on May 25, 2004
Despite the bad sound and grainy film quality, this is a riveting, brutal documentary that focuses on the 1969 free concert at Altamont Speedway that was envisioned by the Rolling Stones as a fun time for everyone to "get it on", and ended with chaos and someone being killed, which is shown in the film. With the Hell's Angels in charge of security, and a vast crowd in a senseless and often aggressive drug induced stupor, watching this evolve is like looking into the abyss of the damned. The mid and late '60s were not the flower-power love generation years some remember through rose-tinted lenses, they were very often violent and hateful, as anyone who saw the rabble "express themselves" at the 1968 Democratic Convention can attest. There are people who blame the outcome of this concert on the Hell's Angels, but this film proves that they were only a part of the problem.
There is also much pretension: Guys in suits trying to be hip and cool, and Melvin Belli, the celebrity attorney of his day, making sure he gets his 15 minutes of camera time. The Rolling Stones (at this point Mick Taylor had replaced Brian Jones, who had died in July of that year) seem to be out of place in dealing with their fame, and trying to "act the part", as well as being in a fog of substance abuse. Mick Jagger is the one that appears to be the most "in control", and he tries his best to bring calm and order to the concert crowd, to no avail.
There are short sequences of other groups, like the Jefferson Airplane, and musically, perhaps the best part in the entire film is Tina Turner, as she sings "I've Been Loving You Too Long" all the while using the microphone as a substitute love interest.
Total running time is 91 minutes.
All or in part, the songs performed by the Stones are:
"Honky Tonk Man"
"Jumpin' Jack Flash"
"Love in Vain"
"Street Fighting Man"
"Sympathy for the Devil"
"Under My Thumb"
"You Gotta Move"
on May 29, 2004
Gimmie Shelter is The Rolling Stones' documentary on the band's ill-fated 1969 North American tour in support of the album Let it Bleed. We see the band performing at Madison Square Garden playing songs like Jumping Jack Flash and Love in Vain among others, which was also released on the classic 1970 live album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out. We also get to see the band record Brown Sugar and Wild Horses from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers at the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama. However, the most famous bit from this classic movie was the ill-fated performance in Altamont in December of 1969 which was toted as a West Coast Woodstock but turned out to be anything but when a fan was killed by The Hell's Angels and rioting by the crowd caused the band to stop performing a few times. Musically, this film has great versions of Sympathy For the Devil, Under My Thumb, Jumping Jack Flash, Love in Vain and many other great Stones classics. I first saw this movie when I was 9 in 1985 and enjoy this film seeing as my mom is a huge Stones fan. Highly recommended!
on June 20, 2004
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
Gimme Shelter is regarded by many as the most important rock film of all time. It follows the Rolling Stones on their infamous 1969 US tour. It covers the Madison Square Garden concert and the near-disastrous Altamont Speedway concert, along with actuality footage of the band in meetings with their lawyer, Melvin Belli (also known for defending Jack Ruby and for a guest appearance in a Star Trek episode) It remains one of the most popular rock films ever made and is as thought-provoking today as it was 35 years ago. An actual now-famous homicide was caught on tape and is featured in this film (as well as nudity), making it inappropriate for children.
The Criterion DVD includes many special features also.
There is a theatrical trailer and a re-release trailer for the film as well as the films, "Salesmen" and "Grey Gardens" also directed by the Maysles brothers.
There is film restoration deomonstration, several deleted scenes and outtakes, audio commentary by the directors and collaborator, Stanley Goldstein. There are also 80 minutes of excerpts from the 4 hour call-in radio show done after the Altamont concert and a photo gallery of the Altamont concert.
As an added bonus the accompanying booklet is many times larger than normal (this one is 44 pages) and contains several essays by many different people.
