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GRATEFUL DEAD MOVIE, THE(director: Jerry Garcia/Leon Gast; cinematographers: Stephen Lighthill/David Myers/Robert Primes/Bill Zarchy; editors: Susan R. Crutcher/Lisa Fruchtman/Jerry Garcia/John Nutt; music: Grateful Dead; cast: Jerry Garcia, Donna Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir; Runtime: 131; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Ron Rakow/Eddie Washington; Monarch; 1977)
“It’s the kind of film no respectable Deadhead would be without.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The historically significant documentary was filmed by Jerry Garcia and Leon Gast (“Hell’s Angels Forever”) at The Grateful Dead’s 1974 five-night “farewell” engagement at San Francisco’s Winterland. The band was in its prime (all were slim and no gray hair was in evidence), having toured together for the last nine years allowing their music to be tight and their fan base familiar with their routines. The Dead’s lead singer Garcia is the moving force behind the film and things are filtered through his eyes.

It opens with a psychedelic animation created by Gary Gutierrez and from there on it goes into footage of the band performing such classic rock Dead numbers as “Truckin’,” “Stella Blue,” “Ripple,” “Going Down the Road,” “Casey Jones,” “Johnny B. Goode” and “Sugar Magnolia.” There’s also inter-spliced between songs audience reaction shots, stage door machinations, the outside street scene and backstage hijinks. It’s the kind of intimate and sincere pic that transfers well the Dead experience and should bring back fond memories to Deadheads of tripping on acid during such concerts, as it was filmed during the waning days of the “flower power” movement from the Sixties.

It also includes shots of legendary rock impresario Bill Graham, who owned both the place out West and New York’s Fillmore East. It’s the kind of film no respectable Deadhead would be without and just plain ole Dead fans will also cherish.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”