Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Gimme Shelter (1970)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Gimme Shelter (1970)

In the Maysles Brother's (Albert and David) haunting and gripping concert documentary film that covered the 1969 British rockers' Rolling Stones tour that captured, in its finale, the stabbing to death on December 6th of fan Meredith Hunter (who waved a gun) by Hell's Angels "security" (who were paid with beer) at Altamont Speedway during the Altamont Free Concert near San Francisco:

  • the disturbing sequence (in the finale) filmed during the Rolling Stones' final free rock concert show appearance in early December 1969 - as the crowd increasingly became jittery, out-of control, and fights broke out during Mick Jagger's singing of "Sympathy for the Devil", he cautioned the audience: "Uh, I mean, people, who's fighting, what for? Who's fighting and what for? Why are we fighting? Why are we fighting? We don't want to fight. Come on! Do we want... Who wants to fight? Who is it?...Look, that guy there, if he doesn't stop it, man... Listen, either those cats cool it, man, or we don't play"; as a doctor and ambulance was being summoned, Jagger continued to try to calm the listeners: "All I can ask you, San Francisco, is like the whole thing. Like, this could be the most beautiful evening we've had for this winter, you know, and we've really... Why don't... Don't let's f--k it up, man. Come on, let's get it together. I can't do any more than just ask you, beg you, just to keep it together. You can do it. It's within your power. Everyone, everyone, Hell's Angels, everybody, let's just keep ourselves together. You know, if we, if we are all one, let's show we're all one"
  • as Jagger proceeded to his final song: "Under My Thumb" - another violent scuffle broke out; the Hell's Angels - who had been hired locally to provide security, became involved in quelling the disturbance, as the Rolling Stones abruptly stopped their performance; Jagger spoke out again: "Hey, man, look. We're splitting. If those cats can't... If you people... We're splitting if those cats don't stop beatin' everybody up in sight. I want 'em out of the way, man. I don't like you..."
  • the next sequence was within an editing room where Jagger was being shown (on a small monitor) shocking footage of a murder committed in the crowd very near the stage - Hell's Angel Alan Passaro (as Himself) back-stabbed 18 year-old drugged-up spectator Meredith Hunter (as Himself) (who was wielding a long-barreled .22 revolver gun) - identified because he was wearing a bright lime-green suit
  • the use of freeze-frames highlighted the violence caught on film:
    - "Can you roll back on that, David?...Can you see what was happening there?"
    - "No, you couldn't see anything, well, it was another, it's another scuffle, it was..."
    - "There's the Angel right there with a knife."
    - "Where's the gun?"
    - "I'll roll it back, and you'll see it against the girl's crocheted dress."
    - "Right there, isn't it?"
    - "Oh, it was so horrible."
  • the film ended with an interview with Altamont witnesses, who claimed that the victim suffered a couple of stab wounds in his back and one in his ear; he was pronounced dead at 6:20 by the time a doctor arrived; the girl with the crocheted dress, Meredith's girlfriend (Patty Bredehoft as Herself) had to be consoled as she cried: "I don't want him to die! Don't let him die, please!"; a helicopter lifted away with the body, as the film returned briefly to the concert, the evacuation of the Stones, Jagger's sober departure from the editing room, and views of crowds arriving for the concert

Hell's Angels as Security

Mick Jagger: "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Under My Thumb"

The Stabbing Victim (in Green)

The Stabbing Incident, Viewed by Jagger in an Editing Room


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