Gimme Shelter


1h 30m 1970
Gimme Shelter

Brief Synopsis

A harrowing documentary of the Stones' 1969 tour, with much of the focus on the tragic concert at Altamont.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Documentary
Music
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Dec 1970
Production Company
Maysles Films
Distribution Company
Cinema V Distributing, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Rainbow Room, New York City, New York, USA; Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA; San Francisco, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m

Synopsis

The film is divided into two time sequences: the Rolling Stones' 1969 concert tour of the United States, and the Stones themselves watching films of the events. The scenes of the tour are interspersed with performances in Madison Square Garden, where Ike and Tina Turner are also seen, as plans for a free concert are developed. Contrasted with the scenes at the Garden is a summation of the aftermath at Altamont. At a press conference in the Rainbow Room in New York City, Mick Jagger announces that the free concert is to be held in San Francisco. Later in the tour, lawyer Melvin Belli tries to line up a site for the concert and finally acquires the Altamont Speedway, owned by Dick Carter. The scene shifts to Altamont. The Flying Burrito Brothers perform, but the Jefferson Airplane is interrupted by scuffles between the Hell's Angels (paid in beer to protect the performers and maintain order) and the crowd. Marty Balin of the Jefferson Airplane is hit, as Grace Slick's plea for peace fails to ease the violent atmosphere. That evening, the Stones appear, escorted to the stage by the Angels who clear a path with their motorcycles. As the anxious crowd of over 300,000 see the Stones begin to sing, fighting erupts, and Jagger's efforts to calm the mass prove ineffectual. After one number, a black youth in the audience is seen waving a gun and is stabbed to death by one of the Angels. The concert concludes, and a helicopter carries the Stones away from Altamont.

Crew

Peter Adair

Director of Photography

Alembic Recording

Sound at altamont

Mirra Bank

Film Editor

Michael Becker

Sound

Porter Bibb

Associate Producer

Bill Blachy

Sound mix

John Brumbaugh

Sound

Baird Bryant

Director of Photography

Joanne Burke

Film Editor

Jerry Butler

Composer

Howard Chesley

Sound

Peter Churchill

Director of Photography

Pepper Crawford

Sound

Stanley Cronquist

Sound

Paul Deason

Sound

Ron Dorfman

Director of Photography

Robert Elfstrom

Director of Photography

Elliott Erwitt

Director of Photography

Robert Farren

Film Editor

Robert Fiore

Director of Photography

Adam Giffard

Director of Photography

Ellen Giffard

Film Editor

Stanley Goldstein

Sp help

Tom Goodwin

Sound

Earl Green

Composer

Mick Jagger

Composer

Glyn Johns

16-track rec at madison square garden

Robert Johnson

Composer

Bill Kaplan

Director of Photography

Kevin Keating

Director of Photography

Janet Lauretano

Film Editor

Stephen Lighthill

Director of Photography

Orly Lindgren

Sound

George Lucas

Director of Photography

Albert Maysles

Director of Photography

David Maysles

Director of Photography

Fred Mcdowell

Composer

Kent Mckinney

Film Editor

Carl Montgomery

Composer

Jim Moody

Director of Photography

Walter Murch

Sound

Fred Neil

Composer

Jack Newman

Director of Photography

Pekke Niemela

Director of Photography

Peter Pilafian

Sound

Robert Primes

Director of Photography

Otis Redding

Composer

Relpic

Presented By

Keith Richard

Composer

Paul Ryan

Director of Photography

Eric Saarinen

Director of Photography

Ronald Schneider

Executive Producer

Peter Smokler

Director of Photography

Susan Steinberg

Film Editor

Nelson Stroll

Sound

Alvin Tokunow

Sound

Coulter Watt

Director of Photography

Gary Weiss

Director of Photography

Haskell Wexler

Director of Photography

Bill Yarrus

Director of Photography

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Documentary
Music
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Dec 1970
Production Company
Maysles Films
Distribution Company
Cinema V Distributing, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Rainbow Room, New York City, New York, USA; Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA; San Francisco, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m

Articles

Gimme Shelter


The fickle nature of documentary production has caused some drastic changes in course for more than a few filmmakers over the years, with the random nature of real life often causing a shift in subject matter entirely during production. Perhaps no film illustrates this more vividly than Gimme Shelter (1970), which began as a visual document of the Rolling Stones' American tour for its self-termed apocalyptic 1969 album, Let It Bleed.

