Monkey Grip (1982)

“Songs about sadomasochism and masturbation can’t be on the radio. The children! Protect the children!”
— the battle cry of the PMRC’s  membership

Courtesy of the Divinyls’ MTV’s patronage—and the conservative right’s “outrage” over the songs “Pleasure and Pain” from their second album, What a Life! (1983), and “I Touch Myself” from their fourth album, Divinyls (1991)—Sydney, Australia’s doppelganger to Akron, Ohio-by-way-of-London the Pretenders (with a little AC/DC raunch and punky Blondie in the woofers), rose up the U.S. charts.

There’s nothing quite like a little Tipper Gore-mock controversy to inject a floundering career. . . .

I remember my ex-Operations Director, with her endless stream of inane memos and made-up-week-by-week-as-you-go-along “station policies” that she’d spring on us; she loved her “write-ups” and warnings. The memo I especially remember—in the context of this film review—is the one advising us that, while it’s a “real toe-tapper” (Her words, I kid you not. Who works in radio and vocabulary-holsters “toe tapper”?), “I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls will not be added to our rotation. Forget the fact we were an alt-rock station that specialized in indie-artists and unsigned locals in the midst of a grunge wave and if a mainstream Madonna-lite copy was put into rotation, it would have be accidently-on-purpose scratched-beyond-airplay or “misfiled” into the 40-pound hallway receptacle—then buried under more trash. “Toe tapper,” indeed. But, once again, I digress. . . .

Anywhoo . . . we say “floundering” because, unlike MTV turning around the then floundering career of Duran Duran (with those bane-of-my-existence Sonny Crockett-on-a-yacht videos), the audience response (due to MTV’s low rotation) to the Divinyl’s debut American single-video “Boys in Town”—was indifference. (That song, in addition to “Elsie” and “Only Lonely” from the soundtrack, were reissued on their international debut, Desperate.) But the late Christina Amphlett had black bangs (!), looked cute on the album cover, and she’d swing a neon-bluelight mic-stand like no other. And the song was like a chick-fronted version of AC/DC; even Blondie-heavy (before that band started meandering with disco-rap hybrids and faux-reggae tunes like a pre-Crash Test Dummies annoyance). So I bought the album. It was a hell of a lot better than Men at Work. And that Men Without Hats cacophony. Oh, wait. They’re from Canada. Never mind.

And if you’re creating a Divinyls-list for the .mp3 files: don’t forget their (minor) hit cover of the Syndicate of Sounds’ ‘60s garage classic “Hey Little Girl” (changed to boy, natch) on their third Chrysalis album, 1988’s Temperamental (which my old station did play, because it fit the format). And it if all sounds like Blondie, that’s because that band’s producer, Mike Chapman (Suzi Q), is behind the boards. And if you hear of a dash of Madonna erotica in the grooves, that’s because “I Touch Myself” was written by the team of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, who wrote “Like a Virgin.”

Ack! Get back to the movie!

Anyway, before the bogusversy and before MTV, there was Christina Amphlett’s AACTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Monkey Grip (and she never acted again). Amphlett got her part by way of the Divinyls’ rise on the Melbourne local scene—and the film called for a band whose female lead singer is the gal-pal for the film’s domestically-troubled lead character. And instead of casting actors in a lip-sync faux-band, the producers cast a real band—in a rock flick doppelganger to Nina Hagen’s Cha-Cha and Nena’s Hangin’ Out (and, in a male perspective: Michael Hutchence of INXS co-starring in the punk chronicle Dogs in Space)—the Divinyls.

Based on the best-selling Australian cult novel by Helen Graham and fueled by a six-song EP soundtrack by the Divinyls, the story follows Nora, a single-mother in her thirties scratching out a living on the outskirts of Melbourne’s alternative music scene-business. In addition to struggling to raise her thirteen year-old daughter, she has to deal with her own mental and physical abuse at the hands of her heroin-addicted lover, Javo, a mostly-unemployed theatre actor. As result of the financial and domestic instability, she squats in a number of households with other single parents in Melbourne’s local art community (the suburbs of Calton and Fitzroy; think of New York’s Greenwich Village and Los Angeles’ Silver Lake communities) of musicians, actors, and writers. Nora, as with her likeminded contemporaries, refuses to play by the rules of conventionality, torn by their competing desires for freedom and stability that’s exacerbated by their artistic endeavors.

There’s no freebie online rips. But we found this 10-minute clip of scenes to sample and a VOD stream on Vimeo. You can learn more about the influential novel behind the film with its extensive Wikipage.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Last Days (2005)

When considering the legalities of music publishing and the licensing of music for films—especially a film shining an unfavorable light on persons and corporations connected to Kurt Cobain’s estate, a biographically-accurate (and not an inspired-by-events) screenplay about a Generation X’s “Jim Morrison” seems a production impossibility.

The best explanation of this screenplay-to-film improbability of a narrative Cobain career chronicle sets in the work of Oliver Stone, who brought the tale of Jim Morrison and the Doors to the silver screen. When Mr. Stone began developing his football expose, Any Given Sunday, the unfavorable light the screenplay shed on the National Football League led to the organization rebuffing Stone’s request for involvement; Stone dreamed up an ersatz professional football league for the film.

A faux biopic analogous to Rock Star, a film loosely inspired by the career of Judas Priest’s Tim “Ripper” Owens—and not akin to the critically acclaimed box office bonanza biographies of Ray Charles or Johnny Cash—is the only way, it seems, a true Cobain biopic can appear on screen. (His daughter, Frances Bean, has since produced 2015’s Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, which is considered the most-accurate of the many Cobain-Nirvana chronicles, but it is still a documentary and not a narrative piece.)

