Sex Pistols - The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
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The Definitive Punk Movie - Finally on DVD!
The Sex Pistols star in director Julien Temples bizarre and hilarious fictional documentary that charts the rise and fall of punks 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 bands success as an elaborate scam perpetrated by McLaren to make "a million pounds" at the expense of record companies, outraged moralists, the British Royal Familyand 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 KeoghSee all Editorial Reviews
- Interview and commentary with director Julien Temple by rock writer Chris Salewicz
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Again, it's just worth it to just fast forward through the film for the couple of cool clips. other than that, it's rubbish.
Some of the reviewers seemed to think/expect this was a straightforward rockumentary, so some background might clear things up. Malcolm McLaren attempted to follow in the peculiarly UK tradition of The Great Rock Manager with The Sex Pistols. This is where the manager functioned as a "member of the band" rather than merely involved in business matters and became almost as famous as their charges. These sorts of managers were involved with everything from writing songs to living with their bands/members to mixing their recordings to buying their dope and girls/boys. These sorts of managers could be the boon or bane of a rock band and end up with their hands in their pockets pretty much forever. On the positive end, these super hands-on managers could keep their kids' best interests in mind with regards to money, publishing, contracts, etc...and keep them out of all sorts of trouble, Grant and Stigwood/Forrester did an excellent job here. The bad/irresponsible/incompetent/naive/and just super stoned manager could cause them grief that lasts decades (Epstein, Kit Lambert-Chris Stamp, Oldham, etc...). I think McLaren falls in the latter category, but rather intentionally unlike Epstein, Oldham, and Lambert-Stamp. Everything I've ever seen makes me believe McLaren would have put these kids in any situation, no matter how dangerous and just plain stupid, to get attention and make a buck or quid....FOR HIMSELF. In this film, it really shows.
This trend started with and was its most successful with "the Dinosaurs" as the Pistol's generation of punks called them but what we now call "Classic Rockers" and has mostly died out with McLaren being the last of the breed....for better or worse. (The most famous examples past The Beatles/Epstein are: Lambert and Stamp with The Who, Andrew Loog Oldham with The Rolling Stones, Peter Grant with Led Zeppelin, and Robert Stigwood/Roger Forrester with Eric Clapton from Cream in 1966 until the late 90s. There are others, but these are the most famous and/or successful partnerships) This manager-as-5th-Beatle/Pistol thing was a phenomena almost exclusively English, although Andy Warhol tried his hand at the role for 5 minutes with the Velvet Underground.
I watched this knowing this very iffy history of UK bands/managers and kept that in mind, but still found it unsettling. The level of crass exploitation these kids were subject to is painful to watch. It's the most extreme case I know about. This is McLaren and the whole band-manager thing taken to it's most illogical and cynical extreme. It's sad to realize that he's probably still making more money off the Pistol's than any of the living members or dead one's estates for the rest of his life.
If you like freaked out films and/or are a music history buff/Sex Pistols fanatic, buy this knowing some of the background and watch it for what it is.....a rather uncomfortable curiosity piece.
As for the quality of this film, unless some major restoration work is done, its quality isn't going to improve between VHS or DVD. If you still have a VCR and/or are a VHS enthusiast, buy a used copy as a nice little rock curiosity. I bought this on VHS and I wouldn't have wanted to pay more than the $1 or so that I paid, so needless to say I think it's worth the smallest amount possible on either format. In other words, I wouldn't suggest spending the extra $$$ for an imported disc for this title.
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