From filmmaker Wes Orshoski, known from being the man behind the documentary Lemmy, 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", a line from their song "Machine Gun Etiquette", 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 many other luminaries from the 1970/80s that evolved from the realm of punk rock. Shot around this earthround 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.
The Damned had many incarnations, been on many labels and even more arguments, in its longstanding forty year history. Many.
Given that factotum along with their long career, illuminating each fact and pleasing everyone would be a task difficult to achieve. Orshoski focuses mainly on the original line-up and manages to hit the major milestones, yet misses out on chunks of the later history.
The documentary premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2015 and the fact that Dave Vanian did not make an appearance and Captain Sensible heckled at the top of his lungs with on-going commentary is testament to the inner band animosities.
What makes the documentary appealing is the way Orshoski allows each personality to unfold in an uncensored and often ludicrous manner, including vitriolic diatribes and rants from bitter ex-members, mixing it with facts and at times channeling it through a nostalgia tinted lense.
A documentary that does justice to an unpredictable band that is still going strong – check our recent live review of their 2017 incarnation – and one that offers something enlightening and entertaining even for an audience that is not familiar with The Damned’s legacy at all.
7.5 / 10
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