Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars

"Weak"

Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars Review


Throughout most of David Bowie's 1973 concert film "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," the flamboyantly androgynous (at the time) rock legend's performance isn't half as interesting as his gender-bending wardrobe.

In pancake makeup and his trademark spiky orange glam-mullet, Bowie's outfits include a duster-sleeved, silk kimono robe mini-dress and knee-high boots; a striped one-leg, one-sleeve body stocking accessorized with a boa and bangles the size of ring-toss rings; and a mesh shirt that reveals his beanpole frame, worn with a pair of capri pants and open-toed platform heels.

But for the first hour of the movie -- which was filmed at the farewell performance of the Ziggy Stardust persona and is now being re-released in a mediocre and muddy but "digitally remastered" print -- Bowie does little more in these get-ups than absent-mindedly pace the stage song after song, pausing once in a while to swing out a hip to place a hand on.

A low-budget early project by D.A. Pennebaker -- who went on to leave his mark on both concert movies ("Monterey Pop," Bob Dylan's "Don't Look Back") and documentaries ("The War Room," "Startup.com") -- the film is also riddled with cinematic snafus. Frequently grainy, out of focus or badly framed (Bowie's head is cut off in several shots), the lackluster five-camera cinematography gives no sense of the size of the audience or the arena (Hammersmith Odeon in London) and is composed of largely of static shots from stage left. The film's most engaging moments are close-ups of crying, screaming, breathless audience groupies, who seem to put more energy into performing elaborate sing-a-longs than Bowie puts into leading them.

Seven or eight songs into the concert -- after textureless versions of "Ziggy Stardust," "Watch that Man," "Moonage Daydream," "Changes" and "Space Oddity," among others -- Bowie's spirits seem to pick up with rousing renditions of "Cracked Actor," "Time" and "Let's Spend the Night Together." But even the best tunes in the film are musically inferior to the versions on Bowie's studio albums, and even when he finally springs to life for a final 30 minutes, his sometimes self-important performance is laden with gimmicky gestures like miming.

In between some numbers Pennebaker treats us to amusing backstage footage ("You're just a girl!" Bowie jokes with his wife "What do you know about makeup?"). But at the same time he'll cut back and forth to, say, a tedious 10-minute (or maybe it just seemed like 10 minutes) solo showdown between lead guitarist Mick Ronson and bassist Trevor Bolder.

If there's one thing "Spiders from Mars" does well, it's to capture the enthusiasm of Bowie's fans. A prologue outside the concert hall shows more dress-alikes than you'd see at a sci-fi convention, and Pennebaker's best footage comes from disco-ball-lit shots of the euphoric audience.

This limited theatrical re-release (certain to be followed by a DVD) may serve as a transporting flashback for Bowie fans who became fans during his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane eras. But if you can get your hands on the hard-to-find video or DVD of Bowie's 1983 "Serious Moonlight" tour (videotaped for pay-cable channel Showtime), it's a vastly superior production, full of dynamic showmanship, and even a few of the same songs.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: Bewlay Bros., Pennebaker Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Himself / Ziggy Stardust, as Himself, as Himself, Mick Woodmansey as Himself, as Herself

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.