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This is a shockingly fantastic film. It was meant to start out as a filmed document of the Stones live comeback of '69 and instead, mostly, turned into a document of the Altamont Free Concert disaster. Indeed a young man was stabbed, Hunter Meredith was only 18.
I do object to Amazons review of this DVD stating, "the on-screen stabbing of a young African-American man (during 'Sympathy for the Devil,' no less)" In fact the song permormed at the time was 'Under My Thumb.' This sort of proves that Amazons reviewers don't actually watch the DVD's before reviewing them.
Still a fantastic film no less. The look on Jaggers face at the end, when he asks the film editor to rewind the section of film where Meredith Hunter is stabbed, shows total shock and empathy. And a short great scene I like where the camera pans across the studio to find Keith lying on his back behind the amps (for some reason) is quite amusing.
This film captures the Stones at the start of their live performances as we know them today. After a two and a half year absence from the stage they returned to a different musical world to the one they'd left. No longer did concerts last 30 minutes (although in the '69 tour they only played around 80 minutes a show, unlike other bands at the time clocking 2 hour concerts). The stage presences, the glam, Jaggers strutt all starts here.
After years of reading about this infamous concert in various Stones bio's/ magazine articles etc. to finally get the chance to see it was an exciting moment. What can I say!? It's every bit as unsettling and brutal as I'd been led to believe. The idea of the film was to show the Stones on their tour of America at the end of 1969, culminating in a free concert, Woodstock-style, at a suitable venue, which eventually became the Altamont Speedway when no suitable venue would give them permission. What started as a triumphant tour as witnessed in the early footage at Madison Square Garden quickly degenerated into chaos. The film is of course, notorious for showing an audience member (18 year old Meredith Hunter) being stabbed to death near the stage while the Stones are performing. The film-makers didn't know at the time that they'd caught a murder on camera. To them it was just another of several unsavoury scuffles that had been raging throughout the day. Watching Jaggers face as he's shown the fatal blows in an editing room is chilling. Several other scenes leave an indelible impression. The hideous faces of tripping, scruffy looking, hippies (God, these people are ugly!), the explosive bursts of violence from the Hell's Angels, the argument between Jack Cassady of the Jefferson Airplane and an Angel when the bands singer Marty Balin has been beaten up for questioning the Angels heavy-handedness. In fact, you can almost feel the nasty vibe coming through into the room as you're watching. I'm not someone who is easily shocked but I was left in a daze when the film had finished. To see an actual murder on film, rather than seeing one in a work of fiction, is a totally different experience and I couldn't get the scene out of my head for nearly 24 hours. Altamont signalled the end of the 60's dream in the most brutal way possible and Gimme Shelter captures this superbly. So, not an easy watch then but utterly essential viewing.
If you're a fan of the Sixties or the Rolling Stones, you simply have to have this video. This is the Stones at their best before it all went tragically wrong at Altamont when 18 year old Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death in front of the stage by Hell's Angels. For many, this free concert by the Stones at Altamont at the end of 1969 spelt the end of the Sixties and the flower power era. For that reason alone, this is compulsive viewing for devotees of the genre.
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Despite being a 'rock doc' that has long since achieved legendary status, the Maysles brothers' Gimme Shelter, a dramatic account of the latter stages of the Rolling Stones' celebrated 1969 U.S. tour, owed its origins more to desperation than design. The Stones were keen to have at least part of their tour filmed for posterity and when a proposed deal with ace cinematographer Haskell Wexler fell through, the band hastily met up with the Maysles a couple of days before the Stones' two shows in New York City, giving the documentary-makers and their contacts carte blanche (and funding) to film whatever they liked. The result was a record of the shows at Madison Square Garden, a brief stopover at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, and, most memorably, the infamous end-of-tour free concert at Altamont Speedway east of San Francisco.
This is basically a film within a film: we watch the dramatic events as they happen, but we also see Mick Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts viewing a rough cut of the film months later in London with David Maysles and editor Charlotte Zwerin and reacting to the footage. It's a neat device. The tension builds pleasingly, with the scenes of the high-octane Stones onstage in New York being interspersed with scenes in California (principally in the huge office of celebrity lawyer Melvin Belli) showing the free-concert organisers in frantic action. The whole of the second half of this 91-minute rollercoaster is consequently taken up with the chaotic events at Altamont.
This documentary is enormously entertaining and is an almost perfect evocation of a time when hippie innocence and naivety were dying a death. In fact, we see the hippie dream become a nightmare before our very eyes, with the Bay Area Hells Angels at Altamont acting as the demons incarnate.Read more ›
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