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on 16 November 2009
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.
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on 28 June 2009
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.
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on 13 June 2000
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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on 5 December 2005
Gimme Shelter is an astonishing look at the dark side of the rock 'n'roll collective hallucination: Jagger thought he was lucifer, the fans thought he was lucifer ... and the Hell's Angels thought he was a loser.
The story is one of the best known examples of how not to organise a free concert.The Stones were at their musical peak: Mick Taylor was there to help Charlie keep it together, Keith had rarely looked so elegantly wasted and Jagger was Jack Flash in all his androgynous splendor.
Unfortunately it was decided that the Angels would make great security guards. Even more unfortunately they got to have as much alcohol as they could drink in return for herding hippies.
The Mayles cameras seem to have been omnipresent : in a situation where nobody could budge an inch they were absolutely everywhere. They got the endless to and fro with the Stones manager Grossman (?)trying to find a venue for the concert, the breath-taking build up with eye in the sky shots of thousands upon thousands of people honing in on the Altamont Speedway, the first signs that things were not going to go according to plan (what plan?)as musicians got attacked by Hell's Angels ("My God, they're attacking musicians? That doesn't seem right!") , the agonising slide into ugly anarchy, the irate fan (former fan ?) who punched Big J in the lip as he came out of his caravan to preen, the bad-tripping Angel/stage hand going down on bad acid and glaring at Jagger with contempt and fascination, the stray dog ambling across the stage totally unfazed by the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world, Jagger calling for calm as fighting breaks out yet again: "What are we fighting for ? You know if we really are all one, let's be all one!" ... to which an Angel snarls: "Yeah, preach it brother!", the attempted murder, the actual murder, the hysterical girl friend, the morning after ... and finally Jagger leaving the cutting room with a rather sheepish look on his face after watching the rough cut.
Despite my rather subjective review this is a marvellously objective documentary. I don't think you have to be a Stones fan like myself to be knocked out by the film-making prowess ... you might not come out of it liking Jagger so much but I'm sure he can take it!
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on 25 November 2012
Any one with even a passing interest in 60s culture should own this movie. I'm not a Stones fan as such, but I do have a love of the music of that decade, and it was simply a fascinating period. This film is riveting. From the outset, it keeps you interested - you're enthralled and appalled in equal measure. So much of pop culture is represented in this film, it's hard to know where to start. Not only the Stones, a quintesentially British band embraced by the US and one of the 20th Century's enduring cultural icons, but a counter-culture in decline, a society being strafed by civil unrest and looming oil crises - the Vietnam war was in full swing when this movie was made - and above all the end of the dream - the idea that peace love and understanding would conquer all - the moment it all came crashing down is captured on film, accidentally, and right at the end of the decade - it's a lesson in human behaviour we should all heed.

The free concert at Altamont was a bad idea from the start. It was a mess in conception and a total disaster in execution. What I didn't expect was the footage of the lawyer on the phone to the various people involved in organising this hippie nightmare. It's a salutory reminder that for all the talk of free love and flower power, nothing really shifted in the real world. John Lennon said as much when he said that the lawyers kept laywering, the politicans kept politicking (I'm parapharasing here) but 'we all just dressed up'. No clearer proof is given than in this documentary. The unfeasibly long line of cars parked along the route to the concert (there was nowhere near enough parking space at the venue), the simmering anarchy of the doped up, half naked crowds, the cold stares of the Hell's Angels hired to provide security, all captured on film and all juxtaposed with the louche faux-bohemian professionalism of the Stones themselves - it's a fascinating mix. Then, after a long hot day of trying to listen to Jefferson Airplane or whoever else was unlucky enough to be performing to a sea of bad tempered, dehydrated pot-heads, the Stones came on, in the dark, to a stage so small it could have been a room above a pub, and attempted a set without much success. (Here's the spoiler, in case you don't know what happens) Fighting breaks out, ending with a fatal stabbing that sent shockwaves round the world, and effectively marked the end of the sixties. It's an extraordinary moment, and Mick Jagger's face as he watches the footage in an edit suite says it all. The end had been coming for some time, but this just tipped it all over the edge. Unmissable.
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on 29 November 2013
I have now 3 DVD'S which revolve around documentaries made. The first ordered was 50TH ANNIVERARY"HURRICANE CROSSFIRE. The other is "THE ROLLLING STONES, THE MICK TAYLOR YEARS 1969-1974. Today I received delivery of "GIMME SHELTER" which turns out to be another comprehensive documentary of "The Rolling Stones". Last they were in Adelaide was around 1995 and by that time unfortunately for them the very talented Mick Taylor was no longer with the band he left in 1974 after 5 and a half years he left suddenly. He was at the tender age of 20 he was considered a Virtuoso Guitarist billed at no. 37 on Rolling Stones top 100 world Guitarists and that is amazing really there are so many excellent talent. One documentary quotes Mick Jagger a very shroud business man was the one who missed Taylor the most and Richards was happy to see him go as he was jealous of his technique and talent. This program once again goes over all this period Dire Straits who are just simply superb live, so good in fact that their records do not do them justice, that is how tight they were. On the other hand The Rolling Stones are so loose there is a serious wobble when they play. What I mean is they are not playing in time with each other. The only member who played to Jagger's voice was Taylor and Jagger loved that. I would say yes buy the DVD I have actually really enjoyed watching this band evolve from very tender young age to their 50th Anniversary. They are due to play at the inaugural opening of the new Adelaide Oval, in South Australia in March 2014. They have not been here for 18 years and I thought live they did not sound as good as their records. Yes the early music is good and everyone want to hear their early hits but it is a pity they have that WOBBLE. I respect them for their longevity I believe Jagger is the driving force that has kept them together. I do not know how they do it they virtually sat in each other's pockets for years. I think it is sad they did not give Taylor his dues for his writing contributions although it was falling apart with Keith Richard's jealously toward Taylor and it is suggested Taylor never intended to stay with them for ever as he says on one disc. I love documentaries to watch at how these bands evolves. What makes them tick and how they interacted with each other. I must say I was surprised that they during these times they were not always in the same room when recording and they would dub different people in at different times. As for any of these Rolling Stones Documentaries they are really worth buying all and watching this band evolve from 1962 through to today and still together. Personally I think their lives were chaotic when on tour or when they lived in the South of France. Well good luck to them for making it to 50 years and all alive unbelievable that Keith managed to kick the habit as it was serious for sure, good on him. I first came across Hurricane Crossfire on Australian SBS2 TV watched it then decided to order some fro Amazon. Each week they feature different band or famous people. The saddest of them was watching Phil Spector documentary obviously he was a genius but a flawed one.
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At present this 1970 musical masterpiece is only available on BLU RAY in the States. But therein lies a problem for UK and European buyers…

