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The Decline of Western Civilization [VHS]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Lee Ving, Craig Lee (III), Roger Rogerson, Keith Morris, Don Bolles
  • Directors: Penelope Spheeris
  • Format: NTSC
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000665S7
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,855 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Centered on the early '80s punk movement, this remains the best of Penelope Spheeris's three attempts to chronicle the musical and angst-ridden subculture of urban Los Angeles. The film's style, like the music, is abrasive, frank, and packed with energy, as it moves swiftly from hilarious band and fan interviews to the loud, raucous shows inside seedy L.A. nightclubs. Despite its tongue-in-cheek title, Spheeris neither condemns, nor glamorizes, the movement, though she definitely has an eye for talent and thankfully plays favorites. Lesser acts like Alice Bag Band and Catholic Discipline are given minimal screen time (enough so we understand why they've been forgotten) in favor of bands that either possess off- stage charisma (Circle Jerks) or onstage potency (Fear's finale, winding their audience up with insults, is punk in its purest form). And, then there are X and Germs lead singer, Darby Crash. These two subjects comprise the majority of the film, as Spheeris hangs around their houses, captures numerous performances, and presents the movement's peak performers. While X does it mostly onstage--their mix of thrash and rockabilly are the most enjoyable of the live performances--Crash's stage is everywhere. A walking disaster, the singer candidly details--with simultaneously self-mocking humor and sadness--his drug abuse, miserable life, and the places that no longer let him play. The fact that he died shortly after production stamps Spheeris's brazen time capsule with a morbid, though appropriate, epitaph. --Dave McCoy

Customer Reviews

Anyways, I gotta go, cause I'm watching it right now.
Maurice K. C. Maloney
Without question the best documentary of REAL punk with some of the finest video footage of these bands I,ve ever seen.
TomSlick
As to the quality of the documentary, I am a little to colored by nostalgia.
Zack Davisson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By eh on July 24, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
I recently found a bootleg of this documentary, and right away I was drawn into it. This really shows us (rather than telling us) what the hardcore punk scene was like in L.A. in the late '70s- early '80s. We get to see live performances of The Germs, FEAR, Catholic Discipline, X, Alice Bag Band, Circle Jerks, and Black Flag. In addition, we see shots of the crowd, which is pretty cool. The parts that I found the most interesting were when Penelope Spheeris would talk to the kids individually.

If you can't find this anywhere, and don't want to pay $50+ for it, don't fret. Penelope Spheeris recently bought the rights back for all three Decline movies, and plans to release them as a DVD box set.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 1, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
In my high school days, a copy of "Decline of Western Civilization" was a treasure of purest gold. While the soundtrack was easily copied and traded, VHS to VHS copying was not so easy, and it was impossible to rent. These days, a copy may be rarer still.
"Decline of Western Civilization" is one of those "voice of a generation" type of videos, like footage of Woodstock might have been to the hippies. For many of us lonely punk rockers, in small towns throughout America, this video was one of the few places to actually watch bands like The Germs, X , Fear or Black Flag play live and to witness the energy that we listened to in our bedrooms. It let us know that we were part of a larger group.
As to the quality of the documentary, I am a little to colored by nostalgia. Of course, it is great. It is punk and has attitude, and that is what matters. I wish I had a copy.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By JadeRain on May 15, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Anyone who has any interest in Punk music will love this incredible film. For those who don't like punk but love hard, fast music, you will love this. And for the rest of you, it just rates as compelling viewing/social commentary. I've been trying to find a copy of this for a long time, I'm hoping it will be re-released soon. I watched this originally for the Black Flag and X footage. The several X songs that are shown played live in this are amazing!! If you are an X fan, this is something that you HAVE to watch.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Door Matt on July 4, 2005
Format: DVD
The best punk/hardcore documentary made,hands down!!! The early footage of some of the most inportant of LA punk/hardcore is an absolute necessity for fans of late 70's/early 80's punk.I beleive the reason for this not being re-released has a lot to do with ex-Black Flag guitarist,Greg Ginn.He has been threatening labels with lawsuits for years.If you have seen the Slog movie,that is a perfect example.He would not let the current DVD release show his face in the live Black Flag footage! He has also sued his own brother,Raymond Pettibon over the rights for the old black flag artwork.On top of all that he is partly responsible for the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation not being released on CD.It seems his only interest is making direct cash off the SST record label he runs.He has obviously become a greedy,middle aged jerk who has decided not to share great music of the era with future generations.He has become the exact opposite of what Black Flag once so proudly stood for.That is basically the reason this great piece of punk history will not be seen on DVD unless he loses another one of his lawsuits.A damn shame!!!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By berkstin on February 10, 2005
Format: DVD
I wrote a paper on this for an anthropology class, wherein I put forth the opinion that "Decline" was in fact a better anthropological film than most of the 'real' anthro films out there (Gardner, Rouch, etc); I ended up winning an award for it, so there must be something to that concept. Spheeris captures a culture (OK, OK - subculture) at a single moment in time in a way that even well-respected anthropological filmmakers can't often do: she uses open ended questions and contrasting viewpoints brilliantly, and refrains from hiding the fact that her presence has an impact on what is going on (often documentarians try to 'hide' themselves and pretend that their cameras, boom mics etc. are invisible, which is of course ridiculous and misleading). I guess making narrative films is much more lucrative, but considering the generally poor quality of her hollywood output, I wish Spheeris would return more often to her roots, because she has a genuine talent for this sort of thing.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Carin J. Reddig on July 3, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This video is it - the greatest punk rock movie of all time. Used videos sell for big bucks, people are making a killing selling bootleg copies.
This is a film that just BEGS to be released again - (and while we're at it, surely there is some "lost" footage that could be added for a DVD release.)
We want Darby! We want Alice! We want Exene! And Lee! And all the gang!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lucius on April 20, 2011
Format: DVD
Seriously? One of the seminal documents of the punk era, a rare opportunity to see these bands playing live and this DVD is unavailable? Unconsciounable.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David on October 19, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
A dvd copy would greatly be appreciated here. The best Punk video of all time. They Re-issued Suburbia why can't they do that for this piece of history??? The scenes with Black Flag, X, and the Germs (R.I.P. Darby) are awesome. Maybe people will realize that Pat Smear was in a band before Foo Fighters/Nirvana. WE NEED MORE OLD SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!
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Darby Crash
I hate to tell you this but he presented himself as a sloppy drunk whenever I ran into him. Never really had a conversation though, except "can I have one of your beers? Sure." He was smarter than he let on.
Apr 10, 2009 by theseeker |  See all 2 posts
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