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  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
  • Never-before-seen performances of the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden in 1969, including "Little Queenie," "Oh Carol," and "Prodigal Son," plus backstage outtakes
  • Audio commentary by directors Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, and collaborator Stanley Goldstein
  • Excerpts from KSAN Radio's Altamont wrap-up, recorded December 7, 1969, with new introductions by then-DJ, Stefan Ponek
  • Altamont stills gallery, featuring the work of renowned photographers Bill Owens and Beth Sunflower
  • "The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and GIMME SHELTER": A 44-page booklet with essays by Jagger's former assistant Georgia Bergman, music writers Michael Lydon and Stanley Booth, ex-Oakland Hell's Angels chapter head Sonny Barger, and film critics Amy Taubin and Godfrey Cheshire
  • Original and re-release theatrical trailers, plus trailers for Maysles Films' classics Grey Gardens and Salesman
  • Filmographies for Maysles Films and Charlotte Zwerin
  • Restoration demonstration

Gimme Shelter

Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
Starring: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman
1970 | 91 Minutes | Licensor: Maysles Films

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #99
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 14, 2000
Review Date: December 5, 2009

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Called "the greatest rock film ever made," this landmark documentary follows the Rolling Stones on their notorious 1969 U.S. tour. When 300,000 members of the Love Generation collided with a few dozen Hell's Angels at San Francisco's Altamont Speedway, direct cinema pioneers David and Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin immortalized on film the bloody slash that transformed a decade's dreams into disillusionment.

Forum members rate this film 8.7/10


Discuss the film and DVD here   


Criterionís original DVD for Gimme Shelter presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc.

Disappointingly this transfer is interlaced, presenting its fair share of problems. Thereís plenty of jagged edges, combing, and trailing throughout the film, and most of this, if not all, can be attributed to the fact the transfer isnít progressive. Blacks are okay if nothing special, sometimes looking a little muddy, but colours are surprisingly bright. Reds are not altogether that strong, though, looking more orange, this becoming more obvious after recently seeing Criterionís Blu-ray edition.

The image can be surprisingly sharp at times, but at the same time detail isnít all that impressive. Grain is evident on occasion, though can look like noise. The print is in pretty good shape, a surprise all things considered, only presenting some damage.

The elements look like theyíre in strong shape but Criterionís transfer harms it and holds it back. The interlaced transfer presents some very obvious problems that are quite noticeable. The Blu-ray edition, which is progressive, is a huge step up and the one to go with.


All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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Criterion presents three audio tracks, starting with what I assume is the original track, a 2.0 track. It also contains two remastered tracks: a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track, and then a DTS 5.1 track.

The two remastered tracks sound very good, though I thought at times both could sound a tad harsh and unnatural. As a whole, though, both present great surround effects, fantastic bass, and great range. The DTS track is the stronger of the two, with more distinct bass and what I found to be more noticeable surround effects and better fidelity.

The 2.0 track sounds a little flatter but is better than I would have expected. Music sounds pretty good and also has some decent range. While this track is here for the purists Iíd still say give one of the 5.1 tracks a go, preferably the DTS track.



Criterionís special edition collects together some decent supplements, all of which havenít made it on to the new Blu-ray edition.

First up is an audio commentary featuring Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, and Stanley Goldstein. In all honesty I had always been disappointed with this track and Iím still disappointed with it after revisiting it on this Blu-ray. The three have all been recorded separately, but this isnít my issue with it (as usual, Criterionís editing job is spot-on and feels seamless.) Considering the subject matter within the film I think Iíve always expected more from it and at heart itís more of a technical commentary. Goldstein and Maysles (Maysles taking up the bulk of the track) talk about how the film came to be, the team being approached by the Stones who wanted a documentary made on their tour. They share some anecdotes (Zwerin, whose interview sounds to have been recorded on rather shoddy material, sharing most of them) like Mick Jagger watching some of the shot footage, Tina Turner and B.B. King (who they never filmed) at Madison Square Garden, and then their observations at Altamont. Unfortunately they never really talk about what happened at Altamont except in passing. They mention incidents but never really address them, and, without giving away the film, there is one incident that is the key to the film that I always figured would get more attention from them. Things happened at that concert that probably shouldnít have happened (like the Hellís Angels acting as security) and I was disappointed the three never really address any of it, almost skirting the issue. They mention threats from the Hellís Angels, and issues getting Mick Jagger to sign off on the film and then getting distribution. They also talk about some of the criticisms against the film, specifically Pauline Kaelís charges, but thatís about it. The commentary is fine enough on a technical level and there are some decent stories, but I just expected more and listening to it again after a few years I still feel the same way.

