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‘D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage’ takes you back to the Brattle — and the year punk blew up


Much like you did at Thanksgiving, your local Multiplex has had its fill of blockbusters and awards-grubbing indie films and has decided to take the weekend off to recuperate before that monster known as Star Wars hits in a couple of weeks. Plus, Disaster Artist is only showing at one theater in this city for the next week, and there are enough shithead college students looking to throw garbage at the screen to make that both impossible to get a ticket to and totally unappealing for anybody not totally committed to the cult of Wiseau.

Luckily, The Brattle has a solution to the empty weekend blues, and it’s also punk as fuck: They’ll be showing the utterly fascinating and impossibly difficult-to-find D.O.A: A Rite of Passage (1980), which has been recently been restored and distributed by the American Genre Film Association. You should see this.

Produced by High Times Magazine, D.O.A. was the feature film debut of Polish documentary filmmaker Lech Kowalski, who wouldn’t have another hit as large as this but has been making steady and disturbing work about rock and roll and heroin ever since. It’s a lengthy chronicle of the Sex Pistols’ 1978 US tour, which went about as well as you might think given that they only booked dates in the South, the band fucking broke up at the end of it, and Sid Vicious lost his goddamn mind to drugs, and it’s a pretty essential primary document for one of the craziest moments in the history of modern music.


Even then, it features performances from groups like Generation X (back when Billy Idol was frontman), The Clash, X-Ray Spex, Dead Boys, and more. If we’re sounding kind of vague and unsure about our synopsis here, well, honestly, this’ll be a first-time viewing for us, too.

D.O.A. has been legendarily unavailable and difficult to find in recent years in a format even slightly resembling watchable, and though we tried long and hard to find a non-YouTube way to watch it and give you context, we couldn’t get a copy to watch before the week of the Brattle’s screenings.


Perhaps it’s because of the scenes between Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, which are apparently chilling enough to taint the movie with an odd air of death about the whole thing. Maybe it’s because there’s just never been enough interest or justification for a re-release (though Poly Styrene’s untimely passing a few years back would suggest otherwise). Or, it might just have been forgotten for all these years.

But, thanks to the AGFA, this vital document of one of the most intense moments in the history of capital-P Punk is back and better than ever, and it’s showing on the big screen this weekend. If you’re any self-respecting punk or a person who enjoys rare documentaries, why the fuck haven’t you bought your tickets? What more do you want?

‘D.O.A.: A RITE OF PASSAGE’:: Friday, December 1 through Sunday, December 3 at The Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St. in Cambridge, MA :: 9:30 p.m., all ages, $13 for the public and $11 for Brattle members :: Ticket info