The US issue is REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK Blu Ray players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't). Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.

Until such time as someone else gives “Gimme Shelter” a long-overdue REGION B and C release – check your BLU RAY player has the capacity to play REGION A – before you buy the pricey Criterion issue…
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on 19 March 2010
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. That said, the Angels' role in the chaos at Altamont was not quite so fundamental as the film suggests, and the vast majority of the three hundred thousand or so people present at the concert were unaware of the drama near the front. The film's key scene too, the stabbing to death of a young black man in front of the stage as the Stones perform, gives the impression that all was wound up quickly afterwards, when in fact the Stones, unaware of the seriousness of the incident, performed several more songs before ending their set.

Music is naturally to the fore in Gimme Shelter and there is a lot of it: we see the Stones performing five songs in New York and listening to some new ones at Muscle Shoals - Wild Horses, Brown Sugar, and You Gotta Move - which would surface on the Sticky Fingers album in 1971. Tina Turner puts in a raunchy appearance (Ike and Tina Turner and BB King were the support acts during the Stones' 69 tour) and the Flying Burrito Brothers and Jefferson Airplane are seen briefly at Altamont. The real beauty of Gimme Shelter, however, is in how the Maysles' unobtrusive style is intensified by so many sublime scenes and images that need no explanation: a lingering close-up of a sleepy Keith Richards' battered snakeskin boots and a stark image of a crop-haired Hells Angel staring malevolently at Mick Jagger onstage at Altamont are two images that perfectly illustrate the jarring clash between decadent laissez-faire rock and roll and blue-collar biker machismo that led to the main drama of this film. No words were needed.

Gimme Shelter is an absolute gem of a film that in my view is the best of its type. It's a beautifully understated work that at the same time screams drama and tension. It could be argued that clever editing must inevitably be seen as a form of manipulation, but in the case of Gimme Shelter no such subterfuge was necessary; the events themselves were dramatic enough. It only needed someone to record them faithfully from several angles and present them coherently, which the Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin did, concisely and memorably. Albert Maysles once said that the fundamental difference between Gimme Shelter and Woodstock was that the first was true and the second wasn't. He may have been blowing his own trumpet but he was absolutely correct nevertheless. Gimme Shelter is highly recommended.
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on 12 January 2014
I remember watching the Woodstock movie on BBC3 a while ago and thinking it would be a far better film if they focused more on the festival-goers and less on the music which, with the exception of The Who and Parliament, is bloody awful. And for the first thirty minutes, it seemed Gimmie Shelter was heading the same way.
The movie starts with a gig in Madison Square Gardens and in truth the band are terrible. Jumping Jack Flash is cringe-inducing with Jagger not even attempting to sing the melody. And it doesn't get better as each song in turn just seems to splutter to an uncomfortable halt. I was disappointed alright.
I was wrong.
At Altamont, the Stones are magnificent. Sympathy for the Devil and Under My Thumb simply must be seen/ heard to be believed. The gig should have been their career performance. If it wasn't for the crowd.
The crowd. To be honest, i find i can't lay the blame for the chaos entirely at the feet of The Hells Angels. They were handed a responability which was so far beyond their capabilities it's no wonder they cracked under the strain of it. And the man they murdered did have a gun in his hand. That said, a few of them were genuinely psychotic (there's a bit when, i swear, one of them actually seems to be turning into a werewolf!)
So, Gimmie Shelter is worth a watch whether your a fan or not. Just keep an open mind, man!
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on 27 December 2008
First of all, let's just give thanks that this is available again at long last. A small number of bands in rock history have been able to whip up a kind of Dionysian ecstacy on stage, and the Rolling Stones of course lead the way. All the proof needed for that assertion is provided by the version of Satisfaction, which takes it into another dimension. But while we're on the subject of Dionysian ecstacy, what about the band's other great film, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones, which documents their legendary 1972 US tour? I once saw a clip of "Happy" from that film and ever since I've been praying for more. Rolling Stones fans are probably the most poorly served of any rock constituency. The live album of the 1969 tour lacks impact due to poor mastering -- so easy to rectify -- and doesn't have the monumental version of Satisfaction. And the 1972 tour isn't documented on record at all. Why? Compare The Who and their sensationally mastered Live at Leeds and Live at the Young Vic Deluxe albums. Giving the two Stones live albums -- assuming that one will eventually be released from the 1972 tour -- the same sonic treatment will cement their reputation as greatest live act of all time forever.
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