Articles from the Boston Compass, Film, Psychotronic Movies in our Zone

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) dir. Penelope Spheeris

PMIOZ July 15': 7/6 @ Coolidge Corner Theatre


The most amazing original punk rock film document is this film right here. It doesn’t get better. Flag (pre-Rollins), Germs (pre-Nirvana), Fear (pre-the film, Clue), Jerks (post-Flag Morris), as well as X (at their pinnacle), Alice Bag and the Bags, and Catholic Discipline (who no one remembers, for good reason). There were of course other punk scenes that rivaled L.A.’s in 1979-1980, but none of them were put to film like this.

Raging, candid, and full of some of the best punk and hardcore that ever happened, this is a must-see (especially in the theater, as it rarely screens). Ron Reyes doesn’t disappoint getting caught on film during his short stint fronting Black Flag. There’s riots. Dukowski talks. Lee Ving looks menacing. Darby talks and cooks. Find him a fucking beer. Why don’t the club owners book the Germs anyway? How many glasses has Darby broken? What kind of peanut butter does he use for smearing on his skin?  And Spheeris? Spheeris (pre-Wayne’s World) gets everyone comfortable and talking, explaining their punk lives for the camera.

It makes me love this film even more knowing that the film’s title might be a reference to Lester Bangs’ 1970 review of The Stooges’ Fun House for Creem magazine, which is a legendary punk document in and of itself. The first of three Decline films, and easily the best of the bunch.

The Decline of Western Civilization
dir. Penelope Spheeris
100 min.

Double feature with The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years
Part of the ongoing series: Cinema Jukebox

Click here for screening info.

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