A visceral reaction to the violence and turmoil of the Vietnam War and race riots that had turned newscasts into real-life horror programs, the album and the song "Gimme Shelter" were ominous enough without the real-life tragedy that brought the tour to a horrific end at the notorious Altamont Free Concert, which was held on December 6, 1969 at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California. With beer-bribed Hells Angels barricading the stage and an unruly crowd high on various substances, the event quickly escalated into violence and vandalism even before the Stones arrived on stage. At the end of the day-long event (which also included performances by acts like Jefferson Airplane, Santana, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), a pistol-wielding youth named Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by one of the Angels, Alan Passaro, while attempting to charge the stage. The incident was caught on film and became the defining moment of the documentary while also symbolically closing the door on the peace and love generation.

However, the film begins in happier times earlier in the tour with a performance at Madison Square Garden and preparations for the live album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, helmed by directors Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. Also among the film's cameramen at different points were Martin Scorsese (who had just worked as an assistant director on Woodstock) and George Lucas (whose footage was not used for the final cut). The Maysles Brothers were no strangers to the world of rock music, having made a 1964 short documentary about The Beatles (What's Happening! The Beatles in the USA) but were better known for their now-classic 1968 documentary feature with Zwerin, Salesman. As a team they continued working until David's death in 1987 with their most famous achievement arguably being the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens, a vivid portrait of the lives of the two Edie Beales in upstate New York.

The Maysles films form a crucial component of what was termed the Direct Cinema movement, which was devoted to capturing the organic process of real events without creative distortion. That edict required the use of easily portable cameras and, by necessity, an often loose and improvised shooting style that evolved in tandem with the similarly unpolished look of North American experimental cinema of the era. The United States branch of the movement is usually traced to Drew Associates, a creative company founded by Life magazine reporter Robert Drew who also recruited other soon to be influential documentarians like D.A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock.

What makes Gimme Shelter a unique case is the fact that the unscripted events which became the film's major claim to fame also form a reaction from the participants interviewed after the fact. The capturing of the death on film raises a number of issues dealt with by Direct Cinema, as the details witnessed in two seconds of celluloid become the catalyst for a number of different readings and sociological changes. Even today the film remains a vital title among film courses and is often cited as one of the most important documentaries of all time, with essays and pop culture references still trying to sort it all out. In his essay for the film's Criterion release (one of several commissioned for that set), journalist and author Michael Lydon summed it up especially well: "As one who was there, I most want Gimme Shelter's new viewers to know how deeply the disturbing drama of this film sprang from the disturbing drama of the times. Nostalgic journalism has made the sixties an innocent time of love, peace, and flowers, but living through the decade didn't feel like that to me. Becoming a hippie was fun but at the same time a scary, soul-wrenching process. Altamont was one of many dark and dangerous bummers I, and seemingly everyone else, stumbled into as we reached for new ideals and possibilities."

