The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980) Poster

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3/10
A tissue of lies
tonygillan5 December 2006
To this day, Malcolm McLaren is telling anyone daft enough to believe him that the Sex Pistols were his idea and that the band members were his puppets to be used to make him money. There is a good reason for him doing this, namely that he is a liar.

Here are some real facts.

* McLaren was actually approached by the band to be manager, not the other way round.

* The Pistols were a proper, organic band and not created by McLaren or anyone else. Jones and Cook were childhood friends. Rotten and Vicious went back a long way too. This is something that has led to unfair criticism of the Pistols down the years as they have been likened to manufactured boy bands.

* The band and no one else wrote the songs, recorded them, played live, created the publicity and gave the interviews.

* McLaren did not instigate the Bill Grundy incident. The Pistols only appeared on the programme because Queen had pulled out. According to the band, McLaren was cowering in the back in case arrests were about to be made.

* Johnny Rotten walked out of the band. He was not sacked.

* Far from outwitting the Sex Pistols, John Lydon (Rotten) actually successfully sued him in the 1980s for control and a considerable sum of money. Some of the evidence used by Lydon's lawyers was from McLaren's boasting in 'The Great Rock & Roll Swindle'. This would suggest that McLaren is none too bright despite his affectations.

* The sackings and subsequent pay offs from A & M and EMI were, again, not engineered, it was merely the way things panned out.

* McLaren boasts about the money he made from the band. If he had been competent, he could have made a great deal more. It seems he coudn't even organise gigs properly.

* McLaren's claim at the start of the film that he invented punk rock can be disproved in about ten seconds. The Pistols were not the first punk band, merely the most high profile.

This is a terrible film. The only parts worth watching are the genuine footage of the band, later put to much better use in 'The Filth And The Fury'.
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5/10
I feel swindled every time someone gives this credit...a fan speaks!.
Spikeopath12 December 2008
It really surprises me that anyone can say this is remotely important in the pantheon of Punk Rock. It's an incoherent abomination formulated by someone so submerged in his own world he forgot to tell a story of note. The story of The Sex Pistols has now, here in the new millennium, finally been laid down to some semblance of truth, a truth that thankfully shows the manager of the band to be the oblivious money grabber he was. When you watch director Julien Temple's brilliant documentary, The Filth And The Fury, and then come back to this mess of a picture, you wonder how in gods name it has achieved cult status.

Its worth (I own it) comes down to the songs and the videos of those tunes, I mean where else are you going to get to see Sid Vicious' videos? Ones that show us he would have made a great Punk singer had he not spiralled out of control and met a foggy heroin fuelled death. The animated ending as Friggin In The Riggin plays out is enough to warrant this as a small price purchase, but please folks can we have some focus, I lived it, I still live it in fact, but it's an appalling picture, badly edited, badly told and saved purely by the music alone. Music that the band's manager had no creative input into at all, he shall forever be nameless to me, where once he proclaimed to be a puppet master, time now shows him to purely be a Muppet and most definitely not a master of anything.

The Great Rock And Roll Swindle, 5/10 for the music alone.
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4/10
A weird, disjointed, dishonest bore
Electrified_Voltage15 July 2009
The brief existence of the Sex Pistols and the making of this film after the controversial, groundbreaking English punk band's break-up both happened before I was born. However, I started listening to their only album, "Never Mind the B*&%@#&s, Here's the Sex Pistols", in 2003, when I was a teenager, and quickly became a big fan. I didn't see "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" until 2006, but saw it a couple times that year, and thought it was pretty good (certainly not great, but pretty good), even if I could only remember bits of it, and didn't see how it all connected. Seeing it a third time, nearly three years after the second, I didn't care much for it at all. I'm not even sure what I found so good about most of it in the first place (can't remember now).

This film is a mockumentary, in which Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren tells his side of the story of the band and its members; guitarist Steve Jones, credited here as "The Crook"; drummer Paul Cook, credited as "The Tea-Maker"; bassist Sid Vicious, credited as "The Gimmick"; and John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) credited as "The Collaborator." McLaren claims that he created the band (and even the genre of punk rock) as a scam to make money. He tells much of the story to Helen Wellington-Lloyd (a.k.a. Helen of Troy), in various places where they go together. It's basically a hodgepodge of McLaren talking, Pistols songs, live footage of the band, fictional scenes (often silly, strange ones), several cartoon sequences, etc., all put together in one film, to tell the Pistols manager's side of the story in a bizarre way!

