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on 15 January 2012
The Punk Rock Movie is, inarguably, pivotal film, & features some TERRIFIC performance footage (The Slits, Subway Sect & Siouxsie are my person favourites). However, as a couple of people have already pointed out, the picture & sound quality of this latest DVD edition is absolutely shocking. Admittedly, Don Letts only had access to the cheapest equipment available at the time - & allegedly spliced the final cut together using Sellotape! - but this reissue is beyond primitive. Various excerpts from the film have been uploaded to Youtube, & are of a far superior quality to anything on this retail disc, can somebody explain why? Talk about a missed opportunity... AVOID.
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on 18 August 2008
Don Letts' films are among only a handful that were shot at the beginning of the punk movement in London, Wolgang Buld being the only other known cameraman taking a real interest in the scene. The footage is historically acurate, that is to say someone who went to the clubs and shot it as it happened with nothing 'staged' nor interviews vetted, and as such provides a valuable and insightful view of the period. You wouldnt rate any of the young people here as potential 'celebs' or worthies and yet there is genuine feel that something is happening and an urgency to the proceedings that you can see is being eroded even as the footage is shot. The camera is a handheld 8mm thing, cheap and available, the equivalent today would be perhaps something shot on a mobile phone and posted on youtube. Despite the obvious technical flaws and the rough and ready editing this remains an essential film for anyone interested in the period, today's punk rock 'stars' (Punkers if you like) have nothing on the genuine article.
Now the real problem with this DVD is in the mastering, I saw the film at the cinema in the mid 80's and it looked about 100 times better than this. I picked up my DVD recently in Spain but I guess its the same transfer. The owner of the footage (doesnt seem to be Don Letts anymore) explains the transfer process that he adopted in the technical notes. He says he projected the film (which is 16 frames per second) onto a screen and digitally captured it in PAL using a video camera, (PAL being 25 frames per second), and this he says is the 'solution to the problem'. Unfortunately as anyone can see when viewing the DVD this results in a flickery, fuzzy, washed-out picture with muffled sound. I'm no expert in these matters but I'm sure if he got it professionally done they would have scanned each frame into a computer and doubled up the images to produce 32 frames per second which would be close enough to the NTSC frame rate (of approx 30 frames per second) to work a treat - and who would care that the action would be 1/16 second slower since the film has enough energy to even notice the difference.
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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2008
Until about a year ago I hadn't watched this film since about 1983. It seemed an artifact then. Now, nearly 25 years later and 30 years on since much of it was shot by Don Letts on Super 8, it really is from another era. However the film holds up surprisingly well and it's worth seeking out a copy if you're interested in not only the music but also the whole impact on life for many people of the 1977 punk explosion.

Don "The Screaming Target" Letts and Peter Clifton, the film's Australian producer, shot the bulk of the footage in 1977. Subsequently Letts was a founder member of the trail blazing but little heard Basement 5 in 1978 and the way more commercially successful Big Audio Dynamite with Mick Jones, formerly of the Clash, in 1984. He's since made a great many promo videos and a number of films, including the excellent 2005 documentary "Punk:Attitude" which does use some material originally featured in "Punk Rock Movie".

The story behind the film is that in 1976 Letts was managing the clothing shop "Acme Attractions", a King's Road rival to McClaren and Westwood's "Sex". The shop's accountant, Andy Czechowski, decided to open a punk music venue as much of the usual regular touring circuit was banning punk bands at the time after the fury stirred up by the Sex Pistols appearance on the Bill Grundy tv show in December 1976. Czechowski asked Don to djay at the club, the Roxy. Hardly any punk music was yet available on vinyl so Letts played some older releases by the likes of the New York Dolls, Stooges and MC5 plus his favourite reggae records. The result was that many punks were turned onto reggae (the mix CD released in 2001 "Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown" replicates a typical Letts set at the Roxy circa 1977).

Around this time Letts was given a basic Super 8 camera by Caroline Baker, the then editor of Vogue magazine. For these reasons much of the footage was filmed at the short lived Roxy in the spring of that year, together with some amusing scenes of police raids on "Boy" (a Kings Road successor to "Acme Attractions") when complaints were received about them supposedly having body parts in their window display.

