The Decline of Western Civilization [4 Discs] [Box Set] [DVD]

The 1981 punk rock documentary The Decline of Western Civilization by Penelope Spheeris was the first exposition of the burgeoning punk and hardcore subculture in Los Angeles to the masses of America. The emotional and raw performances by the likes of Black Flag, Germs, and Fear caught on film by Spheeris painted a youth in revolt, flying in the face of conventional culture. Collected in this special set are Spheeris' groundbreaking "Decline" documentaries; the original from 1981 and her two follow-ups from 1988 and 1998.
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Overview

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Special Features

  • Never-before-seen footage, interviews and performances
  • Vintage interviews with director Penelope Spheeris
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Audio commentary by Penelope Spheeris
  • Additional audio commentary by Dave Grohl

Synopsis

The Decline of Western Civilization
The performers, attitudes, and music of late '70s, early '80s Los Angeles punk scene are documented in this film by director Penelope Spheeris. Not merely a compilation of concert footage, The Decline of Western Civilization compiles numerous viewpoints on the meanings of the punk movement, from journalists -- one of whom calls punk the folk music of the 1980s -- to club security guards, to the punks themselves. The center of the film, however, is the music, which is fast, loud, and abrasive and often played with purposeful ineptitude; the lyrics are intentionally controversial and shocking, often seeming to embrace violence, sexism, racism, and even Nazism, though usually in an ironic manner. The performances, by bands such as Black Flag, X, The Circle Jerks, and Fear, are mostly shot from within the audience, where the camera often becomes an unwitting participant in the crowd's slam dancing. Especially fascinating are the performances by The Germs, thanks to the antics of their violently self-destructive lead singer Darby Crash, who would later die of a drug overdose and gain a martyr status within the punk community. The film was followed several years later by a sequel focusing on the world of heavy metal. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

The Decline of Western Civilization - Part III
In the third Decline of Western Civilization documentary, Penelope Spheeris (The Little Rascals) filmed four bands (Final Conflict, Litmus Green, Naked Aggression, The Resistance) in 35mm and Dolby, and she also segues into social commentary on homeless kids in Los Angeles, interviewing some who left broken homes or abusive parents. With conversations covering everything from alienation to alcoholism, Spheeris talks to teens living on the street or squatting in abandoned buildings. Other individuals interviewed include an unstable mother, an LAPD officer, and a paralyzed youth living on a disability. Winner of the "Freedom of Expression" Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Bhob Stewart, Rovi

The Decline of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years
Ozzy Osbourne, Gene Simmons, and Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Steven Tyler are among the Heavy Metal artists interviewed in The Decline of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years. This follow-up to filmmaker Penelope Spheeris' classic 1981 "punk" documentary The Decline of Western Civilization is a bit more reflective and word-dominated than its predecessor, but no less entertaining. One striking aspect of the film is its before-and-after comparisons of the impact of MTV. Heavy Metal newcomers tend to overpraise the cable service, while the "oldsters" implicitly decry the mainstreaming-and in some cases, homogenizing--of their best work. Interestingly, Spheeris' own style has become more mainstream in the years since Decline of Western Civilization, thanks to experience gleaned on such dramatic films as Hollywood Vice Squad (1986) and Dudes (1987). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

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