Gimme Shelter (documentary)

Gimme Shelter (documentary)

Infobox Film
name = Gimme Shelter

caption = Original film poster
director = Albert and David Maysles
Charlotte Zwerin
producer = Porter Bibb
Ronald Schneider
writer =
starring = The Rolling Stones
music =
cinematography = Albert and David Maysles
editing = Charlotte Zwerin
distributor = Maysles Films
Cinema 5 (USA)
20th Century Fox (UK)
released = December 6, 1970
runtime = 91 min
country = United States
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:19778
imdb_id = 0065780

"Gimme Shelter" is a 1970 documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, chronicling the Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour, which culminated in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert. The film is named after "Gimme Shelter", the lead track from the Rolling Stones' 1969 album "Let It Bleed".


The documentary is associated with the Direct Cinema movement of the 50s and 60s. The Maysles Brothers, who directed it, are strong figures of the era. The movement revolves around the philosophy of being a 'reactive' filmmaker. Rather than investigating a subject matter through such documentary techniques as interviews, reconstruction and voiceover, direct cinema simply records events as they unfold naturally and spontaneously - like a 'fly on the wall'.


The film depicts some of the Madison Square Garden concert, later featured on the live album, "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!", as well as the photography session for the cover, featuring Charlie Watts and a donkey. It also shows the Stones at work in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, recording "Wild Horses". Performances documented in the film include Ike and Tina Turner (who were one of the Rolling Stones' opening acts for the 1969 tour), the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Jefferson Airplane.

Much of the film chronicles the behind-the-scenes dealmaking that took place to make the free Altamont concert happen. The action then turns on the concert itself at the Altamont Speedway, the security for which was provided by the Hells Angels. As the day progressed, with drug-taking and drinking by the Angels and members of the audience, the mood turned ugly. Fights broke out during performances by Jefferson Airplane (at one point lead singer Marty Balin was knocked out by a Hells Angel) and The Flying Burrito Brothers. The Grateful Dead opted not to play after learning of the incident with Balin. By the time the Stones hit the stage, the crowd was especially restless.

The Stones opened with "Jumpin' Jack Flash". It was near the end of their set, during "Under My Thumb", that a member of the audience, 18 year old Meredith Hunter, pulled out a revolver in the course of a melee near the stage, and was stabbed to death by a member of the Angels.

Eric Saarinen (grandson of Eliel Saarinen) was the camera operator who (unknowingly) caught Meredith Hunter's stabbing on film. The film sequence clearly shows the silhouette of a handgun in Hunter's hand as a member of the Hells Angels enters from the right, grabs and raises the gun hand, turning Hunter around and stabbing him at least twice in the back before pushing the victim off camera.

A young George Lucas was a camera operator for the Altamont concert. However, his camera jammed after shooting about convert|100|ft|m of film, and none of his footage was incorporated in the final cut.Fact|date=May 2007

ongs performed

The Rolling Stones

*"Jumpin' Jack Flash"
*"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
*"You Gotta Move"
*"Wild Horses" (in studio at Muscle Shoals)
*"Brown Sugar"
*"Love in Vain"
*"Honky Tonk Women"
*"Street Fighting Man"
*"Sympathy for the Devil"
*"Under My Thumb"
*"Gimme Shelter" (live version, over closing credits)

Ike and Tina Turner

*"I've Been Loving You Too Long" (at Madison Square Garden)

Jefferson Airplane

*"The Other Side of This Life" (at Altamont)

Flying Burrito Brothers

*"Six Days on the Road" (at Altamont)

External links

* [ Official website] at
* [ "Gimme Shelter": The true story"] at
* [ Criterion Collection essay by Ralph "Sonny" Barger]
* [ Criterion Collection essay by Amy Taubin]
* [ Criterion Collection essay by Stanley Booth]
* [ Criterion Collection essay by Georgia Bergman]
* [ Criterion Collection essay by Michael Lydon]
* [ Criterion Collection essay by Godfrey Cheshire]


* Dave Saunders, "Direct Cinema: Observational Documentary and the Politics of the Sixties", London, Wallflower Press 2007

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