Initially Letts was just filming the bands he saw live for fun and to watch at home. At the time Letts said "with Super-8 film you only get three minute cassettes but the punk bands seem to cram everything into about 2.5 minutes which is really fortunate for me. Even when I speak to them they seem to run out of things to say in about three minutes." But then someone wrote in NME "Don Letts is making a movie" and he thought maybe that wasn't actually such a bad idea.......

From that press snippet the embryo of what became "The Punk Rock Movie" formed. Editing took place, using sellotape for splicing, at Jeannette Lee's kitchen table, his co-manager from "Acme Attraction" and also his girlfriend. An early 60 minute version of the film was first shown at the ICA in London in late summer 1977. Later versions, including footage of John Lydon's post Pistols trip with Letts to Jamaica in 1978, surfaced in the late 70s and 1980s on vhs and at occasional cinema screenings.

The footage of the Sex Pistols from April 1977 and the Clash from the "White Riot" tour in May will be what attracts many people initially but the film includes much, much more including the only appearance I know of the Banshees with Pete Fenton on guitar, playing the unreleased song "Bad Shape". It later includes his replacement, John McKay, at a gig filmed when the Banshees supported the Heartbreakers on tour in October playing the classic "Carcass". The difference in playing standards of the two band line ups is marked and emphasizes how rapidly many of the bands, especially the Banshees, evolved from one chord wonders to highly original bands.

The live recordings in The Punk Rock Movie capture some very exciting moments in the development of some of the artists, especially the Slits and X Ray Spex. Seeing footage of these bands, plus the Heartbreakers, ATV, Eater, Subway Sect, Generation X, Slaughter and the Dogs and Wayne County is what make the film especially interesting.

Backstage and tour bus antics all add to the film, including Ari Up and the rest of the Slits having to prepare for a gig at Ari's Holland Park Comprehensive school by clearing away the chairs from the school's assembly hall. Shane McGowan can be seen pogoing at the Roxy in his Union Jack jacket in the opening scenes. There is also a darker side to the film, with some graphic shots of people (ok, it's Keith Levene) shooting up in toilet cubicles and one guy slashing his chest and stomach with a razor blade - not for the squeamish. Neither is Eater pulverising a pig's head on stage with a hammer. However most of the film is live, loud, music featuring some great 1977 footage of energetic up and coming bands plus their audiences.

The film got a dvd re-issue at last in June 2008. Complaints have been made by many people about the over dubbing of studio versions of some songs onto much of the live footage and apparently the picture quality has been digitized and has lost some of its original feel. However I think people forget how rough and ready the original was and should accept it for what it is - a unique warts and all records of gigs at the Roxy, Vortex etc in 1977. The German version of dvd I have features as an extra a commentary from the Australian producer Peter Clifton plus an interview he shot in Sydney with John Lydon in 1985.

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on 28 October 2009
The ultimate Punk Rock questions asked. This is an historical artifact and all Punk fans should thank Don Letts for taking the time out to document this footage. In years to come this movie will be held as an example of Punk rock in the Capital in 1977. Let's hope future generation swill understand what all the fuss was about.

Punk In London [DVD] [1979]
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on 25 June 2009
what a let down. Peter Clifton has ruined this historically important film with his incompetent attempts at "remastering"
the sound on the old VHS copies was perfectly acceptable but he's smothered it in digital noise reduction and now the whole film has that horrible hollow metallic ringing sound throughout.
bootleg copies of the old VHS are superior to this garbage!

The DVD commentary is utterly worthless, Peter Clifton can't accurately remember anything from the Punk Era, in fact it sounds like he can't even remember how to string a sentence together.
theres so many mistakes i gave up on the commentary

he can't even be bothered to correctly title/credit the songs in the movie on the end credits

pass this by until someone does a proper job.
in the meantime i recommend DOA which has been issued on DVD in japan. copies seem to be available in the UK via Ebay and Amazon
that film features excellent colour footage and the dvd producers wisely opted to leave the original audio untouched
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on 12 August 2013
Great documentary, thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend to anyone interested in early days of punk music - a classic!
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on 1 October 2014
Great movie
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 August 2008
First of all, a comment about the review by Mark Squareyes - yes, the picture quality is poor, but this film was shot on Super 8 using very basic equipment and it represents the Punk DIY ethic in its original 1977 form. To criticise the film on this aspect of it is missing the point and doesn't really display authentic and true Punk Rock attitude.

