Directed by: Penelope Spheeris
The Decline of the Western Civilization II: The Metal Years was a film that defined my childhood. I loved a lot of the bands in the film and to see them both gratuitously and realistically (there’s a definite mix) was fascinating to me. It was one of those films we all talked about that you only saw if you were lucky enough to have access to HBO. My grandparents had a satellite back then so I was able to see it. If you hadn’t seen it you were still talking about it and desperately wanted to see it. It was nearly an urban legend. Now Shout Factory has assembled all three films and released them in a complete box set!
For better or for worse all three films are true time capsules of music and music culture in Hollywood. The first film follows the punk scene of the late seventies and early 80’s, the second film is steeped in the gluttonous hard rock scene of the 80’s, and the third hits the grungy scene of the 90’s. I think your favorite of the three depends on your age. You’ll relate most to the generation you grew up in. Music and the music scene have always reflected the era in which it exists. The punk scene was about rebellion and angst. The glam era was an era of prosperity and over indulgence, and the 90’s were a return to a more angsty time in young culture. All three films feature a brutal honest look at the bands, the venues, and the business people that make up the industry of the era. The second film and third film, do feature some sequences that are ridiculous in their set up and execution. The best example is the Kiss interview with them posed with girls all over them. It’s ridiculous and plotted but it is representative of the life they were attempting to lead at the time. We see the business people and venue owners in a real light, not necessarily the best and most honest people. The artists are shown at their best, usually in live performances, and often at there worst usually on drugs. All three films are honest, gratuitous, dramatic at times, and funny at times. If you are a fan of music, documentary, of even history, these three films are a must watch. Yes these films are focused on the L.A. scene, but throughout these three eras what happened in L.A. defined the rest of the country. It’s not the same these days but back then Hollywood set the pace and tone for the rest of the country.
Video quality varies from super grainy and beat up to fairly clean and vibrant. The films show their age and their original low budgets but it all works for the subject matter. They ain’t purty but they sure got personality! The films have been rescanned in 2K and all joking aside they look better than I’ve ever seen them look before. The source material is only going to allow the films to look so good regardless of what restorations are done. These 2k scans are likely to be the best the films will every look.
The basic surround audio mix spreads some of the music around the soundstage and little audience noise too. The mono mix represents exactly how the films were originally presented. The sound is generally balanced but there is some his and static here and there. Again there’s nothing to write home about but the audio has been preserved in a way that respects the way the films were originally presented.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
These films are like true historical pop culture documents and they need to be respected. Fortunately shout Factory released this collection so the presentation is respectful to these films. The packaging isn’t overly ornate but at least we get a nice cardboard box with each film in a slim amaray case. All of the artwork is from the original promotional materials. Good stuff. There’s some fantastic bonus material in this little box too! The first two films feature audio commentaries with director Penelope Spheeris. The commentary on the first film features her daughter, who is responsible for assembling the box set, and the commentary on the second film features one of the members of hard rock band London. Both commentaries are must views because they reveal a ton of behind the scenes information about the folks in the film. The commentary in the second film offers some true revelations about some of the most notorious scenes in the movie too. The first film also features a commentary from musician Dave Grohl. This one is really only for Nirvana/Foo Fighters fans because he simply gushes about the film, the bands, and their influence on him. The third film unfortunately does not feature a commentary. Each disc features extended interviews, deleted scenes, and other behind the scenes footage. All of these extras just further enhance the time capsule feel of the films and it’s all worth a look. There’s also footage from a panel the director sat on that offers further insight into the film. There’s some behind the scenes footage of her shooting that also features commentary. Finally, exclusive to this collection, is an additional disc of extras. There is over an hour of extended interviews from the second film. Most of what’s on this disc isn’t as pretty as what you’ll find on the actual movie discs but all of it is still insightful. There’s more panel footage, raw footage of the sunset strip from the 80’s, promotional material from a screening of the first film, and much more! The supplements in this box set are nearly as engrossing as the actual movies. All of the additional performances, behind the scenes information, and extended interviews offer more insight into the eras of these films. Really strong stuff. There’s not much else you could hope for as a fan of these films.
Shout Factory has done a stellar job with this collection and as I said earlier it truly respects these films as historical documents. The films look as good as they will ever look and the bonus features are archives of information. The Decline of Western Civilization films are an education of art and culture of their eras.
overall(not an average)