San Francisco punk pioneers Crime are profiled in a rockumentary premiering Nov. 14 at the Victoria Theatre. (Courtesy Larry Larson)

SF punk band Crime captured at prime in new movie

Doc tells story of pioneering band known for wearing police uniforms

When the band Crime formed in The City in 1976, it was billed as a rock ‘n’ roll group.

But when the riotous self-produced debut single “Hot Wire My Heart”/“Baby, You’re So Repulsive” became an anthem for the burgeoning local punk scene, vocalist-guitarists Johnny Strike and Frankie Fix, bassist Ron The Ripper and drummer-manager Hank Rank became unintentional godfathers of West Coast punk.

“A few facts are generally agreed upon,” says Hank Rank, born Henry S. Rosenthal. “The Mabuhay Gardens was where [punk] found its home, Dirk ‘The Pope of Punk’ Dirksen was the impresario who fostered it and all San Francisco punk bands descended from Crime.”

The group takes its place in the punk pantheon with the DVD release of “San Francisco’s First and Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie: Crime 1978.” Produced by Rosenthal and directed and edited by Jon Bastian, the archival film, which captures the band at its 1978 peak, premieres at the Victoria Theatre Thursday.

The event also includes a screening of D.A. Pennebaker’s 1973 David Bowie concert film “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” live music and a Ziggy Stardust lookalike contest.

Rosenthal’s 35-minute rockumentary was born out of 16mm color film footage taken by local cable access producer Larry Larson in 1978 for a segment on his local events program “In Review.”

Intending to document The City’s nascent punk scene, Larson went to the “CBGB of the West Coast,” North Beach’s Mabuhay Gardens nightclub, where promoter-emcee Dirk Dirksen booked local acts such as Avengers, The Dils and Crime.

Starting with Crime — who appeared onstage in police uniforms — Larson shot a fast-and-furious 20-minute live show and sound checks and band member interviews.

After the self-financed production stalled once the money ran out, Larson turned the unedited footage over to Rosenthal for safekeeping, hoping it eventually would see the light of day.

In ensuing years, Rosenthal (who left Crime in 1979, a year before the band imploded) joined the groups Poontang Wranglers and Naked Beast. He also produced documentary films, most notably 2005’s “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” 2016’s “Author: The JT LeRoy Story” and 2017’s “Bill Nye: Science Guy.”

After 38 years, the producer known for telling other artists’ stories was urged to tell his own by Bastian, a Poontang Wranglers’ bandmate and fellow filmmaker.

Jon Bastian, left, and Henry S. Rosenthal made “San Francisco’s First and Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie: Crime 1978.” (Courtesy Henry S. Rosenthal)

The two began work on turning Crime’s archival footage into a movie, editing in never-before-seen clips of a notorious performance at San Quentin State Prison. Rosenthal’s son, George, owner of The Complex Recording Studio in The City, created a 5.1 surround mix from the original tracks.

“‘San Francisco’s First and Only Rock’n’Roll Movie: Crime 1978’ is a film whose time has come,” says Rosenthal. “The DVD and vinyl soundtrack releases can now be enjoyed by old and new fans worldwide. The emergence of this new film cements our supremacy in San Francisco music history.”

IF YOU GO

Cops Vs. Aliens: An Evening of Rock ‘n’ Roll Film

Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14

Tickets: $15

Contact: copsvsaliens.eventbrite.com

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