The Decline of Western Civilization


Main Details
Premiere Date 1981-07-01
Alternative Titles
  • Падение западной цивилизации (Russian)
Director Penelope Spheeris
Writer Penelope Spheeris
Producer Jeff Prettyman
Producer Penelope Spheeris
Cinematographer Steve Conant
Editor Charlie Mullin
Re-recording Mixer Gary C. Bourgeois
Sound Recordist Alan Kutner
Sound Mixer Nick Neutra
Additional Cinematographer P. Spheeris*
Assistant Camera James R. Tynes
Negative Cutter Mary Nelson*
Commentary Erik Karsen Puhm
Cast Alice Bag Band as Themselves
Cast Alice Bag as Lead Singer, The Alice Bag Band
Cast Claude Bessey* as Vocals, Catholic Discipline
Cast Black Flag as Themselves
Cast Don Bolles as Drums - Germs
Cast Dinah Cancer as Herself
Cast Exene Cervenka as Vocals - X
Cast Circle Jerks as Themselves
Cast Philo Cramer as Guitar - Fear
Cast Darby Crash as Vocals - Germs
Cast John Doe as Bassist, X
Cast Lorna Doom as Bassist - Germs
Cast Fear as Themselves
Cast Frank Gargani as Himself
Cast Bill Gazzarri as Himself
Cast The Germs as Themselves
Cast Michelle Baer Ghaffari as Herself
Cast Greg Ginn as Guitar - Black Flag
Cast Greg Hetson as Guitar - Circle Jerks
Cast Craig Lee as Guitarist - Alice Bag Band
Cast Lucky Lehrer as Drums - Circle Jerks
Cast Jenny Lens
Cast Keith Morris as Vocals - Circle Jerks
Cast Nicole Panter as Manager - Germs
Cast Phranc as Guitar - Catholic Discipline
Cast Ron Reyes as Vocals - Black Flag
Cast Roger Rogerson as Himself
Cast Rick Schmidlin as Himself
Cast Derf Scratch as Bass - Fear
Cast Pat Smear as Guitar - Germs
Cast Lee Ving as Vocals - Fear
Cast X as Themselves
Cast Billy Zoom as Guitar - X
Notes The Decline of Western Civilization is a 1981 American documentary filmed through 1979 and 1980. The movie is about the Los Angeles punk rock scene and was directed by Penelope Spheeris. In 1981, the LAPD Chief of Police Daryl Gates wrote a letter demanding the film not be shown again in L.A.

The film's title is possibly a reference to music critic Lester Bangs' 1970 two-part review of the Stooges' album "Fun House", for Creem magazine, where Bangs quotes a friend who had said the popularity of the Stooges signaled "the decline of Western civilization". Another possibility is that the title refers to Darby Crash's reading of Oswald Spengler's Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West). In "We Got the Neutron Bomb", an oral history of the L.A. punk rock scene collected by Marc Spitz, Claude Bessy claims that he came up with the title.

The film is the opening act of a trilogy by Spheeris, depicting music scenes in Los Angeles during the late 20th century. The second film, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988), covers the Los Angeles heavy metal scene of 1986-1988. The third film, The Decline of Western Civilization III (1998), chronicles the gutter punk lifestyle of homeless teenagers in the late 1990s.

In 2016, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, as it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


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