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UK 1973
Directed by
D.A. Pennebaker
90 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

D. A. Pennebaker is deservedly best known for his 1967 Bob Dylan concert doco Don't Look Back. Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars is not in that film’s league as a documentary having very little of a back- or off-stage Bowie on show but on the other hand it is stronger as a concert film and for anyone wanting to revel in some nostalgia or see what made the then 26 year old glam-rocker the legend that he is today it will be rewarding viewing

On July 3, 1973, Bowie performed his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at London’s Hammersmith Odeon with his band The Spiders From Mars, headed up by Mick Ronson. The film is pretty much entirely taken up by the stage show itself, with only brief backstage moments with Bowie and his then wife, Angie, who comes across as part Lady Di, part Jennifer Saunders’s Edina from Ab Fab, and a exchanges between Bowie and Ringo Starr.

Whilst the music quality, both in terms of recording quality and musicianship is from today’s perspective (Jeff Beck apparently participated on three songs midway through the 2nd concert but was edited out from the final cut at his own request whilst Ronson found a more suitable slot backing Lou Reed) it is still impressive for its time with Bowie’s gender-bending, French and German cabaret and Kabuki influenced stage show and outstanding songwriting skills evident in many of his classic songs such as "Space Oddity", "Suffragette City", "All the Young Dudes" and  "Changes" amply demonstrating how much more important an artist he was than his Top 40 glam rock peers..

The film was shown a few times in late 1973 then disappeared from view when Bowie and his recoding company MainMan fell out, it being re-released in 1983, when it was released on home video accompanied by a soundtrack double album. Whilst unreconstructed Ziggy Stardust fans will get the most from the film if you thought glam rock was just Gary Glitter and Sweet stomping it out in platform-soled boots then it is well worth hunting down.




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