This DVD is a MUST for Rolling Stones fans as well as Criterion Collection DVD fans alike.
on May 21, 2004
All the muddy good vibes of Woodstock were negated after Altamont. The 60's, one of the most tumultuous and violent decades of the last century, were officially over. These hapless filmmakers were supposed to film the Stones on tour in America, what they got was the decade's dying last breath. This documentary is like having a front row seat as Manson orchestrated the Helter Sklter murders, it's quite shocking. In terms of a concert film, it's probably a little disappointing. Considering the Hell's Angels keep beating people up (including a member of the Jefferson Airplane) it's not surprising that the Stones sound so horrible. From a voyeuristic point of view, this film is unprecedented. The murder on screen happens so fast they probably weren't even aware of what they were seeing as it happened. They have to slow down and freeze frame the shot to even see it happen. Lurid and horrifying. As far as DVD's go, this is a Criterion DVD so you know it's KILLER. You get tons of bonus stuff, commentary from the filmmakers, a studio mix session and more. As a Stones document, it is priceless. The behind the scenes footage (and Madison Square Garden footage) is remarkable. And I love the Stones in Muscle Shoals working on what would become the 1971 masterpiece LP Sticky Fingers. Watching Keith listening to the Wild Horses playback is a rare privilege.
on March 26, 2004
This Concert/documentary whatever you want to call it is truly very good, in fact until this moment, my favorite concert dvd was Metallica's S&M but that has just changed my man, yes it is violent, yes it is tragic, but by god man, it's true, everybody blames it on the angels, they were out of line yes, that is true but they did help in the end, for instance, when a guy pulled out a gun, it was an angel who stopped him, don't get me wrong, I have no sympathy for those animals but I must admit to the facts that they were trying to help but some of them got out of line. Anyways, the picture and sound are 5/5, I love all the behind the scenes they have and it's mixed in DTS 5.1 sound which is never bad, good show, 4births, 4 deaths and a whole lot of scuffles.
on December 28, 2003
This great film finally gets the DVD treatment and it's spectacular!!! It's from Criterion so you know you're getting nothing but the best!!! The transfer is superb!!!(There is a cool restoration demo on the disc!!!)And the sound is top notch too!!! Extras include a commentary,outtakes,trailers and much,much more!!! Great for Rolling Stones fans or anybody that loves classic rock and roll!!! AN AWESOME DVD!!! Five Stars!!! A+
on March 17, 2004
Okay, so the film has to be valued as a piece of cinema verite capturing a nightmarish moment in countercultural history, but going on 35 years later, I'm still waiting for the Stones tour documentary that was, after all, the original intent of having the Maysleses & Co. around the Stones at all.
This "anniversary edition" of the film offers a ray of hope in the form of a few snippets of outtake material - the scenes from the Muscle Shoals studio in particular are a real joy (and bravo, guys, for showing you *were* capable of noticing somebody besides Mick Jagger for at least a few seconds!).
So where's the rest? By all accounts the Stones' performance at Altamont was brilliant - they didn't just stop playing and flee, as this film misleadingly suggests. Granted, the events at Altamont turned the film into something other than originally anticipated - but that story's been told already, and the movie's gathered its due laurels. Now can we *please* finally see the rest of the Stones' concert??
I'm sure I'm not the only one who would value that miles more than the interminable self-congratulatory "commentaries" the filmmakers tacked onto this edition (really, who *cares* that you adore Mick's scarf?!). The remastering job is very fine, though, so ... all right, four stars. I'll save the fifth one for when you let us have the Stones.
(And for the record, re another reviewer's remarks: That's not Andrew Oldham, who had long since parted ways with the Stones, it's Sam Cutler, their road manager; and there were no Stones hanging around in any "local civic offices" - what an idea!)
on March 17, 2004
As a testimony to the events at Altamont in the waning months of 1969, this film is first rate. However, if one is looking for a "concert film" of the Stones then one will be sorely disappointed, as this was undeniably their worst performance.
