Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Decline Of Western Civilization, The

Collapse
X
Collapse
  •  
    Ian Jane
    Administrator

  • Decline Of Western Civilization, The



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: March 4th, 2016.
    Director: Penelope Spheeris
    Cast: The Germs, Black Flag, X, Circle Jerks, Fear
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    The first of Penelope Spheeris' three features in The Decline Of Western Civilization series, from 1981, takes a look at the punk scene that was, at the time festering in the underbelly of Los Angeles. Spheeris, from off camera, interviews various participants in the scene from band members to fans to club owners and more. Spheeris really just turns the camera on and lets it roll, letting the interviewees go on various rants and cutting in live footage from a bunch of different punk bands, some more fondly remembered than others, in between the interview segments. It's a simple tactic to create what is essentially a simple movie but by being in the right place at the right time and by making the right connections Spheeris was able to create not only an interesting and entertaining look at a subculture as it was developing but also a film that would go on to become a very important document of the California punk scene in general. Seriously, they show this movie in museums now, and for good reason.

    The interviews are interesting for various reasons. We get to see the late Darby Crash of The Germs and his girlfriend in their apartment cooking eggs and talking about why Darby has to get so stoned and/or drunk before each show and we get a guided tour of the closet that Black Flag's Ron Reyes called home at this period in his life, rented in an old church for sixteen dollars a month. The members of X are a bit more coherent as they talk about their band while Slash Fanzine editor/Catholic Discipline frontman Claude Bessy gives his opinion on pretty much everything whether you want to hear it or not.

    Of course, the live performances are a huge draw here too. Throughout the movie's ninety minute running time we get:

    Black Flag: Depression/Revenge/White Minority
    The Germs: Manimal/Shutdown
    Catholic Discipline: Barbee Doll Lust/Underground Babylon
    X: Beyond And Back/Johnny Hit And Run Paulene/Nausea
    Circle Jerks: Back Against The Wall/Beverly Hills/I Just Want Some Skank/Red Tape/Wasted
    Alice Bag Band: Gluttony/Prowlers In The Night
    FEAR: Beef Bologna/I Don't Care About You/I Love Living In The City/Let's Have A War/Fear Anthem

    All of the live material here is worth watching. Catholic Discipline vary from Black Flag who have at least a lead singer in common with The Circle Jerks who don't sound at all like X who don't sound at all like The Germs who aren't fronted by a woman like the Alice Bag Band are who don't draw nearly as much spit or vitriol from the crowd as the might FEAR manage to do. All of this stuff, even if it is judiciously edited, is gold for fans of late seventies/early eighties west coast punk rock. Even if the music doesn't move you, it's still worth checking out just for the insanity of it all. Case in point? Crash blasted out of his mind on stage letting audience members draw all over him with a Sharpie. Just say no, kids. Drugs are bad.

    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Press materials for this release state that The Decline Of Western Civilization features a new 2K high-definition scan of the film, supervised by Spheeris. In keeping with the spirit of the rebellious times in which the footage was shot, the vintage aspects have been respected, and the film retains its original feel. That sums it up quite well, actually. The film is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in fullframe, which seems correct. Given that this never had a legitimate DVD release anywhere in the world the point of reference is going to be either old VHS tapes or bootleg DVD-Rs made from grey market sources and not surprisingly, the transfer here comes out on top in a big, big way. Detail is quite strong in the film though thankfully it doesn't look like any tinkering has been done to the grainy, gritty aesthetic that has been employed. Minor print damage shows up in the form of some small specks but never to the point of distraction. Colors are reproduced quite nicely and contrast looks good (even in the occasional black and white sequences used here and there). There weren't any obvious compression issues noted nor were there any problems with edge enhancement or noise reduction.

    Audio options are provided in DTS-HD Mono and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio with removable subtitles offered in English only. There's a bit of hiss and static in some scenes and it's been left there as that's just sort of how these movie sounds. As to the surround mix, they spread out the music and occasionally the crowd reaction in some scenes but purists will no doubt prefer the original mixes that are included here instead. Both tracks for the film sound good enough though. Dialogue is always crisp and clean and clear and the levels are nicely balanced throughout.

    The extras on the disc kick off with an audio commentary with director Penelope Spheeris and box set producer Anna Fox (Spheeris' daughter). This is a scene specific talk that offers up some pretty interesting information about the movie (hey, Eugene is now a folk singer?), how and why the announcements were put together they way they are, Spheeris' impressions of the various people that she interviewed (not just the performers but the club owners as well), her thoughts on her relationship with the late Brendan Mullen, what went into putting the transfer together for the movie and why she took it upon herself to do as much work here as she did. She also talks about getting to know Darby and his mom, why certain angles were chosen for the live shoots, whether or not Billy Zoom is the coolest guy in the world, why some of the backdrops at the live shoots are just paper, and of course, that infamous footage of FEAR that closes out the movie and why they 'went on last' in the movie. It's a pretty interesting talk, well paced and quite informative. If you dig the movie, take the time to listen to this.

    The first film also includes a second audio commentary by musician/filmmaker Dave Grohl (if they were going to go with a Foo Fighter then Pat Smear would have made more sense, but I digress). This track is basically Grohl giving a 'personal commentary' about the movie, explaining why it's a favorite of his and why the soundtrack album was so important as well. It's obviously not the gold mine of trivia and stories that Spheeris' track is but if you're a Grohl fan and want to know about how he connects to his movie and how and why it influenced him, you'll probably enjoy it. He talks about the honesty in the lyrics of the music featured in the movie, how kids got inspired by early punk to start their own bands, and just general observations about the movie in general.

