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The Decline of Western Civilization1981

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  • 4.3
Unavailable on home video for many years (except perhaps as a grainy, nth-generation VHS bootleg), Penelope Spheeris' seminal document of the young 1979-1980 Los Angeles punk scene includes chaotic live performances by now-legendary groups like Black Flag (with short-lived lead singer Ron "Chavo Pederast" Reyes), X (giving themselves stick-and-poke tattoos) and the Germs (whose unpredictable lead singer Darby Crash would commit suicide before the film's release) interwoven with talking-head interviews with teenage punks and, most entertainingly, older club owners trying very hard to describe a growing form of music they were clearly unprepared for. The footage of Fear's confrontational set would later grab the attention of John Belushi, who snagged the band a 1981 appearance on Saturday Night Live (and resulted in $20,000 in damage to the studio). - Tom Fritsche

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"In the annals of rock docs, there’s still nothing else quite like Spheeris’ unprecedentedly intimate hangouts with L.A. punk pioneers—Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, the Germs, and X, among others—at the cusp of the 1980s." - Jonathan Kiefer, Keyframe


4 members like this review

Part of what makes this film great is, it shows how P.C. today's society has become. Sure, it's offensive on many different levels. That was the point. For myself it's a trip down memory lane. I still have several albums by most of the bands featured here. In general, most will find this to be unwatchable trash, and that's quite okay.

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (10)

187987.small
top reviewer

Part of what makes this film great is, it shows how P.C. today's society has become. Sure, it's offensive on many different levels. That was the point. For myself it's a trip down memory lane. I still have several albums by most of the bands featured here. In general, most will find this to be unwatchable trash, and that's quite okay.

4 members like this review
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top reviewer

This movie captures a time and a place: Los Angeles, 1980. It also captures the energy of restless youth. These kids are the last of the Baby Boomers, fed up with suburban pretensions, crass commercialism, and smoggy air. Yet their world is a strangely innocent, a prehistoric void free of the Internet, social media static and and personality-altering pharmaceuticals. It's the last days of the Wild West and youthful rebellion. Their world isn't in decline, it's about to mutate into a digitally-enhanced monster. Ultimately, however, this is a movie about some great Rock & Roll bands tearing it up. Times change but music is timeless

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Totally fucked up.

Excellent!

After watching this documentary, I really think that punk in the U.S. was a great solution to the lack of gun control in the past.

I've been waiting to see this for years! I wasn't disappointed...

lets have a war

I stumbled on it then couldn't stop watching. Some compelling lives shown.

top shelf thanks