Film productions have music consultants who prepare a film’s soundtrack; a film about the life of a controversial musician with an estate controlled by a widow who’s partial to filing lawsuitsand going on expletive-riddled rants on The Howard Stern Show about how everyone (including ex-bandmates) manipulates her ex-husband’s work, opens a plethora of legalities; as such, business entities cast in an unfavorable position are not licensing their music for such a film.

During our first “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” in July we reviewed Down on Us, the low-budget, exploitive tale on the Doors by Larry Buchanan that experienced similar licensing issues regarding the music of the Doors, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix; Buchanan contracted musicians to forge replicates of those artists for the film. Thus, Oscar nominated and award-winning director Gus Van Sant exceptionally and effectively executed this same approach with Last Days, his faux-Kurt Cobain docudrama concerning actor Michael Pitt’s eerily portrayed pseudo-grunge rocker, Blake, fronting the film’s scripted Nirvana substitute, Pagoda—featuring stunning Nirvana simulations composed by Pitt. (It all goes back to poet William Blake, one of Jim Morrison’s lyrical inspirations. The circle completes.)

As with his previous effort, Elephant, which was a thinly-veiled account of the Columbine tragedy, Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) crafted this faux-bioflick of Cobain’s “last days”; until his take, the only cinematic document on the troubled Nirvana leader was Nick Broomfield’s 1998 pseudo-document Kurt & Courtney (a chronicle, courtesy of Courtney Love’s perpetual legalese, turned what was to be a Cobain tribute into a tale of the sad hanger-ons of Grunge’s Sid & Nancy). It was Sant’s indie-pedigree and Oscar success, in conjunction with the Cobain subject matter, that led to Last Days becoming the debut release for Picturehouse, a joint-shingle between Time Warner, New Line Cinema, and HBO Films (which is why it plays incessantly on that channel) to create domestic art house, independent foreign, and documentary films.

And Last Days is definitely an “art house” film—to the point of being an “independent foreign film,” courtesy of its Felliniesque minimalism; this is Oliver Stone’s The Doors reflecting through a Michelangelo Antonioni transom. So, don’t expect flash; expect dead-pan scripting that concentrates on haunting cinematography and quasi-over-the-head symbolisms.

The narrative dispenses with the usual rise-and-fall tales of Taylor Hackford’s and James Mangold’s respective major-studio bios Ray or Walk the Line—with Michael Pitt (Hedwig and the Angry Itch) as the mythical-rocker, Blake, of grunge superstars Pagoda, living his last days in his Pacific Northwest home. The tale beings with Blake sneaking out of a rehab clinic and taking up residence in a forest with a makeshift, lakeside campfire; he walks around with a shotgun in his house pointing it at his band/roommates; he hangs up on phone-harassing record executives droning about tour date obligations. The story meanders through its entrancing simplicity (e.g., extended scenes of Blake making and eating a bowl of cereal, long, pondering (but beautiful) tracking shots across lawns and through windows, extended, stagnant shots of Blake writing-recording a song) until an electrician discovers Blake’s body in an apartment above the home’s garage.

Fans of Sonic Youth and watchers of the concert document 1991: The Year Punk Broke will notice bassist Kim Gordon in her dramatic acting debut (as a concerned record executive) while her band mate-husband, Thurston Moore (We Jam Econo), supervised the soundtrack (Sonic Youth also scored the French-made Demonlover, along with the Beatles “what if” Backbeat, Heavy, and Made in the USA).

Moore’s supervision assisted Michael Pitt in his crafting two Cobainesque songs for the film: “That Day,” the acoustic “Death to Birth,” along with an extended electric jam, “Fetus.” Lukas Haas (in the “Krist Novoselic” role) composed “Untitled,” while Rodriqo Lopresti (of fellow “Seattle band” The Hermitt) composed “Seen as None” and “Pointless Ride.” The DVD release features an additional song, “Happy Song,” along with a mock video for Blake’s Pagoda, which is a nostalgic return to the Seattle-styled videos that permeated MTV’s airwaves in the 120 Minutes-crazed ’90s. The film also features a soundscape “Doors of Perception” (know your Jim Morrison trivia).

There’s more grunge-era films to be had with our “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ‘90s” featurette.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

My Life with Morrissey (2003)

“. . . and now I know how Joan of Arc felt.”
—Morrissey

The greats always come in pairs: Johnny Thunders and David Johansen in the New York Dolls (Mona et Moi). Keith Richards and Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones. Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. . . .

And Johnny Marr and (Steven) Morrissey of the Smiths.

How rare is this movie? This is the best one-sheet image we could find.

The Smiths: you either love them or you hate them. There’s no middle ground for this U.K. band that shamelessly—but with integrity—wallowed in self-absorbed self-pity and spiritual anguish. And the songs were all hits—every one of them—from “Big Mouth Strikes Again” to “The Boy with a Thorn in his Side” to “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” to “Girlfriend in a Coma.” Uplifting, dark tunes from a band who gave you albums entitled Meat Is Murder.

So it makes sense that the depression-obsessive lyricist behind that morbid pop-oeuvre would inspire amorous fanaticism. And it comes in the form of Jackie (a stellar Jackie Buscarino, in her acting debut; currently the producer of Cartoon Network’s long-running Steven Universe), an already off-kilter office worker whose cramped flat doubles as a museum-shrine for all things Smiths—and keeps adding to the collection as she obsessively trolls records stores for memorabilia and rare albums by her dream lover. So it follows that she completely unravels (think of a female version of a spiraling Crispin Glover obsessed over Debbie Harry) when she happens to meet her mopish idol: Morrissey.

And when the ephemera wells run dry, Jackie takes the next logical step: stalking her idol’s favorite hangouts in Los Angeles. And she gets the ultimate collectible: his food leftovers. And when Morrissey (Jose Maldondo in shadow and silhouette; his only acting role) assumes she’s homeless and hungry, he takes pity and gives her a ride home. And now they’re a couple—so she thinks.