It has been well proved that McLaren is a liar, I know many have already pointed this out, including band members themselves. He was NOT the driving force of the band, he didn't create them (nor did he invent punk rock, and the Sex Pistols weren't even the first punk band, though they were unique). The band members were the ones who made the band what it was. "The Filth and the Fury", a much more believable film about the band from Julien Temple, who made this film, is told from the point of view of the band members, who contradict McLaren's claims. However, the dishonesty of "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" is not my biggest problem with it. If it were actually entertaining (which I used to think it was to a certain extent), I would be able to overlook that, like I obviously used to be able to do. During my third viewing, apart from Sex Pistols songs, some live footage, and at least one mildly amusing cartoon sequence, it was pretty dull! I found the "Who Killed Bambi" song mildly amusing at first, but it got tiring very quickly.

Is this mockumentary worth watching for Sex Pistols fans? It seems a good number of fans would say it is, not to learn about the true story of the short-lived but groundbreaking 70's punk band, but for entertainment. That was once my opinion on "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle". After the first time I watched it, I couldn't remember a thing McLaren said, and by the time I saw it the second time, I was aware of what the Pistols manager was using this film to imply, but could still barely remember anything I heard him say! Obviously, other aspects of the film were what I found impressive. Now, after my third viewing, I can definitely remember some of the things McLaren says, but it still wasn't 100% clear. Like most of the film, I guess his words are not that memorable, probably because of the way they are presented. If you're a Pistols fan, I guess it wouldn't hurt to give "Swindle" a try, but to me, for the most part, it's just an incoherent, boring mess that tries to be funny but fails.
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5/10
The Inflated God Awful Dwindle
Pretentious_crap31 August 2009
As I've had the sound track for many years, I finally took the opportunity to watch the movie. My initial response was that this movie seemed so sliced and diced, it made the editing of "Manos: The Hands of Fate" look like brain surgery by comparison. My guess is that Malcolm McLaren had multiple cans of Sex Pistols footage lying around, and was having a difficult time trying to make a film out of it. To get his creative juices flowing, he'd cut segments from every reel; roll them up; snort lines of cocaine with them, and finally tell Julian Temple "to fix that bit of film with this bit I just used". Whilst in the process, the coke inflated McLaren's ego, and he came up with the idea to make the incomplete "Who Killed Bambi" into a documentary explaining how he orchestrated everything!

This movie tries so hard to be clever, instead it just seems immature and uninspired. All there is going on, is that we have band members doing dumb things; McLaren claiming credit though without any proof backing up anything he's saying, and some decent footage of Sex Pistols shows.

Some many years later, the film was pretty much confirmed as a lie, in that time McLaren wasn't known to repeat the same method and end up with the same results. These days this film is considered a tongue-in-cheek mockumentary instead of a pile of crap. So, there really was no reason to make this film, other than money.

The only value this film has is that it contains archival footage, other than that it really didn't need to be told in the fictitious tale of McLaren. It would've done better if it was narrated to the audience like it was a scrapbook. But, because it's told in such a fictitious manner the audience is left possibly irritated, or numb.

I'd give it a 8/10 because it contains decent live footage of a band I love. But, I'd give it 3/10 because the movie is a lie; so poorly edited, and presented to the audience that it is supposed to be an actual film. I meet in the middle at 5/10.
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5/10
This is the fiction, yo
lvanderlingen18 May 2015
I was a 2nd-generation punk in New Zealand, selling my soul to this awesome raw-cuss r'n'r movement in 1979. I was quite excited to see this flick on the big screen, but 15 minutes into the film my friends & I started growing restless, feeling that the ones who'd been swindled were ourselves. Oh well. This still stands as an interesting snapshot of "Talcy Malcy's" version of events,but anyone with half a brain to rub together (& had read more than one NME punk expose on punk rock) could discern it as utter bollox.