The concert was doomed from the start, as San Francisco seemed reluctant to provide the Stones with a venue for their free concert. I think many people thought this was little more than an attempt to upstage Woodstock, a cheap form of self-promotion. It came at the end of their American tour, and for me seemed to be a fitting farewell. The film does a remarkable job of following the Stones on their date with tragedy.
Of course the single most stupid move was having the Hell's Angels act as security for the concert. Knowing their reputation, I would think this would have served as ample warning but it seems the Stones, like others, thought the idea of involving the Angels would add to the psychedelic experience. "Big mistake," Sonny Barger said afterward as some unruly kids messed with their bikes.
The film focuses on the chaos that ensued. One gets little feeling of the size of the crowd except for a few aerial views of the estimated 300,000 people. The action occurred around the stage, which was too low and constantly had to be cleared. The Angels dominated the stage, surrounding the performers which ranged from The Flying Burrito Brothers to Jefferson Airplane, like a phalanx. The concert had to be stopped many times as the Angels beat back the crowd, fueling the disgust and anger that developed, reaching crisis point when the Stones finally took stage in the early evening hours. Mick seemed honestly confused by what was going on. It was completely out of his control as his feeble efforts at crowd control fell on deaf ears. It was during "Under My Thumb" that the fatal stabbing took place, and the film captures that chilling moment, leaving one to doubt that the black man in the green suit had a gun, which the Angels claim he did.
The Stones look back over the concert tour in the editing room, offering a few candid comments on what took place. The concert earned them their infamous place in rock and roll history. The film offers only fleeting glimpses of the other performers that shared the stage with the Stones. The Dead was on hand as well, but all one sees of them is a short take of Garcia and Weir and Kreutzmann (I believe) back stage commenting on the violence taking place. This was a bad trip.
on November 7, 2003
A lot of people seem to be reviewing the event rather than the film and how well the film documents it. Of course the event was stupid, poorly planned, and evil, and I'm sure the Stones aren't proud of it...and the film captures all those things perfectly.
This film is more interesting to me than Woodstock (still excellent), mainly because it has an aura of evil around it (evil is more interesting than peace and love on screen obviously). The impending doom makes the whole thing incredibly creepy. Though I love the music, it appropriately isn't placed as the centerpiece of the film; the cultural significance is focused on instead.
The stabbing and other fights aren't overly graphic, so like a classic horror movie the horror is created in the viewer's mind. This ends up being brilliant, although probably due to lack of footage rather than necessarily a directorial decision.
Another interesting aspect is the way in which the rich and famous performers are thrust into being "equals" with the crowd (as when the Jefferson Airplane guitarist gets punched-out by security, or the dog walks carelessly across the stage ignoring Jagger). Often it's even humorous in an "adding insult-to-injury" way, and gives the viewer the sense of helplessness everyone there must have had.
I'd say this should be on a viewing list for documentary film classes, but it already is....
on October 31, 2003
I have to be honest, I can't BELIEVE some of the negative reviews of this film and DVD! First of all, this has been and continues to be one of the greatest rock documentaries of all times. As many of the more enlightened reviewers point out, this film is a true snapshot of the end of the sixties -- philosophically, emotionally and idealistically speaking. If you're a Stones fan, like I am, then this is a must-have. That's a given. If you're a film student, a film lover, an aspiring director, or you just want to see what it was like to be young and living in that era, it is, once again, a must-have. Regarding the "production" of this DVD, I think they did an admirable job of cleaning up the 16mm source footage. And it sounds great for a concert film recorded over thirty years ago. This film is a piece of history. It should be required viewing in high schools across the country when the "sixties" are covered in history classes. Yeah, the sound quality of the Stones' "Bridges to Babylon" DVD sounds and looks better, but it's a concert film that utilized the latest recording technology. In terms of historical significance and plain-old good documentary film-making, this film cannot be beat. Case closed. Oh, and by the way, Mick Taylor is the most underrated lead guitarist that ever picked up an axe. He still does club dates -- if he hits your town, don't miss him...