This is an indie film with low-budget pride. This is an off-the-wall stupid-weird unconventional-demented gem. Even if you loathe Morrissey, you’ll love this movie. No, it’s no Bowfinger. It’s no Being John Malkovich. It’s definitely no Bubba Ho Tep. But this directing debut by long-time Cartoon Network animator Andrew Overtoom is better than most fictional portrayals of a famed musician (or actor) (pick one of the ’80s Elvis “what if’ers”) in comical circumstances. If you dug the off-beat n’ quirky Ed and his Death Mother and Ghost World with Steve Buscemi and its cool ‘n quirky cousins Bartleby, Ed and Rubin, and Twister with Crispin Glover, then My Life with Morrissey will slide nicely into your, well . . . store nicely on your digital shelf hard drive.

The Emptor the Caveats Department: Take into account that Jackie—and her love of the Smiths—reminds me of my former “punk rock girlfriend,” the similarly-named Jessica, in all her granny dress and platformed Dr. Martens Mary Janes, stringy-black haired clipped glory. So the mileage of your particular romantic nostalgia for the movie may vary.

You can stream this on Amazon Prime.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Slipstream (1973)

“If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams.”

— Van Morrison, “Astral Weeks” (1968)

My attendance of the recent Saturday Night Drive-In Asylum Double Feature Watch Party on September 5 — which featured The Redeemer (1978) — brings us to this review. And I have to admit that, until this most recent viewing of The Redeemer and digging deeper into the film’s history, I had no idea of that occult-slasher’s connection to this Canadian radio drama by way of actor Michael Hollingsworth. If we are to believe the digital content managers at the IMDb, Hollingsworth, in the role of the hippy Billy, made his acting debut in Slipstream—and vanished from the business after his portrayal of the gay actor, Roger, who met his fate at the hands of The Redeemer.

The writer of Slipstream, William Fruet, aka the “Roger Corman of Canada,” is a name oft mentioned around these ‘ere parts of Steel Town, U.S.A., if not in a direct review, such as for his works Funeral Home, Baker County, U.S.A., Killer Party, and Blue Monkey, we’ve mentioned his work in passing within the context of other canuxploitation flicks.

One day, we’ll get to three of my personal favorites of Fruet’s oft-run, ’80s HBO and Showtime oeuvre with the Perry King and Don Stroud Vietnam-slanted serial killer drama, Search and Destroy (1979), the Peter Fonda and Oliver Reed-starring giant serpent romp, Spasms (1983), and, what I consider Fruet’s crowned jewel: the home-invasion classic, House by the Lake, aka Death Weekend (1976), which also stars Don Stroud, along with Brenda Vaccaro as the damsel-in-distress. Of Fruet’s seven writing credits, among his thirty-nine directing credits, he directed House by the Lake and Spasms. He already proved his skills as a director on his first feature film: Wedding in White (1972), a film starring Donald Pleasence and Carol Kane which he also wrote. Why the reins of Slipstream were turned over to first-time director David Acomba, who never expanded his recognition beyond the Great White North’s borders, sans his work on The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), is a reason lost to the ages.

Now, looking at the theatrical one-sheet, we’re sure your eyes perked up at the sight of Macon, Georgia-born actor Luke Askew, who first came to widespread acclaim with his role as Boss Paul in his third feature film, Cool Hand Luke (1967) starring Paul Newman, and the Charlton Heston western follow-up, Will Penny (1967). In addition to appearing in the war flicks The Devil’s Brigade (1968) alongside William Holden and The Green Berets (1968) with John Wayne (Hey, Pops!), Askew delved into Italian spaghetti westerns as a first-time leading man with Night of the Serpent (1969), and the annals of bikerdom with the likes of Easy Rider (1969), and Angel Unchained (1970) with Don Stroud. By the time of his role as troubled DJ Mike Mallard in Slipstream, Askew began his long-fruitful transition as a well-respected U.S. television actor, appearing in both series and TV movies. But Askew took the time to work with David Carradine in The Warrior and the Sorcerer (1984) and Ciro H. Santiago’s Mad Max rip, Dune Warriors (1991). Oh, and there’s Paul Schrader’s Rolling Thunder (1977) with William Devane.

Yeah, we could go on and on with all of the great movies we’ve watched with the late Luke Askew. . . . Oh, almost forget: he was a recording artist that Bob Dylan likened to blues great Bobby Blue Bland.

And that brings us to this Canadian film that’s mismarketed as “featuring” the music of Van Morrison and Eric Clapton”; in reality, it features only a snippet of one Morrison song — the title cut from his breakthrough album Astral Weeks (1968) that bookends the film — and one Clapton song in its entirety — “Layla” from Derek & the Dominos.

Askew is Mike Millard, a popular but brooding-reclusive Albertan DJ who runs his popular pirate radio station from a remote wilderness farmhouse. As with Clint Eastwood’s Dave Garver on KRML in Play Misty for Me (1971), Millard is all about mood; he spins off-beat tunes interjected by poetic passages that connect with the youth counterculture. Millard’s soul rolls with the independent spirit of Wyatt Williams from Easy Rider; in lieu of a motorcycle, Mike uses the airwaves; his on-air style is one where he sticks the studio’s microphone outside the window to capture the sounds of a thunderstorm as he begins the refrains of “Layla” by the then “hot” Derek & and the Dominos.

The mysticism and mystery of his secluded broadcasts — a gimmick devised by his producer to develop an audience — has led his listeners painstakingly searching the wilds of Alberta to find him — one listener, Kathy, does, which Mallard begins to romance. Adding to Millard’s aggravation: as the show’s popularity grows, his producer wants him to play “more commercial music,” so as to expand the audience even more — even if it alienates the listeners who made his career.