By Nathaniel Thompson
Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter

The fickle nature of documentary production has caused some drastic changes in course for more than a few filmmakers over the years, with the random nature of real life often causing a shift in subject matter entirely during production. Perhaps no film illustrates this more vividly than Gimme Shelter (1970), which began as a visual document of the Rolling Stones' American tour for its self-termed apocalyptic 1969 album, Let It Bleed. A visceral reaction to the violence and turmoil of the Vietnam War and race riots that had turned newscasts into real-life horror programs, the album and the song "Gimme Shelter" were ominous enough without the real-life tragedy that brought the tour to a horrific end at the notorious Altamont Free Concert, which was held on December 6, 1969 at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California. With beer-bribed Hells Angels barricading the stage and an unruly crowd high on various substances, the event quickly escalated into violence and vandalism even before the Stones arrived on stage. At the end of the day-long event (which also included performances by acts like Jefferson Airplane, Santana, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), a pistol-wielding youth named Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by one of the Angels, Alan Passaro, while attempting to charge the stage. The incident was caught on film and became the defining moment of the documentary while also symbolically closing the door on the peace and love generation. However, the film begins in happier times earlier in the tour with a performance at Madison Square Garden and preparations for the live album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, helmed by directors Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. Also among the film's cameramen at different points were Martin Scorsese (who had just worked as an assistant director on Woodstock) and George Lucas (whose footage was not used for the final cut). The Maysles Brothers were no strangers to the world of rock music, having made a 1964 short documentary about The Beatles (What's Happening! The Beatles in the USA) but were better known for their now-classic 1968 documentary feature with Zwerin, Salesman. As a team they continued working until David's death in 1987 with their most famous achievement arguably being the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens, a vivid portrait of the lives of the two Edie Beales in upstate New York. The Maysles films form a crucial component of what was termed the Direct Cinema movement, which was devoted to capturing the organic process of real events without creative distortion. That edict required the use of easily portable cameras and, by necessity, an often loose and improvised shooting style that evolved in tandem with the similarly unpolished look of North American experimental cinema of the era. The United States branch of the movement is usually traced to Drew Associates, a creative company founded by Life magazine reporter Robert Drew who also recruited other soon to be influential documentarians like D.A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock. What makes Gimme Shelter a unique case is the fact that the unscripted events which became the film's major claim to fame also form a reaction from the participants interviewed after the fact. The capturing of the death on film raises a number of issues dealt with by Direct Cinema, as the details witnessed in two seconds of celluloid become the catalyst for a number of different readings and sociological changes. Even today the film remains a vital title among film courses and is often cited as one of the most important documentaries of all time, with essays and pop culture references still trying to sort it all out. In his essay for the film's Criterion release (one of several commissioned for that set), journalist and author Michael Lydon summed it up especially well: "As one who was there, I most want Gimme Shelter's new viewers to know how deeply the disturbing drama of this film sprang from the disturbing drama of the times. Nostalgic journalism has made the sixties an innocent time of love, peace, and flowers, but living through the decade didn't feel like that to me. Becoming a hippie was fun but at the same time a scary, soul-wrenching process. Altamont was one of many dark and dangerous bummers I, and seemingly everyone else, stumbled into as we reached for new ideals and possibilities." By Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Filmed in 16mm.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter December 6, 1970

Re-released in United States December 7, 1994

Re-released in United States December 16, 1994

Re-released in United States August 11, 2000

Released in United States on Video November 14, 2000

Released in United States July 1996

Released in United States 1997

Released in United States October 2000

Released in United States February 2001

Released in United States March 2002

Shown at Hamptons International Film Festival (World Cinema) October 11-15, 2000.

Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama) February 7-18, 2001.

Shown at South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, Texas March 8-17, 2002.

Formerly distributed by Cinema V Distributing Inc. and Almi Cinema 5.

2000 re-release is a newly restored, uncensored 35mm print.

Released in United States Winter December 6, 1970

Re-released in United States December 7, 1994 (Cinema Village; New York City)

Re-released in United States December 16, 1994 (Laemmle's Sunset 5; Los Angeles)

Re-released in United States August 11, 2000 (Film Forum; New York City)

Released in United States on Video November 14, 2000

Released in United States July 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Rock Music Revivals" July 6-7, 1996.)

Released in United States 1997 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "60's Verite" November 14 - December 11, 1997.)

Released in United States October 2000 (Shown at Hamptons International Film Festival (World Cinema) October 11-15, 2000.)

Released in United States February 2001 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama) February 7-18, 2001.)

Released in United States March 2002 (Shown at South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, Texas March 8-17, 2002.)