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Friday, March 11, 2011

G Presents: The Double featuring HELL'S ANGELS ON WHEELS (1967) & GIMME SHELTER (1970)

Welcome to The Double. As always, if we had a theater this is what we would have on the marque for Friday and Saturday night. It’s a double bill of danger and icons at the grindhouse. Jack Nicholson and The Hell’s Angels star in our first film. In our second film, The Angels make a return appearance with The Rolling Stones.

First up, Jack Nicholson as Poet in HELL’S ANGELS ON WHEELS (1967). Nicholson started out working for Hannah-Barbera and had more than decent chops as an artist, but his sights were set on the big screen. I always found it fitting that he started out in animation, that big shit eating grin that only Jack can flash is straight out of the exaggerated features seen in a toon.

HELL’s was a few years before EASY RIDER (1969) but the biker genre was already on fire. Most of those films lack the authenticity that is on display with this film (real life Hell’s Angel Sonny Barger served as consultant on this film and can also be heard in our next film). In most biker films the actors come off as just that, actors. In Roger Ebert’s review of this film (, he noted that in Roger Corman’s WILD ANGELS (1966) stars Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra “came across as middle-class kids who didn't want to get dirty.” Not a problem with this film. This film is dangerous and full of good old fashion exploitation excess. Two years after this film Nicholson would steal the show in EASY RIDERS and would soon after reach legend status.

The shattering true story of the Hell's Angels of Northern California! The violence...The hate...The way-out parties...Exactly as it happens!

Next up, the film you came to see, Albert and David Maysles GIMME SHELTER (1970). The Maysles brothers have been responsible for some of my favorite documentaries of all time: SALESMEN (1968) and GIMME SHELTER (1970). Both show moments of defeat that less skilled filmmakers would not have been able to capture. The defeat experienced in SALESMAN is personal and career centric just as it is in GIMME SHELTER. In SALESMAN however, spirits are damaged, in SHELTER lives are lost.

It was going to be the west coast answer to Woodstock, a free show headlined by The Rolling Stones. 300,000 people answered the call and flooded the Altamont Speedway in Northern California. By the end of the night there would be one homicide at the hands of The Hell’s Angels, three accidental deaths, and one headlining band that would rarely ever discuss the incident again in it’s long history. This concert is known as the event that ended the 60’s and the Maysle’s are there filming it frame by frame.

What the Maysle’s do so well is disappear to the subjects they are capturing, there is a naturalistic approach to each shot in their films (they call it the "fly on a wall" technique) and SHELTER is no different. The reactions to the events on screen are ours, we aren’t told what we should think. The Maysle’s film some of the most intense footage I have seen in a film, we not only see but feel the events spiraling into chaos: The crowd growing uneasy and restless, the Angel’s actions become more aggressive. Mick Jagger said “It was terrible. If Jesus had been there he would have been crucified ('Let it Bleed’, by Ethan A Russell).” Rock and Roll.

"When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets.” Motto of The Hell’s Angels

Here's to good watching this weekend, salute!

See you on forty deuce,