Unlike the genre’s most popular film, the Michael Brandon-starring FM (1978), William Fruet dispatches with that radio chronicle’s slapstick moments for an introspective examination on the psychology; the need of a DJ being on the air and the responsibility of connecting with one’s audience through integrity and not gimmicks; about the creative, audio war where the commercial needs of the bean counters clashes with the artistic needs of a radio station’s airstaff. Fruet’s anti-hero soon comes to realize the allure of the “glass booth” that once gave him freedom is now a psychological prison.

The walls of that prison become more evident as the now emotionally-crumbling Mallard shatters the illusions of his beloved on-air persona with a half-baked interview that crushes the fandom of a young journalist-fan who successfully tracked down his broadcast.

As with most Canadian-made films, the recently reviewed Terminal City Ricochet in particular, Slipstream had a virtually non-existent VHS release south of the border and no (possibly limited; I never seen it) UHF-TV or ’80s HBO or Showtime replays. This is one of those films that — being a radio DJ and big Luke Askew fan, with a desire to see this lost Canada radio drama — I had no choice but to purchase it as a grey market taped-from TV VHS. And as with most of those back-of-magazine grey market distributors utilizing low-grade VHS tapes in multi-packed, shrink-wrapped bricks and churning out copies via high-speed dubbing machines, I lost that cherished copy of Slipstream to the blue screen of death. Chatting with one of my Detroit-based radio contemporaries who’s lived in Canada for a number of years, tells me Slipstream has never been issued on DVD and rarely airs on Canadian TV; not only has it been years since he’s seen it on TV, he hasn’t seen a VHS for as long.

My hats off to Bill Van Ryn of Groovy Doom and Sam Panico of you-know-who for their joint Drive-In Asylum Double Feature Watch Party nights and screening The Redeemer, affording me the opportunity to revisit a radio film — and one of my favorite films overall — that is truly lost for the ages.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Mona et Moi (1989), aka Mona and I

Guitarist Johnny Thunders and vocalist David Johansen were the garage-punk coefficient of the Rolling Stones’ “Glimmer Twins” Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. They were the “Toxic Twins” before Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. Before there were Sex Pistols, there were New York Dolls. As with those British-screaming snots, the “Gemini Snots” defined a scene: the ‘Dolls were New York. Bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, formed out of “The Bromley Contingent,” the Sex Pistols’ fan-clique based around London’s 100 Club. The Buzzcocks (!) birthed because of the ‘Pistols. There’d be no Clash or the Ruts or the Stranglers without ‘Pistols. In New York, bands formed out of the ‘Dolls’ audience at The Bowery-based CBGBs. There’d be no Blondie, Ramones, Television, or Talking Heads without the Thunders-Johansen dichotomy.

But not every gunslinger of the six-string electric is destined to be Thomas Edison: sometimes you’re Nicola Telsa.

While their Todd Rundgren-produced (Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell was the ex-Nazz leader’s big one; he produced Sparks (of Rollercoaster fame) as well) eponymous debut on (Mercury, 1973) is regarded as a “rock classic,” no classic rock radio station will ever play them. (Nor will any of today’s alt-rock stations spin the ‘Dolls’ as “golds” analogues to classic rock radio’s spins of the Rolling Stones.) The ‘Dolls’ debut was—as with most “innovators”—a resounding marketing failure compounded by the release of their appropriately-titled sophomore-final, Too Much Too Soon (Mercury, 1974). And, with that, the New York Dolls—along with, to an extent, their Detroit-based inspirational precursors the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges—singlehandedly soured major records labels on punk snot . . . at least until some blonde-haired kid from the Pacific Northwest decided (well, the X-Generation decided) to become the new Jim Morrison. By the time the Sex Pistols first took to the stage in 1976, the ‘Dolls’ were punk vestiges, but not enough in ruins that megla-Svengali Malcolm McLaren (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle) didn’t want to sink his fangs and extract the last ounce of snot. But it gave him the idea to “form” the Sex Pistols <eye roll>, so it all worked out.

In the midst of the fad-driven major-label mania over rock “supergroups” (that run the gambit from Blind Faith in the 60’s to KBG in the ‘70s to Asia—the last of them—in the ‘80s), there was (before some kid named Tom Petty absconded it as a suffix-moniker) (The) Heartbreakers—a ‘Dolls’ phoenix stoked by Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan with ex-Television (formed out of the ‘Dolls’ audience, natch) bassist Richard Hell. As with all supergroup outings (Fastway comes to mind: UFO’s Pete Way was out before Motorhead’s Fast Eddie Clark and Humble Pie’s Jerry Shirley recorded their debut album proper and became the “No False Metal” voice for Sammy Curr in Trick or Treat), Hell was out before Thunders and company recorded their first album in England (where the ‘Dolls’ had a rabid fan base as much as they had an indifferent fan base in America), L.A.M.F (1977). And, with that, Richard Hell was off to form the Voidoids.

Could you imagine—if he wasn’t so ambivalently indifferent in perpetuity—Kurt Cobain being talked into taking an acting role, say like the Kurt-divergent Eddie Vedder appearing in Cameron Crowe’s “grunge Friends” flick, Singles?

Well, Thunder’s ex-Heartbreakers’ mate Richard Hell used his infamy for a quick stage-to-film transition in Blank Generation (1979). It would be a decade before Thunders repeated the cinematic leap made by Hell (and Debbie Harry in Union City, Iggy Pop in Cry Baby, or the Ramones in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School)—and Thunders had to cross an ocean to do it.

