A semi-documentary, semi-fiction film exploring the Sex Pistols career and how their rise to fame was orchestrated by manager Malcom McClaren – if you believe him that is.


Watching the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle is an experience that is difficult to describe as the film is so bizarre, odd and biased that it is definitely something to watch rather than read about, especially if you are a fan of the Sex Pistols.

Generally considered a documentary the film also uses a large amount of fiction to try and tells it convulted and confusing story. Alongside performance clips, animated sequences and interviews about the band the film also includes random moments such as a sub-plot in which Steve Jones is a (badly acted) film-noir detective trying to track down McClaren and several graphic sex scenes.

A lot of the fiction pieces which are used in the film are done so because they where filmed for a planned Sex Pistols feature ‘Who Killed Bambi?’ which after starting production was cancelled when the band split up. The inclusion of these scenes in this film is mesmerising for all the wrong reasons as they do not fit together at all. The film is clearly biased towards McClaren as the focus is on how he formed the band and everything that happened was all down to him.

The arrogance of McClaren’s interviews in the film is particularly interesting with him sitting naked in the bathtub dictating perfectly showcasing how much he thinks of himself. From the outset it is obvious to anyone watching that much of what he claims in the film is false particularly that he invented punk rock.

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The film contains many interesting songs that help fill out the thin plot and make for entertaining viewing; these include the Sex Pistols cover of Road-Runner, a random song with Ronnie Biggs (whilst he was still on the run) and Sid Vicious performing My Way.

The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle is a bizarre film which even for all its bias still has enjoyability in its strangeness. If you are a fan of punk rock then it’s definitely worth checking out.

My next film will be the (hopefully) less biased and more traditional Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury, which uses much of the same footage.


Bonus video:

A strange song called Who Killed Bambi including the film performed by Tenpole Tudor is one of many worth checking out.