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The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter - Criterion Collection
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Product Description

Studio: Image Entertainment Release Date: 11/14/2000 Run time: 91 minutes

To cite Gimme Shelter as the greatest rock documentary ever filmed is to damn it with faint praise. This 1970 release benefits from a horrifying serendipity in the timing of the shoot, which brought filmmakers Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin aboard as the Rolling Stones' tumultuous 1969 American tour neared its end. By following the band to the Altamont Speedway near San Francisco for a fatally mismanaged free concert, the Maysles and Zwerin wound up shooting what's been accurately dubbed rock's equivalent to the Zapruder film. The cameras caught the ominous undercurrents of violence palpable even before the first chords were strummed, and were still rolling when a concertgoer was stabbed to death by the Hell's Angels that served as the festival's pool cue-wielding security force.

By the time Gimme Shelter reached theater screens, Altamont was a fixed symbol for the death of the 1960s' spirit of optimism. The Maysles and Zwerin used that knowledge to shape their film: their chronicle begins in the editing room as they cut footage of the Stones' Madison Square Garden performance of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and from there moves toward Altamont with a kind of dreadful grace. The songs become prophecies and laments for broken faith ("Wild Horses"), misplaced devotion ("Love in Vain"), and social collapse ("Street Fighting Man" and, of course, "Sympathy for the Devil"). Along the way, we glimpse the folly of the machinations behind the festival, the insularity of life on the concert trail, and the superstars' own shell-shocked loss of innocence.

Gimme Shelter looks into an abyss, partly self-created, from which the Rolling Stones would retreat--but unlike its subject, the filmmakers don't blink. --Sam Sutherland

Customer Reviews:

  • Tragic Classic
    I have always heard that it is difficult to make a rock and roll film, let alone one that is also a documentary. Gimme Shelter is both- a filmed concert experience but one that also documents those events that take place behind the scenes.

    This one gives the viewer virtually unlimited access to the Rolling Stones for their 1969 tour of America. We see the Stones as they perform at Madison Square Garden, working in the studio, and checking into hotel rooms. For Stones historians, there are brief glimpses of Ian Stewart- founding member and so called "sixth Stone", including one of him at the Altamont concert, asking for a doctor to please come to the front of the stage.

    Some of the most fascinating scenes do not even have the Stones in them. These are the meetings that would take place in the office of famed attorney Mel Belli. Here is where the ill-fated Altamont show would be planned.

    Last of course, is the Altamont concert. It was here that peace & love would collide with extreme violence with fatal results. Was it the end of an era? Did Altamont somehow symbolize the dawning of a new age in America- one in which Flower Power was replaced by death and destruction illustrated by the war in Vietnam?