Initially shot in 1984 in a start-stop-start, financially-plagued production schedule (and released three years before his 1991 New Orleans death; it was released in 1988 in France; then Europe in 1989), this acting debut by Johnny Thunders is, needless to say, an extremely rare VHS that’s impossible to find outside of its native country of origin. Alongside with a little-to-nothing to say Jerry Nolan and Billy Rath from Heartbreakers, Thunders stars as Johnny Valentine: a troublesome New York rock star (not far removed from his own self, natch) that’s left in the charge of a music manager assigned to “babysit” the hard-living artist for a week. The thin premise for the drama is a down-and-out rock promoter flying Johnny into Paris to headline a concert. The romantic triangles tinkle as Thunders falls in love with Mona, the manager’s girlfriend. And if that sounds a lot like the character and pseudo-plot of Richard Hell’s Blank Generation, then it probably is. And if the “babysitting” manager angle sounds too much like Get Him to the Greek (with Russell Brand’s obnoxious-oblivious-rocker Aldous Snow—only with less heroin sheik and more Apatow raunch), then it probably is.

While Hell was clean (we think) and coherent in his role in Blank Generation, it’s hard to watch Thunders swagger-stagger through the film either drunk, stoned—or both. Regardless of the cool factor in having one of punk’s forefathers in an acting role (and truth be told, Thunders isn’t half bad at it), it’s nonetheless heartbreaking (sorry) to see a clearly broken Thunders squeezing out (or manipulated into) his last ounce of fame infamy—especially when considering the mainstream film appearance of his clean and sober ‘Dolls’ mate David Johansen in hit films such as Scrooged and Married to the Mob.

While Thunders was (always) a musical-footnote oddity in the States, he was, nevertheless, a celebrity in France—alongside ex-U.S. punks Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys and Willy DeVille of Mink DeVille. So, in that country, he continued to record and perform in concert—long after the early ’70 glam and late ‘70s punk halcyon days. In a historical twist, his solo debut, So Alone (1978), featured the backing of ex-Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. Director Lech Kowalski (D.O.A) examined the troubled life of Thunders in Born to Lose (1999) and offered additional insights with the direct-to-video New York Doll. The Polish director also shot and recorded a pair of shows with Thunders for his heroin-document Gringo, aka The Story of a Junkie; while that film-music partnership floundered, the footage ended up in Lech’s subsequent Thunder-documentaries.

An extremely clean rip of the Mona Et Moi—with subtitles—is offered on the You Tube page of Cult Fusion TV.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1980) and The Filth and the Fury (2000)

“The gospel according to the Ayatollah Malcolm.”
— Johnny Rotten

So agent provocateur and clandestine entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren owns a London fashion shop called Sex . . . eh, we don’t need to go that far back. . . . So co-founder/bassist/chief songwriter Glen Matlock is kicked out the Sex Pistols for “liking the Beatles. . . .” No, we don’t need to go that far back. . . .

When it came to the Sex Pistols, it was all about the marketing manipulation and McLaren the Machiavellian squeezed out every last drop of the group’s nihilistic sociopolitical ejaculate from their fourteen-month existence (November 1976 to January 1978). Regardless of their extensive discography that, by 1990, swelled to 20-plus albums, the group recorded only one actual studio album: the high-expectation and commercially-disappointing Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977). (The “flop” in the U.K. and Euro-markets was result of the album’s composition from the band’s already released 45-rpms and a “legal” 1977 bootleg album, Spunk.) And part of McLaren’s high-profile manipulations was to create a punk version of Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night—with Johnny Rotten refusing to have anything to do with the project. The “project” was initially developed by—of all peoples—Russ Meyer, with snobby film critic Roger Ebert as the screenwriter, in tow—both who had a little experience in the rock ‘n’ roll genre with their “epic” about the rise and fall of the Carrie Nations, 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls . . . but Meyer also had lots of experience with large-breasted women (1965’s Motor Psycho and 1966’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!).

Yeah, this is going to work just fine. . . .

Well, it didn’t.

So, two-plus years later of false starts and stops with an array of people and footage shot here and there—which produced the Meyer-unfinished Who Killed Bambi?, British music video-artist, filmmaker, and ‘Pistols running mate Julien Temple (1989’s Earth Girls are Easy) got the Alan Sacks job of “doin’ a duBeat-eo” with the hours upon hours of narrative footage and concert clips of the Pistols during their heyday, along with surreal Kentucky Fried Movie-esque skits (that go beyond the funny into the silly . . . and the outright stupid).

Now, for those of you wondering: “What da frack does ‘Doin’ a duBeat-eo’ mean . . . and who is Alan Sacks . . . and what does this all have to do with the friggin’ Sex Pistols?” Well, impatient one, here’s your answer:

Alan Sacks came to fame as the creator of ’70 TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter; you know, that’s the show with the “Ooo! Ooo! Mr. Kotter!” pop culture catch phrase . . . the show that gave John Travolta his start. (He was most recently in the one-two punch bombs The Fanatic and Gotti.) And Alan Sacks got the job of taking the analogously dead pet-project of America’s Malcolm McLaren-doppelganger, record producer-songwriter Svengali Kim Fowley who, ironically ripping off McLaren’s idea, wanted to put his own “female” version of the ‘Pistols, the Runaways, into a “Beatlesesque” movie. (Remember: the ‘Pistols had “Anarchy in the U.K.” while the Runaways had “Cherry Bomb” as their signature tune.) Failed-developed as We’re All Crazy Now, Sacks got the Julien Temple-job of creating coherency out of chaos—and came up with duBeat-e-o, a film that has as much to do with the Runaways as The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle has to do with the Sex Pistols.

So, what did Temple come up with?

