Sex Pistols fans are getting swindled again, not that they’ll mind too much.
The venerable punk band has just issued its posthumous movie spoof “The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle” on DVD for the first time. Extras on the Shout! Factory release include a commentary track and interview featuring the film’s writer/director, Julien Temple.
The movie, first released in U.K. theaters in 1980, two years after the band self-destructed on stage in San Francisco, features performances of such hits as “Anarchy in the U.K.,” “Pretty Vacant” and “God Save the Queen,” as well as figurehead bass player Sid Vicious’ homicidal rendition of “My Way.”
The storyline is somewhat muddled, revolving around manager Malcolm McLaren’s plan to manufacture a group in order to “swindle our way to the top of the rock’n’roll industry,” a cunning scheme that would bring in almost a million pounds, he announces with gusto while wearing an S&M outfit.
As he recounts his 10-step plan, guitarist Steve Jones — playing an illiterate gumshoe — tries to track him down to claim the loot.
The film also boasts animation sequences, vintage clips of the band’s brief reign of terror, plus contemporary footage both of Jones and drummer Paul Cook cavorting in Brazil and of a drug-addled Vicious staggering around Paris.
A midget, a nude underage girl, an infamous British train robber, a few porn stars and an actor dressed up as Nazi war criminal Martin Bormann also make appearances.
“It doesn’t make any [expletive] sense, but I think it’s humorous,” Jones, now a popular Los Angeles radio DJ, says. “You can’t look at it like a proper movie.”
The band’s vocalist, John Lydon, was not involved with the movie since he quit after the ill-fated Jan. 14, 1978, performance at Winterland in San Francisco. But, along with his former colleagues, he owns the rights to the film.
After the San Francisco debacle, Jones and Cook decamped to Rio de Janeiro, where they recorded a few songs with British fugitive Ronnie Biggs, and partied heartily with exiled Nazis and hot lesbians, according to Temple’s commentary.
The film also shows Jones engaged in a few sex acts, and exercising naked on a beach — along with Cook and Biggs — while the Bormann lookalike acts as fitness instructor. “Well, we were called the Sex Pistols,” Jones explains.
He said some people might get uptight about the Nazi imagery, but he viewed it as an homage to the British “Carry On” movies, which reveled in self-deprecating bad taste.
The film ends on a solemn note as the animated video for the potty-mouthed ditty “Frigging in the Rigging” segues into a collage of newspaper headlines announcing the drug-overdose death of Vicious in 1979. Temple said this was on the orders of the U.K. censors, who wanted the filmmakers to show the true-life consequences of his lifestyle.
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