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 ... more »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. SPECIAL FEATURES
Interview and commentary with director Julien Temple by Chris Salewicz
Craig S. (InnerMacro) from WAUSAU, WI Reviewed on 9/8/2016...
Save yourself some time and watch the Filth and the Fury instead. By the same director - all the good stuff from this film is repeated in Temple's documentary on the Pistols. Furthermore, the footage in Swindle is really dark and grainy compared to Filth and the Fury. Rotten is completely absent from this film - aside from stock film unrelated to this film's production and cartoons that make it seem like Rotten is participating. Overall, this amounts to McLaren being on an ego trip. Pointless scenes are barely tied together by Steve Jones chasing McLaren as he tells everyone how much money he made in his "master plan" to bilk the record companies. There is some stuff with Sid, but after watching John Lydon speak about McLaren in F&F, it's hard to see the film as anything other than McLaren simply taking advantage of Sid's condition and tricking Jones and Cook into funding an embarrassing tribute to McLaren himself. While proposing to be a swindling of the record companies, this is really about a poor manager breaking up a great band and taking credit for their hard work. The most annoying thing about the film for me was McLaren's constant repetition of his claim that the Pistols "can't play". Anyone who appreciates punk and listens to their album can clearly hear that the Pistols can definitely play well. I suppose this film might have been more enjoyable had I not seen F&F first, but as it was it just felt like a repeat with added filler.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Cash from chaos....
William Errickson, Jr. | Raleigh, NC United States | 03/28/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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!"
DVD transfer is "ok"
T. Avallone | St Charles IL | 05/19/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"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. The problem is - there is not enough of it. But once they grace the screen, it will grab your attention.
Once Johnny Rotten leaves the band (Malcolm said he was fired..yeah right) - we are left with Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook traveling to Rio for some recording sessions with Ronnie Biggs, exile from the UK for robbery. Do we really care to see this ? Does this have anything to do with the Sex Pistols ? Very little, in my opinion. We also get to see bassist Sid Vicious on his solo outing throughout France. This poses a problem with me (even 20 years ago I felt the same way): Yes - its SID - part of the Sex Pistols - but solo ???? It just didn't seem to flow with the first 80 minutes of the film, which delt with the Pistols as a 4 man band. To pad the film out to 100 minutes with solo videos/footage just didn't seem to fit. But - its there - and it is interesting to a point - but becomes tiresome and uneven.
It becomes *very* uneven with the movie theater sequences, part showing Tadpole (who IS he ???) singing "Who Killed Bambi" and another part where Steve Jones is getting it on in the audience with a (real life) porn star. Its very misplaced in this film.
I viewed this many times back in the early 80s, maybe not because it was so great - but because its all that was *there*. Now - we have a choice of 2 other documentaries: The superior "The Filth & The Fury" and the "Greatest Albums - Never Mind The Bullocks", both on dvd. I would advise anyone who is just starting to learn about the Sex Pistols, to first dive into the "Greatest Albums" dvd - then watch "The Great Rock N Roll Swindle"...You will understand it better.
After that - the *must see dvd* is Julien Temple's "The Filth & The Fury", which tells us the real story of the Pistols, as remembered by Rotten, Cook, Jones, and original bassist Glen Matlock. After viewing these 3 pieces of Pistols work - you will get a total understanding of what happened.
With that being said - Julien Temple's "The Great Rock N Roll Swindle" is an interesting piece of filmmaking on the rise and fall of punk rocks originators, but has a bit tooooo much of Malcolm McLaren's psychobabble - and not enough story told by the Pistols themselves (Johnny Rotten refused to be a part of this, and has gone down in his book to say he "hated this film"). I can't say I hated it - but it sure left a lot of question marks.
For die hard Sex Pistol fans only - others will just be confused."
Inaccurate but highly entertaining and bizarre film, best ta
drumwolf | San Francisco | 03/29/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"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. And the director's commentary track by Julien Temple is all but useless. Most directors use the commentary tracks to tell interesting stories about the film's making and to give insight on the making on the movie, but Temple babbles on incoherently more than he gives any kind of useful or interesting information.
