A rather incoherent post-breakup Sex Pistols "documentary", told from the point of view of Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, whose (arguable) position is that the Sex Pistols in particular ... See full summary »
A rather incoherent post-breakup Sex Pistols "documentary", told from the point of view of Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, whose (arguable) position is that the Sex Pistols in particular and punk rock in general were an elaborate scam perpetrated by him in order to make "a million pounds." Silly and hard to follow at times, but worth seeing for some excellent Pistols concert footage, some wickedly amusing animated sequences, and Sid Vicious' eerily prophetic performance of "My Way." Written by
Marty Cassady <email@example.com>
Towards the end of Sid Vicious' Punk rendition of Paul Anka/Frank Sinatra's "My Way", he pulls a revolver out of his pocket and starts shooting at the audience. He fires eight shots, which is more bullets than a revolver can hold. See more »
From the epicenter of the cultural globe, four working class teenagers attempted to change the world through music and fashion. It was the final attempt to do so last century, and they failed. Before the dust had cleared, band manager and SEX shop proprietor Malcolm McLaren spent the money The Sex Pistols had earned to make a "mockumentary" about his own role in their success. The film was called The Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle (take the hint) and consists of very little footage of The Sex Pistols actually playing music, and quite a lot of footage of McLaren effectively calling the audience idiots.
Cod-surrealist nonsense in which guitarist Steve Jones is a detective on McLaren's tail, soon dissolves so he and drummer Paul Cook can jet off to Rio and spend time with "great train robber" Ronnie Biggs. Ready yourself for the spectacle of three very unappealing men dancing naked to a hideous irony-free version of "Belsen was a Gas" (a song about killing Jews for gold in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp), and another song sung in Ronnie's tone deaf whine which includes the lyrics "God save Myra Hindley, God save Ian Brady" (lyrics that Johnny Rotten would have considered distasteful). The Sid Vicious scenes are few and idiotic. Jumping out of bed in a thong with a swastika over the testicles to sing some bad boy biker song from the '50s. Playing into to the "Punk's a joke" theme of the movie, in an attempt to turn Sid into James Dean. I'm surprised McLaren doesn't take credit for Siddy's death too. The redeeming scenes are those of Sid in Paris and the infamous performance of My Way. The punk rock zeitgeist right there. Mocking an adoring audience before shooting them all. No need for an entire film, just watch that clip on YouTube.
From Julien Temple's far superior (and more enjoyable) 2001 documentary followup, The Filth and the Fury, we were given a more balanced/honest view of what transpired in '78. But there were also a number of scenes that I would have liked to have seen in Swindle (as Fury was basically a reediting of the same material). One was an animated Sid complete with Sid's voice acting; "You f*cken betta wat'ch out, alright, or I'll slice you open" - a still of which appeared on the cover of the Something Else 7 inch - a snippet was shown in Fury, but I don't know what context that originally appeared. Was it in original prints, but removed after Sid's death? Was there more? Fury also shed light on the film Who Killed Bambi, which would have been the mock Hard Day's Night movie McLaren was originally intending to make. It starred Sting(!) as a member of a gay New Romantics group, and looked a damn sight more entertaining than Swindle.
Sod Swindle, t'is a swindle. If you must, rent The Filth and The Fury and revel in music's failure as a world changing polemic.
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