Long out of print and never previously issued on DVD, The Decline of Western Civilization Collection (DVD 6365-6368) has gotten the reissue it deserves. Directed by Penelope Spheeris, the three films focus on different aspects of Los Angeles's underbelly. The first film, from 1981, covers the punk scene, including X, the Germs and Black Flag. 1988's Part II: The Metal Years includes big names such as Lemmy and members of KISS and Aerosmith but also casts a light on oblivious fans and young bands. The final film from 1998 deals with LA's gutter punks, kids living on the fringes of society. The new release includes extensive supplemental footage and print materials.
It's hard to understate what a big deal this is. Billboard called the first two volumes the landmark movies of the punk and metal genres. Parts I and II landed at No. 5 and 11, respectively, on Rolling Stone's list of the 40 Greatest Rock Documentaries. The films have been lauded in scholarly journals as well as the popular press. In its video introduction, the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle featured a clip from Part II of an addled Ozzy Osbourne struggling to pour a glass of orange juice.
This series wasn't available when we compiled our picks for the Best Music Docs NOT on Netflix, but it merits that distinction.