So, be advised, youngsters, this is Malcolm's wet dream of himself as the king of all Svengali, whereas the truth was FAR from that. Malcolm had no major game plan beyond stirring things up, and while he should be credited for providing "the lads" with a focus in his Sex boutique (and an education in Seditionist politics), much credit must also be given to Vivienne Westwood's fashion ideas.

Naturally, Johnny Rotten's contributions are shamelessly ignored (he famously impressed Malcolm by wearing a Pink Floyd tee-shirt with "I Hate" scrawled at the top before he'd even joined the Pistols), due to the fact he'd left the group in disgust by the time this sad cash-grab of a film came to fruition.

So - watch 'The Filth & The Fury' for the fact, & watch this for the fiction. There ya go! :-)
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2/10
Did we ever find out who did kill Bambi?
m-vinteuil22 January 2009
From the epicenter of the cultural globe, four working class teenagers attempted to change the world through music and fashion. It was the final attempt to do so last century, and they failed. Before the dust had cleared, band manager and SEX shop proprietor Malcolm McLaren spent the money The Sex Pistols had earned to make a "mockumentary" about his own role in their success. The film was called The Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle (take the hint) and consists of very little footage of The Sex Pistols actually playing music, and quite a lot of footage of McLaren effectively calling the audience idiots.

Cod-surrealist nonsense in which guitarist Steve Jones is a detective on McLaren's tail, soon dissolves so he and drummer Paul Cook can jet off to Rio and spend time with "great train robber" Ronnie Biggs. Ready yourself for the spectacle of three very unappealing men dancing naked to a hideous irony-free version of "Belsen was a Gas" (a song about killing Jews for gold in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp), and another song sung in Ronnie's tone deaf whine which includes the lyrics "God save Myra Hindley, God save Ian Brady" (lyrics that Johnny Rotten would have considered distasteful). The Sid Vicious scenes are few and idiotic. Jumping out of bed in a thong with a swastika over the testicles to sing some bad boy biker song from the '50s. Playing into to the "Punk's a joke" theme of the movie, in an attempt to turn Sid into James Dean. I'm surprised McLaren doesn't take credit for Siddy's death too. The redeeming scenes are those of Sid in Paris and the infamous performance of My Way. The punk rock zeitgeist right there. Mocking an adoring audience before shooting them all. No need for an entire film, just watch that clip on YouTube.

From Julien Temple's far superior (and more enjoyable) 2001 documentary followup, The Filth and the Fury, we were given a more balanced/honest view of what transpired in '78. But there were also a number of scenes that I would have liked to have seen in Swindle (as Fury was basically a reediting of the same material). One was an animated Sid complete with Sid's voice acting; "You f*cken betta wat'ch out, alright, or I'll slice you open" - a still of which appeared on the cover of the Something Else 7 inch - a snippet was shown in Fury, but I don't know what context that originally appeared. Was it in original prints, but removed after Sid's death? Was there more? Fury also shed light on the film Who Killed Bambi, which would have been the mock Hard Day's Night movie McLaren was originally intending to make. It starred Sting(!) as a member of a gay New Romantics group, and looked a damn sight more entertaining than Swindle.

Sod Swindle, t'is a swindle. If you must, rent The Filth and The Fury and revel in music's failure as a world changing polemic.
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4/10
Useless, self-indulgent
matlock-624 February 2002
Not only is The Great Rock N Roll Swindle thoroughly inaccurate, but when it comes down to it, not much about it is interesting or even entertaining. Malcolm McLaren apparently squandered the majority of the Sex Pistols earnings on this waste of film, which makes it that much more obnoxious. The intention, from the beginning, was to create a monument to the "genius" of McLaren, who to this day takes full credit for creating punk music, creating the Sex Pistols, and at times even writing all the songs. Viewers follow McLaren to various settings, where he tells his story to his sidekick, a female dwarf, and simply takes credit for one thing after another. One particularly irritating scene has McLaren in an abandoned airplane hangar, waiting for a plane, being hounded by reporters and giving them their "big story". The most entertaining elements of the film are the animated short pieces, however, even these reek of McLaren's overbearing self-importance.

