Julien Temple follows up/apologizes for the 1979 Malcolm McLaren puff piece The Great Rock-and-Roll Swindle with The Filth and The Fury, a film documenting the real story of The Sex Pistols and their victimization by Machiavellian manager McLaren.
Temple follows the band from their humble beginnings as poverty-stricken and criminally-minded youths in the slums of London through the formation of the group at McLaren’s S&M clothing boutique, their hirings and firings by EMI, Virgin and Warner Bros., the punk rock revolution, the threat they posed to British society and the government, the in-fighting and, finally, Sid Vicious and his overdose.
The Filth and the Fury intercuts recent talking head footage of the remaining Sex Pistols (Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Glen Matlock and Johnny Rotten) and Malcolm McLaren with archival punk rock footage, interviews, clips from The Great Rock-and-Roll Swindle and scenes from the classic documentaries, The Punk Rock Movie and DOA. Temple also rather ingeniously frames the story with scenes from a British television production of Richard III, using Shakespeare’s tragic anti-hero as a metaphor for the rise and fall of one of the most important bands in rock-and-roll history.
The Filth and The Fury is by turns hilarious, pointed and mournful. There are moments that are laugh-out-loud funny (“This week on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, the incredible Kansas, family funk from the Sylvers, the outrageousness of The Sex Pistols, some slick-dealing from Ricky Jay and funnyman Robert Aguayo.”) and others that will bring a lump to your throat (Johnny Rotten on the verge of tears discussing the death of Sid Vicious). But, perhaps most importantly, The Filth and The Fury is accurate, laying to rest the rumors, myths and outright lies that have enshrouded The Sex Pistols since they began.