Well, he cut Who Killed Bambi? into the film. Sid Vicious—post-Sex Pistols—cut an album, Sid Sings (1979), and cut a video for that album’s centerpiece: a cover Elvis’s and Frank Sinatra’s signature tune, “My Way”—so Temple cut that into the film. (Warning: Sid pulls a gun and shoots into the audience.) And since Johnny Rotten wanted nothing to do with the project from the get-go, Temple opens the film with the snotty lead singer burned in effigy . . . and created an animated sequence that chronicles a beating the vocalist behind “God Save the Queen” took at the hands of Queen Mum-lovin’ thugs. And guitarist Steve Jones’s Rio de Janero visit with infamous British bank robber Ronnie Biggs is cut in. (Jones, ironically, along with Paul Cook and Glen Matlock, worked with Joan Jett on her self-titled solo debut, aka Bad Reputation.) And yeah, and Kurt Cobain Sid Vicious and Courtney Love Nancy Spungen, aka the punk rock John and Yoko, go through their own little psychodrama safety-pin voguing on screen. And, instead of Sex Pistols tunes: you get disco versions of Sex Pistols tunes by a group called the Black Arabs.

You can check out the track listings for each soundtrack on Discogs: Swindle and Fury.

. . . and the ‘swindle’ continues . . .

So Temple decided to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the film with a “sequel”. . . that cut The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’s footage into the—admittedly—more coherent The Filth and the Fury (1990). And, if you’re keeping track . . . marks the third film chronicling punk’s most notorious band: the second was Alex Cox’s (Repo Man, Tombstone Rashomon) spunky, but not wholly historically accurate, Sid and Nancy (1986)—which Johnny Rotten also hated, natch.

With The Filth and the Fury—and without Malcolm McLaren’s marketing imperialism (. . . did you know he embarked on a “solo” career: with producer Trevor Horn, he assembled (McLaren never creates; he can’t. He thieves.) 1983’s Duck Soup)—Temple secured the full cooperation of Johnny Rotten, along with drummer Paul Cook, guitarist Steve Jones, and ex-bassist Glen Matlock, each who provide a new series of interviews, along with “new” interview footage of the late Sid Vicious not seen in Swindle. The interviews are well-executed: Temple peels Rotten-Lydon’s acidic layers and exposes his emotions over Sid’s decline and death. And there’s plenty of “new” footage, albeit, sometimes (most times) with grainy and out-of-sync sound, but kudos for Temple preserving those decrepit 16 mm and shot-on-videotape analog artifacts for the now, digital generations.

Temple was also able to circumcise McLaren’s cultural plundering of punk’s esthetics by showing us that punk rock wasn’t just about flogging the dead horse of Black Sabbath-inspired progressive rock and replenishing the wheezing lungs of rock ‘n’ roll. Punk was an artistic expression of the frustrations the British working class and unemployed (which include Rotten-Lydon’s contemporaries) against the stodgy and greedy British class system (a country where everyone’s on the dole, in poverty; meanwhile, Princess Di and Prince Charles have a huge matrimonial blowout). To that end, Temple also includes new footage of the protests, riots and unrest of the times (think of today’s Black Lives Matter movement and the upheaval in today’s Portland, Oregeon). So while Swindle was a “Swindle” to a point—which wasn’t Temple’s fault, he did a great job with whom and what he had to work with—Fury gets the facts straight and conveys the spirit of the times. So, as you watch both films as a double feature all these years later: you get Malcolm McLaren’s side . . . and the Sex Pistols side. And the twain shall never meet. Not even in the hands of Alex Cox.

The Great Rock ‘n Roll Music Trivia Swindle (you knew there was going to be a trivia sidebar): Before McLaren sunk his incisors into the Sex Pistols, he managed a down-and-out and ready-to-implode New York Dolls, which culminated with the 1975-recorded live, Euro-only album, Red Patent Leather (1984; which features new tunes not available on their two Mercury studio albums).

Also in Mal’s Svengali-stable was the burgeoning Adam and the Ants, who he subsequently “broke up” to provide musical backing for his own “Runaway” embodied in fifteen-year-old singer Annabella Lwin. Upon the eventual implosion of Bow Wow Wow (You do remember “I Want Candy,” right?)—as McLaren turned his Runaway into a singular-named solo artist, you know, like Madonna (not!)—guitarist Matthew Ashman formed Chiefs of Relief. And that band features another musician from the McLaren stables: Sex Pistols’ drummer Paul Cook (produced one eponymous debut album for Sire in 1988).

Prior to the Chiefs—and post-Sex Pistols (by the end of that band, only Steve Jones and Paul Cook were left to finish off a light smattering of tracks to close out that band’s career)—Jones and Cook formed the Professionals (with guitarist Ray McVeigh and bassist Paul Meyers). And, if you’re keeping track of your rock ‘n’ roll flicks, the “band” appeared—sans McVeigh and Meyers—with Paul Simonon of the Clash and British actor Ray Winston in their places, in Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains.

Steve Jones’s solo career culminated with his forming a band around Iggy Pop, which recorded a couple of “comeback” albums for Detroit’s Jim Osterberg in the burgeoning years of the Year of our Lord Kurt Cobain. Johnny Rotten, as you know, reverted to his given name of Lydon and created the band Public Image, Ltd. with ex-Clash guitarist Keith Levene. Ex-Pistols’ bassist Glen Matlock formed the less-punk-more-Knacky new wave the Rich Kids with future Visage and Ultravox members Midge Ure and Rusty Egan, which scored a minor hit single with the title cut song from their lone album, 1983 Ghosts of Princes in Towers. Matlock eventually ended up in Concrete Bulletproof Invisible (an outgrowth of Doll by Doll that recorded one album for MCA Records) which released one pre-grunge album, Big Tears (1988).