Now some criticisms of the packaging, which claims that the film was shot in 1978 (when it was pretty much all shot in 1977), that it was shot on 35mm (when it was shot - as I've said - on Super 8mm) and that it is 118 minutes long (it's actually one hour and eighteen minutes long, or 78 minutes to everyone who can do basic arithmetic). The title card claims its in 'widescreen' too, which is absurd, as Super 8mm aspect ratio is definitely NOT widescreen. But at least we can finally get hold of this piece of history.

So what's in it? This is front rank (but low quality as stated) archive film of one view of the Punk Rock scene in London, 1977. The veiw is Don Lett's own personal one - which is biased towards promoting the significance and prominence of reggae on the scene and biased away from depicting important acts like The Stranglers, The Damned and The Jam, who were all vitally important but don't fit in with the 'official' vision of Punk laid down by the followers of the Bromley Contingent. That's OK, Don deserves respect and is of course entitled to his vision of Punk Rock, as individuality is important to the genre. But the Stalinist writing out of history that some acts have suffered at the hands of the Bromley-related view should not be tolerated any longer...

There is plenty of great stuff of course - The Sex Pistols, The Banshees (Siouxsie and Severin the obvious stars, really standing out here), a little bit of the superb X Ray Spex, Subway Sect, a little Generation X (another good and underrated band) and the tedious overrated sixties agit-prop of The Clash. The Slits are suprisingly good - despite the fact that Arri Up must have been the most annoying person in the universe to know then (and her put-on rasta 'ya mons' now don't wash much either. The drummer - Palm Olive - really shines. There's some film of the Heartbreakers, with Walter Lure looking like a glammed-up John Foxx, with Thunders and Nolan in full throttle (yep, lots of dead people in this film). Eater are young, absurd and brilliant in a bad-good way, with 14 year old Dee Generate joining Andy Blade at stage front to mash up a pig's head with a cleaver. These boys loved thier VU, Alice Cooper and Bowie...and you get to see Slaughter and The Dogs and Wayne County too. We only see Alternative TV practising a reggae number - no problem with that, I love thier reggae stuff, but it does feel a bit politically selected by Mr Letts, who, as DJ of the Roxy, claimed he played reggae as the Punks liked it and becuase there were no Punk records to play avauilable then (come on Don, there WERE plenty of records to play for Punks at the Roxy - LPs by Stooges, Velvets, Alice, MC5, Dictators, Ramones, Patti Smith, New York Dolls, singles by the Pistols and The Damned...I could go on and on). Despite the fact that SOME punks liked reggae, Punk Rock doesn;t owe as much to black music as the more politically correct rock critics would like us to believe. Those first wave punks liked all kinds of music - by mostly rock of the glam, prog, psychedelic and heavy varieties.

One of the best things about this film is how much focus it puts on women in Punk - there were loads of 'em both offstage and on, and this was a true first for rock and roll. Sadly, we only see about 3 seconds of Gaye Advert and there is no footage of her band, the still underrated Adverts. Serious old Punk Rockers will have great fun doing thier own commentary, picking out various 'faces' who weren't in bands, all good clean nostalgia.

If you love Punk Rock (as opposed to Punk - that came later and bored everyone sick with overly politicised Dylanesque sixties style sloganeering), you'll love this, despite the misleading info on the packaging, which someone probably got well paid for and then failed to do the most basic research on.
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on 25 August 2009
will anyone ever liberate the Letts footage of Cherry Vanilla at the Roxy with Sting and Stewart Copeland performing as part of her band? seems the Copelands managed to make this footage disappear?...or not...
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on 20 October 2014
as advertised
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