    From there, be sure to check out the Never Before Seen Footage where X sign their record contract (2:48 of what is basically X and their friends having a BBQ with Slash records celebrating their contract) and where we tour The Masque (a 7:56 piece in which Mullen shows us around and talks about the rise and then the fall of the underground dive club that he ran for a period of time). Probably even more awesome than that is the Never Before Seen Performances where we get more live footage from the shoot featuring FEAR (We Destroy The Family, No More Nothing, Waiting For The Gas, Fresh Flesh running 7:23 in total), The Germs (Lexicon Devil, Let's Pretend running 4:55 in total) and The Gears (Elk's Lodge Blues with a 2:08 run time). The FEAR footage in particular here is great, it's just as rowdy as what wound up being used in the feature cut of the movie. Extended Interviews section where we get to spend a bit more quality time with the members of Black Flag, The Germs, and X. Probably even more awesome than that is the Additional Performances where we get more live footage from the shoot featuring Fear, The Germs and The Gears.

    The Additional Extras section contains a 5:06 minute piece from the Henry Rollins Show where he interviews Penelope Spheeris about the film. She notes here that she originally wanted him for the lead in Suburbia but that he was too busy with Black Flag at the time to take her up on the offer. It also has all of the Announcements (2:44) that are in the opening of the movie here in their original unedited form. Darby is even more unintelligible here than you'd think. The theatrical trailer is included in this section as well.

    Rounding out the extras are some Extended Interviews segments that show the full length interviews shot with Black Flag (16:44, there's some interesting alternate footage here including a dramatic reading of the lyrics to 'Depression'), Darby and his Girlfriend in the apartment (15:16, everyone is wasted but you probably knew that already), X (10:28, look for Spheeris in a rare on camera appearance in a great jacket!), Brendan Mullen (8:36, more of his thoughts on the music and the scene with the city behind him), The Germs' Manager Nicole (16:40, showing some cool split screen footage with her talking about The Germs and Darby doing his thing beside her) and the Light Bulb Kids (8:04, Pat Smear shows up here as do the two punk girls and Eugene and the rest), the latter being the punk kids interviewed against the light bulk backdrop in the movie. Animated menus and chapter selection are also on the disc.

    The Final Word:

    If you don't already have the boxed set and just want the first film in the run, this is the disc for you. The movie, which is essential for anyone with an interest in the California punk rock scene of the early eighties, is presented in great shape and with an amazing selection of extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















      Posting comments is disabled.

    Latest Articles

    Collapse

    • Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      by Ian Jane


      Released by: Severin Films
      Released on: January 30th, 2024.
      Director: Jess Franco
      Cast: Howard Vernon, Alberto Dalbes, Anne Libert, Dennis Price, Luis Barboo
      Year: 1971
      Purchase From Amazon

      Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein – Movie Review:

      In a remote European village Count Dracula (Franco regular Howard Vernon of The Awful Dr. Orloff and a zillion others) is roaming the area sucking the blood from some of the local ladies. When
      ...
      02-25-2024, 11:23 AM
    • Vile 21 (VHShitfest) Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      by Ian Jane


      Released by: VHShitfest
      Released on: January 30th, 2024.
      Director: Mike Strain Jr.
      Cast: Daniel Skinner, Brian Southwick, Ronnie Sorter
      Year: 1997
      Purchase From Amazon

      Vile 21 – Movie Review:

      Mike Strain Jr.’s 1997 shot on video horror/sci-fi opus, Vile 21, is set in the future of 2020 and introduces us to a scientist named Dr. Walter Hall (Daniel Skinner) who, through hard work and research, has created an experimental serum
      ...
      02-23-2024, 06:57 PM
    • Contagion (Warner Brothers) UHD Review
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      by Ian Jane


      Released by: Warner Brothers
      Released on: February 27th, 2024.
      Director: Steven Soderbergh
      Cast: Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet
      Year: 2011
      Purchase From Amazon

      Contagion – Movie Review:

      Steven Soderbergh's 2011 film works on a simple and effectively horrifying premise - a nasty virus has been let loose and it's spreading around the world. That's really all there is in
      ...
      02-23-2024, 06:45 PM
    • Black Tight Killers (Radiance Films) Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      by Ian Jane


      Released by: Radiance Films
      Released on: February 26th, 2024.
      Director: Yasuharu Hasebe
      Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Chieko Matsubara, Meiko Nishio
      Year: 1966
      Purchase From Amazon

      Black Tight Killers – Movie Review:

      The directorial debut of Seijun Suzuki protégé Yasuharu Hasebe, 1966's Black Tight Killers opens with a scene wherein a war photographer named Daisuke Hondo (Akira Kobayashi) does his best to capture the action during
      ...
      02-21-2024, 03:08 PM
    • eXistenZ (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      by Ian Jane


      Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
      Released on:
      Director: David Cronenberg
      Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Don McKeller, Willem Dafoe, Ian Holm
      Year: 1999
      Purchase From Amazon

      eXistenZ – Movie Review:

      Written and directed by David Cronenberg in 1999, eXistenZ may not hold the same level of critical acclaim as some of the director's other films - Videodrome and The Fly remake both come to mind. It is, however, a very original
      ...
      02-14-2024, 03:05 PM
    • Darkman (Scream Factory) UHD/Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      by Ian Jane


      Released by: Scream Factory
      Released on: February 20th, 2024.
      Director: Sam Raimi
      Cast: Liam Neeson, Francis McDormand, Larry Drake
      Year: 1990
      Purchase From Amazon

      Darkman – Movie Review:

      Before Sam Raimi was famous for the Spider-Man films, he'd cut his teeth one another superhero movie. Originally intended to be an adaptation of The Shadow, Raimi created Darkman when the rights couldn't be obtained for that character. The result
      ...
      02-14-2024, 03:00 PM
    Working...
    X