When Julien Temple set out to make a documentary of the Sex Pistols, he unfortunately gave final artistic control to former Sex Pistol manager Malcolm McLuran who turned the film -- The Great Rock and Roll Swindle -- into a self-aggrandizing mess, putting himself into the center of the entire Sex Pistol story. Fortunately Temple rectified the situation by taking some of the same footage, including interviews of the band, taped new interviews, and created one of the best rock and roll documentaries ever made - The Filth and the Fury.
The movie is a pretty straight forward look at the Sex Pistols, their creation, and the immediate impact they had on English popular culture from 1976-78. It also includes great footage of their (un)forgettable U.S. tour which ended with the band breaking up in after a one song concert in San Francisco. Temple however, practically creates an art film as the concert and news footage and interviews are also inter-cut with scenes from typical British television of the day, footage of dotty old Brits, and Laurence Olivier playing Richard III on stage (signifying perhaps King Richard III's quick rise and fall from power to that of the Sex Pistols?)
You get the basics here, how the band was formed, life in mid-70's London, and lots of news footage of how outrageous the hype around the band was. We forget but it was the Sex Pistols that literally created the ripped-up, safety pin look that became known as "punk." It is interesting to see some early concert footage and most of the people at the show have long feathered hair, flannel or western shirts and clean jeans. The punk look came later as the crowd responded to what the Sex Pistols were creating. We also learn that Sid Vicious invited pogoing.
Johnny Rotton's love for Sid lives to this day and you really feel for Rotten as he couldn't do anything to save Sid Vicious after he (Vicious) started shooting heroin. Rotten says in the movie, I could take on all of England but I couldn't take on a heroin addict. Rotten was truly hurt by Sid's death because he had been a live long friend. "he was one of the Johns."
The U.S. tour was a disaster and by the time they got to San Francisco, the band was done. They went on stage and played a long, rambling version of the song No Fun. Temple plays the concert footage but then uses this song as the backing while Johnny Rotten and the rest of the band explain the last days and the death of Vicious. It's quite an effective device to drive home the point that the band had reached the end. After the one song Rotten yells out to the crowd "ah ha ha ha ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" And walks off the stage. One understands immediately that the remark is directed to both the crowd and to himself.
If you are at all interested in the Sex Pistols, you should check out this movie. It moves quickly and is an interesting take on an interesting band which resonates still today.