    Perhaps so but at its heart, Gimme Shelter was never intended to be a comment on the sixties nor was it supposed to make some sort of political statement. Gimme Shelter started out as a concert film about the Rolling Stones and it just happened to record something that went very, very wrong.
    ...more info
  • The Day the Music Died
    On my DVD shelf, this little music doc is filed in the Horror section, right between "The Exorcist" and "The Ring." Because this is one of the scariest things I've ever seen, perhaps because I'm not big on crowds, but still... for very good reason the name "Altamont" still delivers a shiver even in these days when pop princesses prance on stages 12 feet high in boxes of bulletproof glass while the rest of us dance alone in our rooms with our ipods. Okay, okay, I'm not saying that good live music does not exist anymore, but it's still boggles the mind to think that once the biggest band in the world thought it would be a great thing to give a free concert for a gazillion people on a stage 2 feet high and have the Hell's Angel's provide "security." The resulting murderous mayhem irrevocably disproved the goofy idea that a congregation of people f%$#ed up on hallucinogenic drugs will inevitably facilitate a beautiful fellowship of love and peace. The sad realization of that fact slowly and horribly unfolds during the film's narrative, and the impact of it punches the gut even 39-odd years after the fact. The documentation of this deeply misguided concert event simply pulsates with bad juju from the get-go. Menace seems to hang heavy in the morning air, and things get out-of-control very early -- the instant the frisbees start flying all hell seems about to break loose. The sheer massiveness of that surly, churning crowd next to the comparative tininess of the stage and the musicians on it is stunning as the violence erupts periodically, and increasingly, throughout the day. From a bewildered and frightened Gram Parsons pleading, "Please people please stop hurting each other!" to the infamous beating of Marty Balin (and Grace Slick attempting to soothe the crazed crowd with a rhythmic chant of "Easy, easy") to the culminating Boschian nightmare of glassy-eyed, horribly naked freaks climbing the stage to (seemingly) rip Mick and Keith apart as they perform a strangely turgid "Under My Thumb" -- this is one BAD TRIP. Of course, it goes without saying that this was made at the height of The Stones' beauty and brilliance as a band, and the early concert scenes from New York shows and the recording of "Wild Horses" are wonderful. Still this film will go down pretty hard in the end, especially for us sensitive types. A Must See but I highly recommend having a copy of "Jazz on a Summer Day" as an immediate antidote afterwards. ...more info
  • Gimme Shelter From the Storm
    I have written elsewhere in this space that when it comes to musical influences in my youth that the Stones played a key role in developing my tastes. I have also mentioned elsewhere that my youthful alienation was reflected in the language and sound of the group. I mentioned Street Fighting Man and Tumbling Dice, as well as an earlier cover of Little Red Rooster as important. All this is by way of saying that I looked forward recently to re-watching the old Stones documentary Gimme Shelter reviewed here, despite my knowledge of the tragic incidents that occurred at Altamont and marred the whole experience.

    If one is to recount the high points of the too short counter cultural explosion of the 1960's one could arbitrarily assign the Summer of Love in 1967 as the height and Altamont as the start of the decline. We can argue that point endlessly but clearly something or some things happened at Altamont that exposed the ugly side of the dope/ counter cultural scene. Moreover, on reflection no one can deny the unreasonableness of having the notorious Hell's Angels, despite favorable press from Tom Wolfe in Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and Hunter Thompson in his classic study Hell's Angels, as security for a 300, 000 person event.

    Now, we finally get to the music and the film. And I think that this is about the right place for such comments in the scheme of things. There have been many, many Stones concerts during the past forty years but none have had the cultural significance of Altamont. Most of the film is about how they, good-naturedly if ultimately naively, tried to put the event together. A fair portion of the film is footage of the reaction by the Stones to the events that they witnessed and interspersed in between are parts of the performance.

    This film has not aged well, although Mick has. His voice comes off tinny here reflecting an earlier, more primitive sound technology that does not do justice to how Mick and the boys could whip up an audience. A nice surprise though is a very sensual Tina (and Ike) Turner performance. Unfortunately, the Jefferson Airplane afternoon performance is marred by the violence that doomed the event. But here is the skinny. If you need to look at rock and roll history watch this one and one half hour documentary. If you want to hear the Stones at their best then purchase any one of about ten greatest hits albums available. That's the ticket.
    ...more info
  • Eyeglass to the past
    This is a superlative and surprising documentary that clearly shows the business acumen and professionalism of the Rolling Stones as they effortlessly blended their talents and showmanship into the drug racked culture of a 60s rock concert. Not to be missed. ...more info
  • The 70s Begin
    Much enhanced picture and sound quality from the original theater version. It seems there's also added footage. It's a great documentary of a historical social event. It does seem to drag a little, perhaps the times have changed or the added footage is too long, but its definitely worth it anyway. I highly recommend watching this film. ...more info
  • Nice Film.but not completely
    film only includes 3 songs on altamont,others all in the 1969 tour

    Who has the original 15 songs by stones on that altamont show?

    thanks to share that

    or hope this film can make a OST including that again...more info
  • Good as it gets
    This appears to be a true and accurate record of these events. Very absorbing and of significant historical interest. The music is good as well!!...more info