Friday, May 27, 2016

THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD (2016) (Blu-ray Review)


THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD (2016) 


Label: Cleopatra Records I MVD
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 110 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen
Director: Wes Orshoski
Cast: Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies, Dave Vanian, Brian James, Roman Jugg, Fred Armisen, Jimmy Ashhurst, Jello Biafra, Gaye Black, Clem Burke, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Lu Edmonds, Steve Diggle, Dave Gahan, Jack Grisham, Paul Gray, Charlie Harper, Dexter Holland

Synopsis: From "Lemmy" filmmaker Wes Orshoski comes the story of the long-ignored pioneers of punk: The Damned, the first U.K. punks on wax and the first to cross the Atlantic. "THE DAMNED: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead" includes appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones (The Clash), Lemmy and members of Pink Floyd, Black Flag, Depeche Mode, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Buzzcocks, and more. Shot around the globe over three years, the film charts the band's complex history and infighting. It captures the band as it celebrated its 35th anniversary with a world tour and found its estranged former members striking out on their own anniversary tour, while other former members battled cancer.


Director Wes Orshoski's in-depth doc about British punk rockers The Damned is a damned fascinating watch, I've always loved the UK bands first few albums DAMNED DAMNED DAMNED, MUSIC FOR PLEASURE and MACHINE GUN ETIQUETTE but have known very little about the band other than these albums have been on heavy rotation in my ears for many years. It was quite a treat to get the inside scoop from the original four band members themselves, including original members Brian James and Rat Scabies who have been away from the the group for years now, as you will learn throughout the there's no love lost between these two and the current line-up which includes original members Captain sensible and Dave Vanian along side keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch (formerly of UK pub rockers English dogs) and bassist Stu West. .


If you're not familiar with The Damned they were among the original '76 punkers out of London, along with Sex Pistols and The Clash. They were the first punks on vinyl with the release of the "New Rose" single and the first of the three to release a proper full length album, they were even the first to tour the US. Their tour in California is said to have inspired the faster West Coast hardcore punk sound, but despite these accomplishments they just do not have the notoriety of Sex Pistols or The Clash in the public eye. Personally, I've always thought they were champs, even if I am honestly not a fan of their later stuff in the 80s when they went down the path of nocturnal Goth rockers. 


The doc tells the story of the the band from the early days beginning with a blistering black and white performance with the original line-up as Sensible, Vanian, Scabies and James chime in on those early days, and the eventual falling out that lead to both Scabies and James leaving the band, and the years long revolving door of band mates who followed. Adding to the story are commentary and testimonials from insiders and fans including Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Mick Jones of The Clash, Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks, Dave Gahan of synth rockers Depeche Mode, the late Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead who played bass for a spell, Jack Grisham of T.S.O.L, Keith Morris of Black Flag, Dexter Holland of The Offspring, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd who produced the band phenomenal second album. I love it when Jack Grisham says the music of the damned is the "backdrop to crimes", probably my favorite testimony on the whole doc


The doc features a few live performances from the current line-up rexorded from 2011 to 2014 and the band sounds tight, Vanian's vocals are as good as ever and the guy remains an enigmatic presence who contributed the least to the interviews on the doc, you can see he is not happy to be on film, he even seems a mystery to his own bandmates. Guitarist Captain Sensible is still a punk rock clown of sorts, a phenomenal guitar player who still loves to clown around and strip down on stage, and comes off as a likable sort of asshole, with nothing kind to say about Rat Scabies, no rScabies anything kind to say about him. 


The doc does good work going through the various line-up of the band, following them from break-up to reformation in various incarnations, including a line-up known as The Doomed which signaled Sensible switching from bass to the six-string guitar, and you have to wonder why he ever played bass in the first place, a gifted guitarist who went on to create some magical riffs through the years. The doc did what any good band doc does, it made me appreciate the core members of the band, it shed some light on the tumultuous band chemistry through the years, and most of all it made me want to listen to some early Damned records, which I have been playing non-stop since watching the doc. 

Audio/Video: The Damned: Don't You wish That We Were Dead arrives on Blu-ray from Three Count Films I Cleopatra Records I MVD Visual Entertainment in 1080p HD widescreen looking par for the course for a doc with a mixed source material ranging from newer HD interviews and performance footage and some older vintage performance stuff. Unfortunately there is no lossless audio option and we are saddles with an English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 track, which does just fine for the doc, but I hate to see lossy audio on an HD format, particularly when the music is so damned sweet. The doc opens with what I consider the penultimate Damned song, "Neat Neat Neat" and boy does that song get the blood pumping! 


The DVD/BD combo comes housed in a Criterion-style clear keep case, which includes an eight-page booklet with writing on the making of the movie by director Wes Orshoski who tells of a mugging that occurred while making the doc, a story that feeds into the "curse of The Damned" anecdote, it's a good read with some cool pics. 

Onto the disc extras we have five minute piece with Captain sensible hanging out with mega-fan Fred Armisen (of SNL who also played drums for the band Trenchmouth) in L.A. with Armisen confessing his love for the Damned and what an Captain Sensible was on him. The two play guitar with each other, including busking "Smash It Up" on the streets of L.A.. There's also a seventeen-minute tour of London with Sensible including the Fairfirled, where he used to be a porter cleaning toilets as a teen, telling the story of slicing up a particularly hard turd with a knife and fork before returning the dirty utensils to the commesary. 


My favorite piece is the 12-minute The Anarchy Tour which tells the story of how the Damned were booted from the Sex Pistosl Anarchy in the UK tour in '76, how they were mistreated and made to feel second class by infamous SP manager Malcolm McLaren . There's also an 8-minute piece about the formation of The Doomed and the short-lived stint of bassist Henry Bedowski who didn't get along well with Scabies which lead to a brawl in the middle of traffic and his departure from the band. The last of the extras is a perfromac of "Smash It Up' recorded during Captain Sensible's 60th birthday party performance which sounds brilliant. 


Special Features: 

- Captain Sensible and Fred Armisen: Nobody Busks in L.A. (5 Mins_ HD 
- Captain's Tour of London (17 Mins) HD 
- The Doomed/Henry Baddowski (8 Mins) HD 
- The Anarchy Tour (12 Mins) HD 
- "Smash It Up" Live at Captain's 60th Birthday Party (and Around the world) (4 Mins) HD 

The Damned were one of the most musical of the first wave of UK punkers and while they may not have the infamy of the Sex Pistols theye will always be near and dear to my heart and this doc shed a lot of light on stuff I was not familiar with about the band, the various incarnations, the acidic hate/hate relationship between Sensible and Scabies, just how enigmatic singer Dave Vanian is and what a loud mouthed lunatic Sensible was and is to this day. I love the current incarnation of the band, they sound great, and I hope to catch them at some point before the break-up again or just up and die. This is fun warts and all doc about a kick ass punk band, this comes highly recommended. 

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