ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Gimme Danger (2016) Blu Ray (Dogwoof)
Jim Jarmusch’s doc takes a look at cult proto-punk band The Stooges, making extensive use of archive and modern interview footage of erstwhile and recent band members Iggy Pop (born James Osterberg), brothers Ron & Scott Asheton, Dave Alexander and James Williamson. It focusses largely on their glory days of the late 60s and early 70s, their rapid drug-fuelled deterioration during 1973 and their 2003 reformation.
After a prologue in 1973 relaying their self-induced implosion, the story rewinds back to the early 1960s and follows a definite chronological order from then on. It starts as Iggy Pop is interviewed about his youth living in a trailer with his parents near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since his drum kit couldn’t fit into his tiny bedroom it had to go in the living area. His parents eventually agreed to relocate to the smaller bedroom, giving Iggy the master bedroom where his kit could fit beside his single bed. He played as a drummer in a series of bands through the 1960s, starting with The Iguanas in 1965. Their career ended abruptly when a gig in a pier house resulted in the floor collapsing under the weight of their gear. Since then his work became higher in profile, but he soon became sick of what he terms “playing behind butts” - even ones as famous as those of The Four Tops and The Shangri-Las.
He managed to assemble some local aspiring musicians for the first lineup of what would become The Stooges: Ron Asheton on guitar, Scott Asheton on drums, Dave Alexander on bass and himself on vocals. They lived in a house together in a communist-style “equal share” environment and created their own distinctive noise via such unusual sounds as a blender and using a hammer on a guitar. They formed a close musical friendship with MC5 and both bands were signed up to the Electra record label. In 1969 they went to New York and recorded their debut album. The rest of the doc goes through two subsequent albums, various lineup changes (including James Williamson’s drink-related illnesses that ultimately resulted in his untimely death in 1975), their association with David Bowie, a record label change, their drug-fuelled demise as a band and 2000s resurrection kicked off by a collaboration with erstwhile Dinosaur Jr frontman J. Mascis.
Watch a trailer:
Jim Jarmusch opts for a style that’s in keeping with the impromptu, spontaneous feel of The Stooges’ repertoire, with an overlapping collage of music, interviews, archive film and stills of the band and surrounding historical events, and even a few crudely-animated moments (featuring what looks like stop-motion cutouts) to accompany some of the more dramatic anecdotes. Some of these anecdotes are quite amusing and revealing such as the aforementioned “pier incident”, Warhol advising Iggy to “just sing what it says in the newspaper”, Ron’s phone call to Mo of the Three Stooges to confirm that their band name won’t infringe copyright, and a wasted Scott wrecking the their tour van by crashing it into a low bridge.
The trouble is that it doesn’t really dig deeper underneath the band’s scuzzy surface. We already know that the music’s great, that they had a significant cult following in the counterculture zeitgeist of the late 1960s and early 70s, that they influenced a lot of well-regarded musical acts since then, that they spent half the time being wasted and that Iggy raised hell. We never get any coherent insight underpinning their behaviour beyond a few glimpses of their trailer park upbringing. This would have been less of an issue if the running time was a good 20 minutes shorter; 108 just isn’t justified when so much of it is a lot of anecdotal rambling by Iggy & Co (even if a good deal of it is entertaining).
Another point of contention: Iggy tells us that many of the late 60’s Flower Power bands were effectively created by corporations “in meetings”. This may well have been true, but comes across as a bit rich considering that the man has himself sold out recently by appearing on a TV advert for Swiftcover Auto Insurance.
If you like The Stooges’ grungy music then this doc is worth watching, but it isn’t all that it could have been.
Runtime: 108 mins
Dir: Jim Jarmusch
An OK presentation, nothing more. The budget wasn’t here for an Eight Days a Week-style restoration of touring footage. Mind you, the grainy feel is appropriate to the music.
The music is done justice in the 2.0/5.1 audio.
The only extras are a trailer and two deleted scenes. The first of these scenes, “Noises” consists of 2 minutes’ worth of Iggy Pop (as the title suggests) making strange noises. Really. The second, “Private Plane”, features an animated scene that was removed from the final cut, involving the band members sitting stoned in the shell of an abandoned car imagining it was their private jet. Very slim pickings.
A slightly underwhelming doc about one of rock’s great bands. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s No Fun, but it’s not a Real Cool Time either.