The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

DVD - 1980
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The bizarre and hilarious fictional documentary charting the rise and fall of punk's most notorious band.
Publisher: Los Angles : Shout! Factory, 1980.
ISBN: 9780738931999
Branch Call Number: DVD FIC Great
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (100 min.) : digital, sound, color ; 12 cm
Language Note: Closed captioned for the hearing impaired.


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Oct 15, 2018

This is the Sex Pistols story as told by manager/Svengali Malcolm McLaren and as such is about 75% b.s. Punk/Pistols fans owe it to themselves to see it, but it's not very good. Boobmeister Russ Meyer was originally going to direct. Julien Temple would present a far more balanced account with "The Filth and the Fury," although the library doesn't have this on DVD.

The comments below are on the money. But I would add that Temple's THE GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL SWINDLE is truly unique. In an interview extra that accompanies the documentary Temple says, almost apologetically, that it is a document of its time. What the film captures is 1) how absolutely cool -- possibly the coolest band ever -- the Pistols were once Sid Vicious replaced Glen Matlock on bass in early 1977 (there are several live performances of seminal tracks off NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS in the documentary); 2) how McLaren tried to brighten Vicious' star once Lydon left the band (Alex Cox's SID & NANCY owes a lot to THE GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL SWINDLE); and finally, 3) with the present-day commercial chic of first-wave Punk (note how many Ramones t-shirts you see young people wearing nowadays) one forgets how marginal, filthy, subversive, scary, "end times" the Sex Pistols were back in the day. I remember in the mid-'80s when I was at the university, drunk and stoned around midnight one Friday, I stumbled over to a buddy's apartment. He was watching a video of THE GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL SWINDLE on his TV. It was the scene towards the end where a woman is performing fellatio on Steve Jones in the movie theater. It all seemed dark and disturbing to me. I think that aspect of Punk -- its essential nihilism -- has been largely forgotten.

The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle ended up being more of a vanity project documenting Malcolm MacLaren's view/participation of/in the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols, even if it was directed by Julien Temple. So look at it as a fable being told by MacLaren. In that context it is a pretty fun ride. If you'd like to watch a broader look at the Sex Pistols I would recommend Temple's second attempt, The Filty & The Fury, which is a better documentary style film. And if you'd like a focused look at the making of their only album, Never Mind The Bullocks, watch the Classic Albums film/DVD of the same name.

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