Gimme Shelter (1970)

gimme shelter poster 1970 movie
9.0 Overall Score

Great flipside to Woodstock


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Gimme Shelter

Studio:  Maysles Films

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  December 6, 1970

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

gimme shelter mick jagger rolling stones altamont free concert

This will be a fun concert movie…right?

The Rolling Stones are giving a free concert.  Located at the Altamont Speedway outside of San Francisco, the concert is met with problems and fights.  When the crowd and the bands begin butting heads with the Hells Angels that are acting as security, real danger begins and a celebration of life and freedom becomes a notorious performance.

Directed by Albert and David Maysles with addition direction by Charlotte Zwerin, Gimme Shelter is a rock-and-roll documentary.  The film was released to critical acclaim.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the movie (Criterion #99).

While the Woodstock documentary showed the best of the hippie movie and how people could come together, Gimme Shelter shows the flipside.  It is a similar concert (that actually was always planned to be free), but it turns into a complete mess…and the film catches it all.

gimme shelter altamont free concert hells hangels

When you call in the Hells Angels for help, you could have a problem…

When you don’t bring in traditional security (or cannot get traditional security), calling in the Hells Angels might not be the best idea.  It isn’t because they are necessarily violent, but because they are also there to party…but they are supposed to be the frontline between the bands and the fans.  As the crowd gets more and more rowdy, there is less and less security for everyone involved.

The result is a complete mess and no one can really enjoy the concert.  As soon as the bands start singing, they are interrupted.  While you could argue that it isn’t the band’s responsibility, the Maysles capture the whole set-up of the tour and the plans…and the seeming lack of planning.  No one seems to want to take responsibility and thinks that simply because the message is peace and love that it will happen naturally.

gimme shelter altamont free concert murder gun rolling stones

The gun that really made things go south

The film looks great.  It captures some great behind the scenes moments of reflection by the Rolling Stones after the concert that turns deadly and also does a good job capturing the madness of the concert.  It just is a mass of people and a mess of an event.

Don’t go into Gimme Shelter expecting a lot of great performances and live concert scenes.  It is the bad side of fandom and a clash of cultures.  As seen in some of the video presented, the Hells Angels were dealing with a legitimate danger (and got blamed for the death), but their presence there also probably aggravated the situation…something that wasn’t thought of when plans were being made.  Gimme Shelter is a great double bill with Woodstock, but while Woodstock was rather uplifting, Gimme Shelter is a downer that shows where the country was headed in the following years.

Related Links:

Monterey Pop (1968)

Woodstock (1970)

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) (2021)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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