Much better in covering this area is the next feature, 1969 KSAN Radio Broadcast. 69-minutes of this 89-minute feature is excerpts from a 4-hour show that occurred the day after Altamont. Stefan Ponek, a DJ at the time and one of the participants in the show, offers introductions to certain segments (the introductions were recorded back in 2000, before his death in 2001.) The excerpts look at the events of Altamont, and the participants try to figure out why things went so wrong at this concert and not at Woodstock. Some interesting theories are thrown around, and call-ins from people who were there do shed some light on it. While you get audience members calling in you also get two call ins from members of Hellís Angels, including Sonny Barger and someone simply known as Pete. Pete comes off fairly calm and offers what he saw, but Sonny (who takes up the most time in this feature) comes off a little more defensive in his rambling call-in, and as Ponek points out he is probably drunk and/or high. Divided into twelve chapters itís a great feature offering a rather strong examination of the events at Altamont and what it possibly all means. Itís a great historical record and while itís disappointing Criterion hasnít included everything I appreciate them digging this up and including it here.

As a bonus, the remaining 20-minutes present the audio from the press conference with the Rolling Stones in the The Rainbow Room (found in the index under ďBONUS: The Rainbow Room.Ē) Footage from this interview appears in the documentary but this appears to be the entire segment. They talk about their trip to the U.S.A., Vietnam, Ed Sullivan, and anything else that gets thrown at them. I find it interesting that Criterion sort of hides it in another feature, but itís not too hard to find and is a great piece worth listening to. You have the option to ďPlay AllĒ or go through the index of 12 chapters (plus 1 bonus chapter.)

18-minutes worth of outtakes are also available. These include a mixing session for ďLittle QueenieĒ, and then footage of the Stones performing ďOh CarolĒ and ďProdigal Son.Ē There is then footage of Mick with Ike and Tina Turner at Madison Square Garden. While the audio drops out a few times itís good material and worth viewing.

Images From Altamont presents two galleries of photos taken by photographers Bill Owens and Beth Sunflower. Each gallery can be navigated through using the left/right arrows on your remote. Theyíre decent sized galleries with some good photos of the crowds, the Angels, and the stage. You also get a couple of photos of someone being taken away on a stretcher, though since it looks to have been taking much earlier in the day I donít think it has to do with the incident that happened with Angels later on.

Under Maysles Trailers you can find five theatrical trailers. First you get two original trailers for Gimme Shelter and then a re-release trailer. Unlike the Blu-ray edition you also get trailers for Salesman and Grey Gardens.

Filmographies presents a text list of selected filmographies for the David and Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin up to 2000. Thereís also three photos, one for each individual.

Also not found on the new Blu-ray edition is the Restoration Demonstration, covering the extensive restoration for the video and audio. At 4-minutes itís rather interesting with comparisons and text notes. Iíve always liked these and Iím somewhat disappointed Criterion doesnít include them anymore. As to why itís not on the Blu-ray edition I assume it has to do with the fact the Blu-ray probably received a new transfer, making this one obsolete (the new Blu-ray is a progressive transfer where again this DVD is interlaced.)

The booklet includes a few excellent essays, starting with a short essay on the film by Amy Taubin, what I believe is either an excerpt about Altamont from Stanley Boothís book The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones or are his brief recollections of it written for this and the DVDís release, an short bit by Georgia Bergman on the Stonesí American tour, a short essay by Michael Lydon on the 60ís and the lead up to Altamont and how it was the intro to the 70ís, an excerpt from Hellís Angels member Ralph ďSonnyĒ Bargerís Let it Bleed: No Sympathy For the Devils at Altamont, presenting his version of events at Altamont (this excerpt, for whatever reason, is NOT included in the booklet for the Blu-ray,) and then finally a nice essay on the film by Godfrey Cheshire, who also looks into Kaelís comments about the film (which I was surprised are missing elsewhere.)

Itís a solid release supplement wise. The commentary is disappointing to me but it does offer some decent material. But whatever the commentary fails to cover or examine the KSAN radio program more or less makes up for it. A decent if unspectacular selection of supplements.



The DVD was a decent edition upon its original release, though the new Blu-ray offers a superior improvement. While the Blu-ray is missing supplements found on here the new transfer on that edition should trump that, especially since I canít say the supplements missing are too significant (though I still question the lack of the Barger excerpt, and I did like the restoration demo.) The video transfer is a little disappointing but I still recommend the edition, though if one has Blu-ray capabilities I would point them to the new improved transfer found on the Blu-ray edition.

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