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Gimme Shelter: The Criterion Collection

Directing brothers Albert and David Maysles were introduced to the Rolling Stones in 1969 by noted cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who knew the Stones were looking for someone to film their concert tour of the United States. The Maysles (having already gained moderate notoriety with previous documentaries that included the excellent Bible-selling story Salesman) quickly put together a crew and did a test shoot at the Stones' opening night at New York's Madison Square Garden. Thus began the making of Gimme Shelter, a collaborative journey that took the Maysles and the Stones from New York to California and the tour's tragic final concert at the Bay Area's Altamont Speedway, where Hell's Angels "secured" the stage and where four people died. When Gimme Shelter finally reached movie theaters in 1970, the incident at Altamont was on its way to becoming one of those milestones that mark times of great change. Instead of being a "day-in-the-life-of-a-famous-rock-group" movie, the film took on the slow-building suspense of a horror film. The Maysles, with co-director Charlotte Zwerin, shaped the movie into a parable about fallibility and a metaphor for the end of an era — or as Albert Maysles simply states, Gimme Shelter became "much more than a concert film." Watching it 30 years later, it is startlingly brilliant, succeeding both as a concert film and a statement about the times — with extras on Criterion's DVD that greatly heighten the film as experience. The audio commentary by Albert Maysles, Zwerin (who supervised the editing), and production collaborator Stanley Goldstein has a wealth of information and technical detail. A brief restoration demonstration offers before-and-after examples of the image, color, and sound restoration used to create this beautiful high-definition release. There is a full recording of the December 7, 1969 post-Altamont KSAN Radio program, breathtaking still photos, and never-before-seen footage of the Madison Square Garden show that includes covers of "Little Queenie" and "Prodigal Son." The film is presented in fullscreen 1.33:1, and the audio restoration is so good, in a new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, that it sounds like it was recorded yesterday and not on equipment with 30-year-old technology. Keep-case.
—Kerry Fall

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