I'd recommend this DVD for people who've already seen this movie, are hardcore Sex Pistols completists, or just like the kind of bizarre underground cult films that the '70s produced scads of (other films of this ilk would include John Waters' early films or another punksploitation film "Jubilee"). Casual Sex Pistols fans might want to save their money, though. If you're looking for an informative and accurate movie about the Sex Pistols, watch "The Filth and the Fury," the 2000 documentary that was also directed by Julien Temple."
A Great Look Back
' Groovin' guy | 07/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is important as John Beverly is dead for many years,watching this recalls memories of these youths in the prime of their rebellion.
In these times this film seems a novelty once more.
Each member of the band plays up to the camera in his own time. I couldn't pick a favorite scene as I like the whole film, but the end with the obituaries of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon stand out as a sad memoir that that realize that there was Fragility behind the tough grimaces."
Over the top mess of a mockumentary, still an essential
dvdtrkr | San Diego CA | 10/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I would put this as a classic midnight movie....
The movie had potential to be funnier than it was but wound up being far more disjointed than it should have been... it seemed like they were trying to do a "Hard Days Night" type of film. Another obstacle they faced was that Johnny Rotten wanted nothing to do with this film, and is only seen in the concert footage and interviews. The US tour footage was great to watch, they really should have released the Dallas and San Fran footage in its entirety here.
In a way, it's this film that made Sid Vicious a tragic hero and turned him into even more of a cartoon parody of himself, but the "My Way" scene is classic. The animation is funny, silly, and memorable. It also fills in some blanks, like Lydon's stabbing and the record company incident where they were out of control. Would have made a great adult cartoon had they chose to take it all the way.
The film is worth it for the Pistols footage, but the whole Ronnie Biggs thing was pretty much pointless. Steve Jones and Malcolm McLaren provided the barebones "continudity" throughout the film. Glen Matlock is also seen but nothing much more.
The film is an essential for Pistols fans as well as fans of punk rock, although definitely not for anyone under 16. If you're looking for a documentary of the Pistols, this is not the film.
Julien Temple's "Filth and the Fury" is THE Pistols documentary bar none and puts more depth into Vicious as well as Lydon being involved, the Classic Albums series of "NMTB", and the Ramones "End of the Century" as well.
Johnny Rotten would try his hand at acting in a film called "Corrupt" with Harvey Keitel(!), a film that went nowhere.
Don Letts (who was there from the beginning...DJ as well as Big Audio Dynamite member) made 2 great films, "The Punk Rock Movie" which came out in the middle of the punk movement and the more recent "Punk: Attitude" which I'd recommend because he talked to the people who helped shape, influence and execute it.
Here's the list of other recommended films: Sid and Nancy, SLC Punk, Repo Man, Urgh! A Music War, Decline of Western Civilization, DOA, The Clash - Westway To The World, Fabulous Stains, Another State of Mind, Suburbia, Reform School Girls, Rock and Roll High School, Rude Boy, and VH1s 25 years of Punk is worth tracking down as well.
The "pre and post punk" movies are also worth having: 24 Hour Party People and Velvet Goldmine both kind of bookend the "class of 77".
There are also books: Glen Friedman's F You Heroes captures the 80s hardcore scene, Henry Rollins' "Get In The Van" book describing his early years with Black Flag and having to deal with the UK punk rockers in their "sunset" years.
John Lydon's "Rotten" is also ESSENTIAL and shows him off as a great storyteller and goes into detail about his time with the Pistols as well as afterwards (there's been talk about it being made into a movie to counter "Sid and Nancy") as well as Glen Matlock's "I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol". There's also "England's Dreaming" by Jon Savage and Noel Monk's "12 Days on the Road" about the Pistols US tour. The 2 Ramones books, one by the band and one by Dee Dee, and Legs Mc Neil's "Please Kill Me". One that might be hard to find is Deborah Spungen's "And I Don't Want To Live This Life" about Sid and Nancy from Nancy's mother.