Both films and their related soundtracks are easily availble as DVDs and CDs, with the films as VODs and PPVs on multiple, international online platforms.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine (2020)

Boy Howdy! Another rock-doc about Detroit? We’re still coming down from the high of Detroit’s Suzi Quatro’s career chronicle with the Australian-made Suzi Q. And how can we forget Louder Than Love, the chronicle on Detroit’s famed The Grande Ballroom?

Before the D.I.Y punk ethos of Britain in the late ’70s, that D.I.Y spirit began in the late ’60s with a staff of overworked and underpaid writers, editors, and photographers back by a mascot—Boy Howdy—a faux beer label designed by Robert Crumb, the underground comic book artist behind Fritz the Cat. (Crumb’s life and career is preserved in 1995’s Crumb; you can see Crumb characterized on film by James Urbaniak in 2003’s American Splendor.)

Originally known as Boy Howdy: The Story of CREEM Magazine, this Scott Crawford-directed rock doc chronicles the seminal music magazine from its 1969 launch in Detroit to the untimely death of its publisher Barry Kramer in 1981—and to the magazine’s 1989 demise. And the tale began in a ramshackle office in a burnt-out building in 1967 post-riot Detroit (when it ended: 43 people were dead, 342 injured, nearly 1,400 buildings had been burned and 7,000-plus National Guard and U.S. Army troops had been called into service) as the underground, counterculture newspaper rose to national prominence to go head-to-head with the “sellout” rock publication, Rolling Stone magazine. CREEM covered the bands the mainstream press dared to touch and gave said bands their first national coverage.

December 1974 issue of CREEM featuring Iggy Pop and Ray Manzarek with Jim Morrison’s fabled “ghost,” the Phantom.

While we get to see archive footage of the iconic Lester Bangs (portrayed on film by Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2000’s Almost Famous; Patrick Fugit was Cameron Crowe), along with those in the CREEM bunker and Detroit trenches with writers Crowe and Dave Marsh, along with Alice Cooper, Wayne Kramer of the MC 5, and Suzi Quatro—as any film on Detroit should—we get a little bit too much of the impressions and “what CREEM meant to me” insights from its musician-readers, such as Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament, Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Chris Stein of Blondie, and the J.Geils Band’s Peter Wolf.

Sure, those musicians played shows in Detroit and the magazine supported their early careers, but the film needed a little less of them and more from the Detroiters—regardless of their obscurity or lack of national fame—in the proceedings. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS also offer their insights; however, not only was Detroit a major tour stop for—and early supporter of—the band, Simmons was a part of the “scene” as result of his clandestine recording sessions at Detroit’s Fiddlers Music with that studio’s engineer, Scott Strawbridge (Scott Strawbridge discusses his Detroit reflections in the Medium article “Happy Dragons, Phantoms, Fiddlers, Rockets, and Spliffs: The Career of Scott Strawbridge.”) And do we really have to mention that KISS song?

While some of the Detroit scenesters I’ve spoken with from back in the day have their passionate qualms about the film, as to whom was in the film and who wasn’t, it’s my feeling those omissions are the result of the unavailability (and sadly, deaths) of those individuals and not cinematic ineptitude—not when one considers the filmmaking pedigree behind the film. Plus, I’d have to add: Clevelanders I know—who were close friends with the late Stiv Bators—were none too happy with Stiv (2019), the document on the late Dead Boys’ singer; in fact, MTV’s Martha Quinn, who dated Stiv Bators in the ’80s, was absent from the film.

And so it goes . . . you can’t please everyone when it comes to rock docs. There’s always going to be detractors who feel the film is “incomplete,” one way or another.

Screenwriter Jaan Uhelszki, an American music journalist who was the co-founder of CREEM, was one of the first women to work in rock journalism. Uhelszki’s August 1975 feature article, “I Dreamed I Was Onstage with KISS in My Maidenform Bra,” documents the night she performed in full costume and makeup with KISS—the only rock journalist ever to do so. She also traveled with Lynyrd Skynyrd for a feature article about their second-to-last tour (be sure to check out our review of the 2020 Lynyrd Skynyrd bio flick Street Survivors). And I’d have to point out: Jaan Uhelszki was born and raised in Detroit and worked as a “Coke Girl” selling sodas at The Grande Ballroom—yet, she does not appear in the documentary Louder Than Love about the Grande. (FYI: Suzi Quatro also started out as a “Coke Girl” at Detroit’s Hideout Ballrooms operated by Bob Seger’s manager, Punch Andrews.)

You’ve seen Jaan Uhelszki’s film work before with the absolutely stellar documentary about the tragic, unsung career of Chris Bell, along with Alex Chilton, with Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2012). (You can catch the film as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.) You can spend more time with Jaan and look through her photo archives at her personal website.

Director Scott Crawford made his feature film debut with the worldwide, critically-acclaimed document, Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC 1980-90. If you’re a fan of Bad Brains, Minor Threat (Ian McKay of Another State of Mind), and Scream (Dave Grohl’s band before Nirvana), then that film is a must watch. Crawford grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and published his own CREEM-inspired ‘zine in his teen years; he understands the mid-western D.I.Y ethos that also drove the punk scene of his hometown.

This is a truly great, American Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie about America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine. Watch it.

You can learn more at the film’s official website and you can stream it at Amazon Prime, You Tube Movies, and other VOD platforms. For the hardcopy version, you can check out CREEM writer Robert Matheu’s 2007 book of the same name, available on Amazon.


