Punk Rock has had so many well-produced (and maybe to some too glossy) Documentaries recently, with classic footage digitally shined, polished and put into some essential films, but this is a view of how things really used to be in it's early years, filmed in Super 8 by Roxy Club DJ Don Letts, on location, without any noise reduction, and with enough raw power to make the viewer feel like the action is happening instead of just watching it. In the Punk Rock History Tour, this stop is right in the center of the action in The UK, after The Ramones' legendary concerts which inspired many to rage against a very dull music scene, with some even trying to put some political revolutionary spark in the mix right after The Sex Pistols caused controversy with "God Save the Queen." This is something that anyone interested in the '76-'77 UK Punk movement should see, especially as a good amount of the footage has been used in many documentaries through the years, and while most of the bands on show turned into those that have been name dropped many times over by those who would possibly not have had the interest to listen if the clock was turned back to the day, this film is a reminder that at the one important moment they had the edge which is still an inspiration - They were needed at a crucial time, and this film captured it.
At the start, of course, are The Sex Pistols in their first concert with Sid Vicious performing the classic "God Save the Queen," and to hear it live Shot on 8mm without studio clean up is an interesting experience, and then the credits roll featuring footage of Shane McGowan and friends doing a Pogo rave up as the sound of The Clash plays on. Footage of The Roxy, one of the very few clubs that a Punk band could play in the very early days which stayed open for 100 of them, captures the grit and next is the sight of Slaughter and The Dogs on stage. While Slaughter and the Dogs may not be one of the most mentioned bands of the early Punk era, this captured them on a good night offering a decent representation of their music, and the Low-Fi footage gives it more of a edge.
Getting back to "What they were like then" is Billy Idol when he was the singer of Generation X, already proving that he was aiming for Pop stardom as the band were one of the more catchy bands of the era, as "Walking in the City" proves, with the band featuring bassist Tony James (Later of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, who's "Love Missile F1-11" should be familiar, and The Sisters of Mercy). Next up are The Slits, some touring footage from The Clash's 1977 tour featuring a performance of "White Riot," a moment with Subway Sect (Not to my taste, but some may like it), Alternative TV trying to play Reggae, a clothing store being visited by police when complaints of it's storefront come in, Wayne County in all of his legend before being known as Jayne with the just-formed Electric Chairs, Eater (Possibly the youngest Punk band of the moment), Siouxsie and the Banshees with some early sounds that might cause surprise to those who are used to their more glossy productions, X-Ray Spex with "Oh Bondage, Up Yours," The Heartbreakers playing "Chinese Rocks" and "Born to Lose," and a closing moment with The Pistols once again wrapping the film up in style.
Don Letts, a friend of The Clash (The Westway to the World DVD is essential for Clash fans), as well as a member of Mick Jones' Big Audio Dynamite, would have been a legend for this film alone, being a solid document of the time. The songs (sans the opening credits) are all live, most of the fashions are self made and not the sanitized Hot Topic type seen now, and the energy is right. Although there will be those who might complain about the lack of some bands (No Buzzcocks or Damned for starters), the film was a capture of a very important moment in music and should be seen as such. The Punk Rock Movie was Distributed in The States by the same company that Distributed The Last House on Dead End Street, and was put into a very small release, with only those in the know catching it either as a theatrical release or as a video by Sun (Who seemed to have caught most of Cinematic's films in it's short history) back in the day when Punk Rock films were usually found in very few stores and rented by those who also rented D.O.A. A Rite of Passage and needed to have a friend who collected to see The Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle before it's 1990's Stateside video release. Now, at this time, there's no reason to miss it.
Reviewed by Screen13 - 8/6/08