After decades of unavailability, Shout! Factory recently released all three digitally remastered Decline of Western Civilization rock documentaries on DVD and Blu-ray. Produced between 1979 and 1998, the films served as a visual archive of the American punk, hardcore, and metal scenes, and as a launching pad for filmmaker Penelope Spheeris, who went on to helm cult indie fare (Suburbia) and big Hollywood hits (Wayne’s World). On November 6th, the Hollywood Theater will host Spheeris during a special two-day presentation of her era-defining, career-spanning works.
On November 6th, the theater will screen The Decline of Western Civilization (1979) and The Decline of Western Civilization Part III (1998). The first film provides an account of the punk rock phenomenon and its alienated, reactionary subculture. The fierce, bleak portrait documents L.A.’s infamous punk bands – including X, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Fear, and Germs – as they perform on stage and discuss their lives, music and philosophy off stage. Through interviews with punk fans, music critics and club owners, it is a crucial, compelling statement of the most significant and influential youth movement and musical transformation of the past three decades.
The third installment takes place 20 years later, and focuses on the vagrant lifestyles and backgrounds of hardcore L.A. punk fans, known widely as gutterpunks. By combining interviews with faithful fans, thought-provoking accounts from those who have an intimate knowledge of the scene, and live performances by underground bands such as Naked Aggression and Final Conflict, the film compares the original late-70s movement to present-day punk rock.
On November 7th, the theater will screen The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988). In the mid-80s, a new loud, rude, sexy, sexist and anti-authoritarian music took over Los Angeles nightlife – heavy metal. The second installment takes an in-depth look at the scene’s rabid fans, desperate groupies, and suicidal wanna-bes, and portrays the harsh reality of the music business, where everyone’s dream to become a star can’t possibly come true. The film includes interviews with Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper, and Ozzy Osbourne, as well as performances by Faster Pussycat, Lizzy Borden, London, Odin, and Megadeth.
The Decline of Western Civilization trilogy screenings will take place at 8 p.m. on both nights. Doors open at 7 p.m. Spheeris and her daughter, Anna Fox, will appear during the November 6th event for a Q&A hosted by Pittsburgh City Paper co-editor and critic Al Hoff. All tickets are $12 and are available for purchase at Showclix here and here.