Even as a farce, this film doesn't work. Little about it is entertaining, except for Steve Jones, who is surprisingly decent as a pseudo-detective type person. 20 years later, Julien Temple, who wrote and directed this film, also directed the Sex Pistols documentary "The Filth and the Fury". While that movie is much better and more interesting than "Swindle", it still is full of Temple's "artistic flourishes" that just don't work, like interviewing band members in shadow, as if they are some kind of crime witness trying to hide their identity. An interesting bit of trivia: Film critic Roger Ebert was one of the original scriptwriters for the movie "Who Killed Bambi?", which eventually became "Swindle".
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10/10
Should come as a double pack with The Filth & The Fury called "Two Sides To Every Story"
yorkchaser9 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Of course this isn't the real story of the Sex Pistols, but who cares? It's still a laugh... The opening credit's theme song (Steve on drums and Paul on guitar... Eh?) gave us the wonderful and future host of TV's Crystal Maze, Tenpole Tudor (even Sid is giggling, Tenpole's such a loony), before rocketing into a ridiculously wonderful "Malcolm McLaren as God kissing his own cheeks" slice of film.

It's good fun, but if this is the only Pistols film you ever see, don't take what's said as what happened, this is purely McLaren's fantasy.

Quite a bit of the live footage in this film turned up in the excellent "The Filth & The Fury", but here it uses the actual sound rather than simply overdubbing it with the album versions. Damn they were good when they were on form!

Best bits? The Pistols (with John & Sid) rehearsing "No Feelings" in a studio without the unnecessary album overdub used in Filth & Fury (sounds even better here - see, Vicious can play bass, sort of...) Archive footage of people boycotting Pistols gigs in Wales:

Interviewer: "Excuse me sir, can you tell me why you're here tonight?"

Bloke: "Because I'm recognised as a Christian!"

Bloke 2: "Ive got teenage daughters... I'd let them go and see Rod Stewart but I wouldn't let them see this rubbish!"

Woman: "I think it's degrading and disgusting for our children to hear and see such things. If I thought one of mine was in there I'd go in and drag them out; terrible I think it is, just disgusting" etc. Hilarious!

No more to be said, except a few points of pub trivia to bore your friends with: Lemmy from Motorhead taught Sid to play bass as he was about to join The Pistols over 3 days, before giving up (apparently he was unteachable). Chrisie Hynde from the Pretenders was supposed to marry Sid in order to stay in the country. During the always wrongly quoted Grundy interview, Johnny says "Oh alright, so you're playing games, I'm really impressed" and not that rubbish about "Oh alright, Siegfried" that is given in every transcript.

Couple this with The Filth and The Fury for an entertaining evening's viewing before you dig out Never Mind The B*llocks, play it very loud and realise how good it still sounds...

Tenpole should have joined The Cramps! Would have been comedy central!

The Sex Pistols: an important point in musical history. You gotta love 'em!
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yeah, swindle. for real. rotters
buyjesus8 June 2004
after seeing John Lydon break down over the senseless exploitation of sid vicious when he absolutely hit bottom in Temple's other sex pistols film "The Filth and the Fury," he must have wanted to disown this little piece of trashy lucre. the finale with its spinning headlines and the anka-fueled massacre are just the tips of the iceberg on the meaty, excessive collage film assembled here.

the star on board is mclaren, in full sleazeball form. to the unsuspecting eye, it seems like an act. it is, of course, until you realize that it's the same act he kept up in the public eye for years, while running his little pet project dry. mclaren cut his teeth on theater of the absurd and fancies his managerial life a kind of kaufman-esque performance. the only problem is that mclaren often-times does not have the consent of his lab rats, a bunch of naughty British hooligans that called themselves the sex pistols (no, mclaren did NOT come up with the name).

therefore, it's partially amusing to watch mclaren credit himself with inventing the wheel in punk rock, and partially disgusting when you approach the subject matter knowing he gave nary a shat about the well-being of his bandmates nor the political and social commentary they, especially rotten, were trying to convey. mclaren was more interested in assembling a forefather to reality TV- life as nihilistic, self-imploding art.

