“This film’s story—my story—is not just about the plane crash but also about my personal relationship with the genius that was Ronnie Van Zant—whom I loved like a brother and still miss to this day.”
— Artimus Pyle
While much has been said about Southern Rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd over the years through several documentaries, this drama’s period-correct costuming by Lisa Norcia and set design by Eve McCarney—in conjunction with strong performances by its cast of unknown actors—will bring fans something extra beyond those “talking head” chronicles. In fact, being “inside” the plane and seeing it unfold—instead of being told what happened—is an emotionally tough watch (brought to fruition by an extremely well-executed CGI effect).
Ian Michael Shultis, an ex-EFL football player for Germany’s Furstenfeldbruck Razorbacks, shines in his leading man debut: his role as Artimus Pyle is just the beginning of a long career. The multi-talented Taylor Clift as Ronnie Van Zant — who does his own vocals on the classics “Free Bird,” “Call Me The Breeze,” and “Sweet Home Alabama” — also has a bright future ahead of him. And keep your eyes open for ex-Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot, and Dokken bassist Sean McNabb in his small but effective role as ’70s iconic impresario David Krebs (Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Scorpions); here’s to hoping he scores himself some larger roles as well (he’s been part of FOX-TV’s Sons of Anarchy franchise).
This long-gestating rock bioflick (stymied by lawsuits; see this article at Ultimate Classic Rock) recreates the ill-fated October 20, 1977, crash in the swamps of Mississippi through the eyes of former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle (who narrates the film via vignettes). Following a concert at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina, the band boarded a two-prop plane bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they were scheduled to appear at LSU the following night. (The crash came just three days after the release of their fifth album, Street Survivors.) Pyle not only survived the crash that claimed the life of the band’s founder and frontman Ronnie Van Zant (along with guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, back-up singer Cassie Gaines), he also physically pulled the remaining survivors out of the wreckage before staggering towards the nearest farmhouse to seek help.
The aftermath of the crash is typical of the rock ‘n’ roll business: Artimus joined the band upon the recording of their third album and wasn’t “under contract” with the record company—thus, Pyle was responsible for his own medical bills. And when the FAA discovered “drugs” (proved to be vials of legal ginseng extract) in Pyle’s recovered luggage, they called in the DEA and threatened to charge Pyle with drug trafficking.
Only in the corporate meat grinder that is the music business.
You can get your copy of Street Survivors on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD formats on June 30 and pre-order copies though the MVD Entertainment Group. In addition, Cleopatra Records is releasing a standalone official film soundtrack (performed by Artimus and his sons Marshall and Chris). Cleopatra also released Verotika, the feature film writing and directing debut by Glenn Danzig.
Update: August 2021: We’ve since reviewed Cohn’s ventures into the CGI shark-verse with Shark Season (2020) and Swim (2021). Both are fun water romps.
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.