If you are any sort of music aficionado or are interested in what it was like to be at CBGBs in the late ’70s, you have to see this DVD. Then again, if you’ve ever seen a documentary about CBGBs or punk rock, then you’ve seen bits and pieces of this footage already. The fact is, the best footage around of early Ramones, Richard Hell and the Dead Boys exists here.
Shot in black and white 16mm, this is the historical real deal. Launching off with the brilliant footage of Richard Hell and Voidoids releasing “Blank Generation” on the crowd and ending with the onstage onslaught of the Ramones as they rocket through “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Punking Out” is the definitive record of late ’70s CBGBs and punk.
And it’s not just all about the music, the film focuses just as much on the people in the crowd. This is where we first get to meet the infamous Lydia Lunch, get CBGB’s then-owner Hilly Kristal’s take on the volume of the performances, hear quite a few people try to explain what the “blank generation” is to them and see one or two people that seem to have wandered in from an entirely different white collar world (one fellow sounds like Jimmy Stewart and dresses like Alan Thicke in “Growing Pains”).
The only criticism to be leveled has nothing to do with the quality of the film or the focus, but simply the short duration. That there is only so much footage of this time available in existence is heartbreaking, and not the filmmakers’ faults. But maybe the short time frame is fitting as, like the music itself, “Punking Out” hits fast, hard and leaves an indelible mark on all who witness it.
“Punking Out” is available for order at PunkingOutFilm.com