the movie itself is not much. there's laughs here and there, but mostly it's a bloated and deadweight companion piece to "The Filth and the Fury," mostly wound into watchability by excellent live performances and some bizarre visual interpretations of songs (some of which seem hardly composed on a punk rock budget). "who killed bambi" (also mclaren's idea with none of the band members really interested in the idea) shows up in several parts and proves to be a quite pointless endeavor.

the majority of punk rock was not known for its rock star exploits off the stage (in fact, that was kinda the point- that these werent rock stars at all). if there had to have been a band to make a boisterous film with sex and drugs and midgets and animation and disco dancing, it's probably best that it was the sex pistols. overall, this film should be mostly reserved for hardcore fans, though others may find value in the sheer novelty of the package. but do yourself a favor and see "filth" first.
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8/10
Patch-worked movie about the Sex Pistols is a hit and miss project.
Captain_Couth19 November 2003
During the Sex Pistols heyday, their manager Malcolm McLaren had an idea to market the band as a noveaux Beatles. From 19776-1980, McLaren spent the band's money trying get the film off the ground. He went through several directors and writers until he finally settled on Julien Temple (a young film-maker). Temple and McLaren himself shot hours and hours of footage, sketches and concert footage. After working on this project for almost four years and with nothing resembling anything like a coherent movie, Temple decided to make a collage out of the footage and re-shot and edited the useful film segments and made a surprisingly entertaining film (considering the tight budget and time restraints). By the time the movie was released, Sid Vicious was dead, John Lydon was in Public Image Limited and Paul Cook and Steve Jones were in a new wave band called the Professionals. Neither of them were even speaking to their former manager. So, at the last minute, Temple decided to make the movie about the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols.

As for the band members, John Lydon didn't want to have anything to do with McLaren's project. Sid Vicious went along because of the money he was promised, ditto for Cook and Jones. The three former band members participated in the film without Lydon. Most of the music for the soundtrack was composed by Paul Cook and Steve Jones, Sid Vicious sang vocals on a few tracks but the music was played by Cook and Jones. Watch for Nancy Spurgen, she makes cameos in several of Sid Vicious sketches. Several scenes from the movie that showed up on the double album soundtrack do not appear in the final cut of the film. Maybe one day they'll release a director's cut of the movie. Yes, that is the Great Train Robbery participant Ronnie Biggs playing himself in the movie. He even sings on a couple of tracks and he's not that bad of a lead vocalist.

Recommended for fans of British punk and of the Sex Pistols.
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8/10
Great movie, wrongfully bashed
bbarkeriii33 March 2013
This is very important right here, people whine and cry about how it is an inaccurate representation of the pistols upbringing, well, they would by right, BUT this film is what is called a "mockumentary", a fake documentary! It's not real! And it's obviously stated too! Its a fictionalization, it's meant to be humorous, and it is. Yes Johnny and Malcolm hated each other, but think! There is more people Johnny hated than not! (Love you john!) Overall, people who hate on this film because "it's inaccurate" are not intelligent, don't listen to them. Besides, it's a great laugh and a great display of their music and its a great film for any sex pistols fan. A must see for pistols fans
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One entertaining piece of music history
sick_boy420xxx13 June 2001
Pseudo-documentary about the revolutionary Sex Pistols and the creation of the British punk movement told through images, songs, animation, interviews, and other genuinely entertaining bits and pieces. The film is more of a creative work then a documentary, as it weaves a story about how the Pistols swindled music company after music company, behind their dictatorial manager, Malcolm McLaren. If nothing else, a must for fans of punk music or the Pistols, as their is a lot of interesting archival footage of the band from their brief but legendary existence. A lot of good songs too, including a disco version of 3 of the Pistols's hits, and my personal favorite, "Friggin in the Riggin," set to an animated sequence paralleling the Pistols's history.
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A Rollicking Rock 'n' Roll Movie
Mr.K15 September 1999
Julien Temple's inaccurate depiction of the rise and fall of British punk pioneers the Sex Pistols is nevertheless an entertaining tale of life in the music industry. Told from the perspective of the group's erstwhile manager Malcolm Mclaren, it charts the creation, development, hyping and subsequent implosion of the Sex Pistols, up to early 1979, when bass player Sid Vicious committed suicide.

