American Movie Classics revisits one of the most diverse periods in rock 'n' roll history with Hollywood Rocks the Movies: The Seventies, a documentary that covers all the bases you'd expect it to.
The hour-long, clip-laden film — narrated by David Bowie — is a primer of music-movie history from the 1970s, from Woodstock
to Xanadu. It's more of a nostalgia trip than a detailed study, moving from genre to genre and dedicating more time to archival performance footage than to interviews or behind-the-scenes moments.
Interviews (many of which seem as if they were pulled from archival services) talk of the 1970s as a decade in which rock ruled Hollywood, but that might be overstating things — at least judging by some of the spotlighted films.
Remember Wattstax, The Phantom of the Paradise
or Roller Boogie? Probably not. But all three were given as much play as Saturday Night Fever, Woodstock
And then there are those you'd like to forget, like the late-'70s riff on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a film as forgettable as the Beatles' album was seminal.
Still, the presentation does uncover a few things casual fans might not otherwise have known. For instance, Kris Kristofferson wasn't the first choice to play the aging rocker in A Star Is Born
— Elvis Presley was. And not only was Sweet Sweetback's Badassssss Song
the film that set the template for music-infused "blaxploitation" films such as Shaft, it also launched the career of the popular 1970s soul group Earth, Wind and Fire.
But the documentary isn't selective about what exactly constitutes a "rock movie." You can make a case for concert films like The Last Waltz
or The Man Who Fell to Earth, album-inspired "rock operas" like Quadrophenia, true-life tales like The Buddy Holly Story ,
or even fictional films that capture a music-driven lifestyle, like American Graffiti.
But the documentary's producers might have stretched things a bit by including Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar
and other such fare adapted from the Broadway stage. They do make for good images though, and ultimately, that's what Hollywood Rocks the Movies
is — a vehicle for clips.
Hollywood Rocks the Movies: The Seventies
premieres Friday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. EDT, as part of AMC's 10th Annual Film Preservation Festival.