The El Duce Tapes (2019)

As he was trying to break into Hollywood after playing Johnny in The Toxic Avenger, Ryan Sexton discovered El Duce, the leader of The Mentors, passed out in the bushes outside his apartment. That led to him videotaping the life of the shock rock performer for some period.

For a quarter of a century, these tapes went unused. But now, David Lawrence (the editor of Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist) and Rodney Ascher (Room 237) have taken the footage and recombined it to tell the story of who El Duce was and how The Mentors were prophets or a shocking culture that they themselves would have both fit right into and railed against.

This is by no means an easy watch, but I have no idea why you’d be here if you weren’t already a fan of the days when rock and roll could be stupid, dangerous and both in equal measure.

You can come out of this thinking El Duce was a complete moron. Or perhaps he was a tortured soul who never really had a chance, who took fighting authority figures in high school to the next logical degree. Perhaps he was a victim of abuse who at times was so drunk that he couldn’t articulate how that made him feel, but would rather go for the shock of casual racism or German salutes. Was he in on the joke until he became the joke? Or was that the joke?

The Mentors: Kings of Sleaze Rockumentary came out a year before this and while that may tell a more complete picture, this is the more polished and ultimately heartbreaking movie. There’s a moment where Jerry Springer asks El Duce to take his hood off and then immediately asks him to put it back on. But I kind of think that the mask that he was compelled to wear was way more than just an executioner hood.

You can get this Arrow Video release from MVD.

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