Drawing on archive footage (not all of which is authentic), mixed with animation, newsreels and Mclaren's narration - the film is often as haphazard and random as the genre it speaks of, but, bolstered with music by the Sex Pistols (And peculiar partnerships of the group with odd guests, such as Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs), the film trundles along at a cheerful pace.

Much of the film is in exceptionally bad taste (The nude teenager "Sue Catwoman" - whose underwear was visibly chromakeyed in when the censors refused to pass the scene, the pedophile music boss, Martin Boormann singing "Belsen Was A Gas", for example), and its rambling plot bears testimony to the numerous rewites needed over the three years it took to produce, during which time the director was replaced (Russ Meyer was originally to direct), the financial backers changed more than once, the Sex Pistols formally split up, the film was retitled from "Who Killed Bambi?", and Sid Vicious died having (allegedly) killed his girlfriend.

In real terms, the film is not brilliant, and its factual inaccuracies have since been proven in court, but as an artistic statement and a chronicle of the punk scene in London in 1978, it's very enjoyable, and should form part of any serious music-fan's "History" section.
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8/10
Very interesting movie
margus-kiis5 February 2005
I know that there are McLaren's side and Lydon's side and they hate each other. And Lydonists also hate this movie. For me they are both nasty and egocentric guys with their bad and good ideas. Whatever. I don't care about the ideology of the movie. But the movie is surprisingly good and interesting. I have seen several rock films and this is one of bests. Documentary, fiction, feature parts and animations are cut together in very entertaining way and I don't see any problem in directing and acting. Surprisingly professional movie. And maybe without "Swindle..." we wouldn't have so much footages of Sex Pistols and the whole 70's punk scene.
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1/10
Headache-inducing nonsense
InjunNose12 August 2017
As far back as the spring of 1977, Malcolm McLaren had been trying to get a film about the Sex Pistols off the ground. At that time, the punk craze which the Pistols had spearheaded was flourishing in the UK even as McLaren "managed" the band into a blind alley; by 1980, when this abomination of a film was finally released, the Pistols were no more and punk had splintered into a confusing variety of subgenres. What does "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" tell the viewer about the Sex Pistols and why they mattered? Sadly, not much. 'That film was us preventing the whole thing from turning into a dreadful tragedy and turning it into a fantastic enigma,' McLaren said years later in "England's Dreaming", Jon Savage's definitive book on UK punk. 'That's what we tried to do, to lie incredibly.' In that regard they succeeded, but McLaren's statement was pure bullshit: he and director Julien Temple lied out of necessity. Vocalist John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) had left the band in early 1978, and budgetary constraints prevented the hiring of actors for anything more than a few minor roles, so McLaren *had* to take center stage. The end result was a long, disjointed rant (padded with live footage, interviews, animated sequences and painfully unfunny scenes intended as comic relief) about how causing the Pistols to self-destruct had been his master plan all along, and it's terrible. Only during a performance of the title song does it look as if anyone's having any fun. McLaren repeatedly insists that the music itself was meaningless, that he was interested only in attracting adolescent fans 'who loved to dress up and mess up.' Which begs the age-old question: was punk ever about music, or was it just a pose? That query will elicit a broad range of responses from the various participants in the movement. But ask guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook (who had formed the group before McLaren entered the picture, and for whom the Sex Pistols were a labor of love) and they'll tell you that the Pistols were a rock 'n' roll band, plain and simple. They're right. The gestures--the haircuts, the silly clothes, the pretensions of revolution--were empty. It's the music that endures.
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Debunking of punk
cwarne_uk8 February 2003
This is basically just an attempt by Talcy Malc to claim all of the credit for the Sex Pistols. As a movie it barely hangs together. It does give a chance to see some otherwise unavailable concert footage. The bits of "Who Killed Bambi?" that are kept in look far more interesting. I believe that in addition to being scripted by Roger Ebert the direction is by sleaze-king Russ Meyer (I may be wrong there).
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9/10
The best atmosphere of the punk-scene i´ve ever seen
Victor-3527 September 1999
One of the best movies in my collection, and it is a big collection. The actors are bad, but they are punk-rockers. I don´t know, why no one knows this movie in germany, because it is real interesting and strange. In most parts it is even better than the standard Hollywood-stuff with ridiculous actors like Jean-Claude van Damme or Robin Williams. It is really a good buy, if you are interested in the music of The Sex-Pistols. If you are not interested in the music, you also should buy this film, because you will make an experience.
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6/10
Weird! Weird! Weird!
simonk_h14 July 2006
At the risk of making you spend more money, I suggest that before you watch this movie, you should read John Lydon's autobiography, 'Rotten'. It gives a good account of that era and once you have read a bit into the history behind the film, it will mean a whole lot more. That doesn't mean to say that it ceases to be weird. The opening sequences are just about the strangest twenty minutes of film that I have ever seen. There are moments of brilliance though. Particularly Sid Vicious shoving a cake in some french prostitute's face is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. I generally think that Sid Vicious was an idiot (well, he was) but in this film, he comes across as an almost like-able, possibly insane character. The film seems to have a storyline of sorts but it all becomes confused in a muddle of history, punk rock and random sex. Malcolm McLaren comes across as a self-centred egomaniac (as usual) and Steve Jones is interesting as the detective on his trail. The trip to Rio seems to confirm Lydon's doubts about the whole thing. It was just a gimmick and what IS the point in glorifying the deeds of a man who helped to steal what was basically working class money? The song was crap anyway. This is a bizarre film so approach with an open mind or you will switch off very quickly as I did first time round.
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8/10
Ever get the feeling you're being cheated?
erictopp15 January 2013
Some reviewers have criticized this movie for not being a truthful record of the life and times of the Sex Pistols. They are missing the point.

