pistols solely for the purpose of swindling the record companies, the Pistols were not meant to have any talent, blah blah. Of course I don't believe what he says, and I'm not sure even he believes it, but it still makes for a great story nonetheless. Putting aside the veracity of McLaren's story, this movie isn't really even a proper documentary, but a random and bizarre mish-mash of archive footage of various Sex Pistols performances mixed in with McLaren's own self-indulgent babblings, animated skits, fictional re-enactments, an extended portion which follows ex-Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook to Brazil to hook up with notorious train robber Ronnie Biggs, and some truly weird scenes (such as the masked man who bursts into a room with a talking Rottweiler). No, it's not accurate or even a conventional documentary, but if you appreciate bizarre stuff like I do, it's quite entertaining and often hilarious.

Too bad the DVD release isn't particularly good. As other people have already said, the film transfer is lame (and at least on my DVD, there are some really annoying black dots at the right edge of the screen), and there's not a whole lot in the way of DVD extra goodies.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By TA on May 19, 2005
Format: DVD
When I found out Sony was releasing this to dvd - I figured I would be able to throw away the grainy VHS copy I had from Japan. I'm not so sure I will do that now because the DVD transfer is sometimes better - and (shockingly) sometimes *not*.

With this being a documentary (of sorts) and showing clips from random sources (many of them being shot on 8mm and the TV), I figured a prestine picture would be out of the question. But even the professionally filmed footage with Malcolm (the bands manager), all the scenes with guitarist Steve Jones playing a film noir private eye, and the animation - all show signs of wear and tear. It looks no better than my VHS copy taped over 20 years ago. This is such an "over the top" mocumentary (and one of its kind) that a complete overhaul of the original film negative should have been done without question. Hense, Sony decided to leave well enough alone - and that is a mistake.

What they DID do is present us with a 5.1 surround sound mix, which has got to be the poorest *remastering* I have ever heard. The sound is not near as clean that a 5.1 surround should be. Its a shame that Sony could not give more effort from the mixing board. Awful job...You might as well just listen to the original mono mix.

As for the movie itself - its presented as a documentary style, with footage of fiction mixed in - mostly centering on Malcolm McLaren teaching us his "10 Comandments" on how to scam and shock the media, as well as the general public - by ways of a rock and roll band. All this is woven with Steve Jones on the hunt for him via private detective (why ? We are not really told). What holds our interest is the original clips and footage of the Pistols from newscasts, videos, and concerts.
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