Running time: 90 min.
Director: D. A. Pennebaker
Synopsis: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a 1973 documentary and concert movie by D.A. Pennebaker. It features David Bowie and his backing group The Spiders from Mars performing at the Hammersmith Odeon, July 3, 1973. The DVD release was later retitled Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture.
Pennebaker had been asked to come to London and film just a few songs but when he saw the first of the two London shows he realized that "there was a full-length film here asking to be made". Though he had only scant knowledge of Bowie's music, apart from Space Oddity, he was impressed by the star's onstage charisma and the range of his songs and quickly prepared to shoot the entire second gig, without knowing that it would include a dramatic final coup. Jeff Beck participated on three songs (two of them forming a medley) midway through the concert but was edited out from the final cut at his own wish. The expanded version of "The Width of a Circle" was shortened by a few minutes for the soundtrack on vinyl and CD.
The film was shown a few times at festivals in late 1973 and provoked strong interest and favourable reactions, but then disappeared from view until 1983, when it was released on home video accompanied by a soundtrack double album. Evidently it became a casualty first of Bowie's rapid image changes which left Ziggy and glam rock behind and then of the rupture between Bowie and MainMan in early 1975; after that point Bowie was reluctant to release or promote any new recordings dating from before Young Americans as he would have to give half the income from any such recordings to MainMan up to the end of 1982.
Only in recent years has the film become available for regular cinema presentations; for many years it was a home video exclusive.
Bowie had taken the stage persona of "Ziggy Stardust", a science fiction based, theatrical, enigmatic, androgynous character and produced two albums during this period. The evening of July 3 was the last show in the English concert tour promoting Bowie's 1973 album Aladdin Sane and the 60th gig in a tour of Britain that started on May 12, though an American tour was already being booked for the autumn. Very few in Bowie's entourage knew of his decision to drop the Ziggy persona and cancel performing for a while; in the band only Mick Ronson had been told a few days before the final night.
At the end of the evening, aptly just before the song "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", Bowie announced that, Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do. The phrasing was deliberately ambiguous, but most of the audience and many London newspapers and magazines took it to mean that Bowie was retiring from music. In fact, he had killed off his Ziggy persona but not his music career.