This is Malcolm McLaren's fictionalized version of events. Right from the start, McLaren makes it obvious that this is not "real". Malcolm knows that you, the audience, are smarter than the media (including this film). You, the audience, know what situationism means. You, the audience, know this IS a swindle.

Is this a good film? Is it worth watching? If you loved the Sex Pistols and their music, YES. Their talents and flaws are revealed for all to see.

Sid wearing a swastika? Truly disgusting but watch him swagger along the streets of Paris and compare him with other so-called rock stars. Was he a stupid thug? Probably but this is someone who bowed down before ABBA in an airport - he wasn't all bad!

Steve and Paul playing on a beach in Brazil with a convicted robber and an actor pretending to be a Nazi? Cringe worthy but listen to this pair play the intro to "Pretty Vacant" and you are listening to rock history.

Glen Matlock airbrushed out of the picture completely? It's like telling the story of the Rolling Stones without mentioning Brian Jones but watch the cartoon at the end and see who Johnny kicks off the boat.

As for Johnny Rotten, that laser beam stare and sneer says "I am not a puppet and never will be."

If you want accuracy, watch the "Never Mind the B*llocks" episode of "Classic Albums". If you want a swindle ("and we don't care"), watch this.
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6/10
The Sid Vicious bits are amusing and make this worth watching but that's about it; go watch The Filth and the Fury...
KamikazeBaby5 August 2013
This film was all right the first time I saw it (bear in mind that I was 12 or 13 at the time and there weren't many films about punk rock). Since then I learned much more about "punk" and lost all respect for Malcolm McLaren and the like. His management of the New York Dolls was a disaster and he basically tried to incorporate what he learned (i.e. ripped off) from them into the Pistols. There's an amusing interview with Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers where Johnny is asked if he learned anything from Malcolm; Johnny laughs and says sarcastically. "How to be a nice gay gentleman..." Heh. The Sid Vicious bits are amusing and make this worth watching but that's about it; go watch The Filth and the Fury.
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7/10
Anarchy, indeed...
mjneu5924 November 2010
The cultural phenomenon of Punk Rock is uprooted in a cynical quasi-documentary celebrating the self-destructive anarchy of the movement while at the same time exposing the cold, calculated design behind it. True to its subject, the film itself is a crude but often creatively packaged hodge-podge of home movies, archival news footage, and other, aborted film projects, charting the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols and their elusive manager/Svengali Malcolm McLaren, who effectively hoodwinked press and public alike with his publicity schemes and media manipulations, exhibiting enough brazen showmanship to make even P.T. Barnum blush. Regardless of its commercial agenda (which McLaren takes special delight in unmasking) the Punk movement successfully steered rock music away from the apathetic trends of the mid '70s and restored to it some of the raw, rebellious power chords of its youth. Included in the film are performances of several seminal Punk classics: Anarchy in the UK; God Save the Queen; Pretty Vacant, etc.
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9/10
Crucial film of punk.
vince-12611 November 2004
This movie is crucial for any fan of punk. With all of it's flaws, this movie is an amazing glimpse into what went on. This is the story of the Sex Pistols told by Malcolm McLaren. Does he have an agenda in this film? Yes. Is he completely honest? No. Is Johnny Rotten untalented? No. The proof is in the movie. There are auditions for a new singer after Johnny left that prove how good he was, because the singers aren't nearly as good. The band was merely a shadow of its former self without him. Rotten was a true original. This is the band that launched a thousand bands. Watch this movie along with The Filth and the Fury. Instead of choosing which is better, learn from both movies about what went on. Malcolm tells a story in this movie, but the clips of the band performing are priceless. In the Filth and the Fury, Johnny gets to tell his side. Watch them together and judge for yourself.
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10/10
A brilliant lesson in how to manage a band.
perkop9 June 2005
If you ever wondered how boy bands (yes, even though the Sex Pistols are antipodes to the cosmetic-fairy image of boy bands the principle is the same) are created then this is a must see.

The film has a feel of being made fast and cheap but hey its the Sex Pistols so what do you expect?? A misplaced, angry bunch of hoodlums put together to form the most extreme opposite of what the music industry was (and still is) serving as artificially produced boy bands. That's what Malcom Maclaren talks about in the film, how he took 4 guys with no future and made them (for a brief but very explosive period) the center of the music world. Like I said before, this is a must see for all inquisitive music lovers, managers, PR managers and especially music managers because what Malcom tells is sometimes ingenious - like the fact he himself send loads of anonymous hate mail to the media about his own band thus fueling a raged public and a media hype knowing that bad news travels much faster and further than good one. To quote Salvador Dali: "Its good when they talk about me even when they say good things."

All in all - its not a movie with a plot but a documentary of how a band is created using Sex Pistols as a brilliant example. I give it a 10/10 not for the film quality but for the lesson.
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9/10
They've Made Us All Morons! Potential H-Bombs!
johnstonjames26 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
calling this film a 'mockumentary' or fictional is an inaccurate description. sure Malcolm McLaren might be a first class(definitely first class though)A-hole, but much of what takes place here really did happen to the 'Pistols' during their exploits. also anyone lashing out at this film entirely misses the point. it's not a film applauding Malcolm McLaren, hardly, it's a very detached and humorous film art concocted by the clever and talented Julien Temple. anyone mindlessly trashing a Julien Temple film without taking into account the director's skill and reputation is being a little child-like. Julien Temple is a great film maker who shouldn't be so easily dismissed by a few jabbing remarks.

don't be so naive. this isn't McLaren's film, it's Julien Temple's. anyone who thinks this is a film by McLaren has their information all wrong.

if you are a real 'Sex Pistol' fan, how can you so easily dismiss the great music number with Sid Vicious singing his cover of "My Way"? didn't you know that Julien Temple directed that for this particular film? that music cover is an important footnote in the 'Pistols' history. how can you say you love the band or Sid and then just dismiss that like it was nothing.

their are many great and hilarious moments in this film (most of them real) that are due to the skill of Julien Temple as a film maker. the scene where Sid "El KaBongs" a redneck with his guitar is a hilarious example of how the boundaries of real life and cartoon violence can become blurred. there are many other great music numbers and animation in this film, plus interesting little anecdotes like the story of Johnny being attacked by thugs.

anyone telling you not to watch this and that it's not a great piece of 'Sex Pistol' history, has probably become disturbingly involved in the dispute between Lydon and McLaren on a personal level. to become involved with celebrities on that level is, well, MORONIC. you don't know them personally, even though it can feel like it. people should remain detached when enjoying celebrity culture. too much personal involvement makes you miss the message of things. like the fact that this is a Julien Temple film and not an endorsement of Malcolm McLaren.
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