From the Shamless Plugs Department: Since we’re on the subject of Detroit rock ‘n’ roll and honoring those fading memories of the musicians and the times: I wrote two books about the 1974, Detroit-born mystery and myth of Jim Morrison’s etheral doppelganger, The Phantom—with the books The Ghost of Jim Morrison, The Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis. Both books are available worldwide through all online retailers for all eReader platforms, and as Amazon-exclusive softcovers. I also offer a You Tube page featuring unreleased studio and live tracks, along with a Facebook folder filled with rare photographs from both of the Phantom’s, aka Arthur Pendragon’s bands, Walpurgis and Pendragon.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

The Girls of Summer (2020)

We mentioned this feature film screenwriter debut by actress Tori Titmas in passing during our review of the indie time travel fantasy Making Time, in which Titmas stars. We had The Girls of Summer on our longlist for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” of film reviews (ran from Sunday, July 19th, to Saturday, July 25), but even with six reviews a day (over our usual four) across seven days, we still couldn’t fit all of the rock movies we wanted into the schedule. So goes the B&S About Movies’ folly: too many movies and so little time on the calendar. Damn those day jobs and need to sleep.

Now, if you haven’t read our review for Making Time (and you should, it’s a wonderful indie film), then good: you’ll appreciate the B&S About Movies twist on this country music-centric romantic tale. One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a reformed UHF cathode ray tube warrior and VHS-renting savant that now uploads movie reviews into the digital ethers, is recognizing the obscure-to-most-but-stars-in-our-eyes names of actors and directors from that UHF and VHF, and even drive-in past. And in the case of The Girls of Summer, the name of the man in the director’s chair stood out. (No, it can’t be the same guy?)

Now, in reviews on various social media and VOD platforms, the threaders mentioned director John D. Hancock’s work with Robert DeNiro in one of the greatest sports dramas committed to film, Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). Others mention Hancock’s work with Nick Nolte in the memorable cult cable flick, Weeds (1987). But those threaders failed to mention that Hancock made of one of the most unconventional, ambiguous Christmas movies of all time, Prancer (1989) (He killed the reindeer! Well, we think he did?). And when HBO went on the air in the early ’80s, two of Hancock’s movies became cult classics courtesy of their incessant replays due to HBO’s then limited library: the very good, but theatrically-buried Baby Blue Marine (1976; starring Jan-Michael Vincent) and California Dreaming (1979; starring Dennis Christopher). (Both aired alongside Matt Dillon’s debut in the juvenile delinquency drama Over the Edge, Hazel O’Connor’s punk romp Breaking Glass, and the punk-doc Urgh! A Music War. Ah, the HBO days. . . .)

However, before Nolte. Before DeNiro. Before his HBO cult status, Hancock, inspired by George Romero’s success with Night of the Living Dead on the drive-in circuit — along with Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (that became 1963’s The Haunting) — he decided to make his feature film debut with his own drive-in centric horror movie. But instead of just giving us another run-of-the-mill, low-budget monster romp or zombie soiree, he gave us one of the ’70s creepiest (without the gore) drive-in horrors that explores the psychology of a main character that may or may not be stalked by a vampire — 1973’s Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. (You don’t think so? Well, tell it to my childhood-self sitting in the back of the family Ford LTD station wagon. I slept with a quilt around my neck for the next two weeks because of Jessica’s folly. So thanks for the memories, Mr. Hancock.) Then we lost track of John D. Hancock. (It seems Prancer’s unconventional approach to the Christmas spirit was too much for Hollywood to handle.) But no matter. He’s back and we couldn’t be happier. And we have Tori Titmas to thank for bringing one of our favorite directors from our snowy n’ static analog childhood back into our lives.

“Dude, you’re doing it, again.”

“What?”

“Going off the rails with the squeezin’ the Charmin love for old movies and their directors and actors. Just live in “the now” and review the movie already. And please, don’t tie this back into Seinfeld. That’s really getting annoying.”

Hey, I can’t make any promises. It’s my slice of web and I’ll go off the rails if I want to. . . .

As we mentioned earlier, country music (actually, it’s more of an Americana-genre vibe) plays a part in this well-scripted, metaphorical tale about Maren Taylor (Tori Titmas), a Michigan-Midwest sod farmer who experiences a metamorphosis as she learns how to adapt to the environments around her.

After her two younger sisters leave home, for college and a big city job in advertising on the west coast, Maren’s left alone to tend to the family’s sod business and care of her clinically depressed, narcotic-abusing father, which was triggered by her musician-mother’s untimely death. The one thing that kept Maren afloat was The Girls of Summer, the local country band in which she serves as drummer and that she put together with her guitarist-singing sister Grace. And now that life preserver is gone.

A chance visit from Luke Thomas (Dr. Lewis Rand on a story-arc of Chicago P.D.), a down-and-out country star trying to claw his way back to the top, to the bar where Maren’s resigned as being her last gig, offers a ray of hope: his band needs a new drummer and he’s impressed by the original songs she wrote for her sister. Once Maren’s father realizes his “loss of color” and her having to be “his parent” is robbing his daughter of her colors, he urges her to follow her dreams and take the gig with Luke’s band (even if it is just a tour of local watering holes, state fairs, and retirement communities). And she finds true love for the first time as result of her writing what turns out to be a sort-of-comeback hit for Luke — in a duet. But she also discovers the hurt of his unrequited love. And she discovers the gift of how the baggage of the past — if not let go — can destroy one’s future. As with the grass she spent her life cultivating, Maren learns she needs to keep looking to the sun. And growing.

If you’re looking for the dramatic bombast of TV’s Nashville or the acting hysterics of A Star Is Born (2018), keep in mind: this a low-budget movie that takes a quiet, under-played delicateness to its musician-on-the-rise story (which, if you haven’t figured it out, isn’t the “point” of the story). Courtesy of Titmas creating an effectively-arced character infused with verve and wide-eyed innocence, and expected, solid direction by John D. Hancock, along with expertly-executed cinematography by Misha Suslov (who, like Hancock, has a long career that stretches back to the hicksploitation romps Smokey and the Judge* and Trucking Buddy McCoy*, along with John Carpenter’s forgotten, big-engine actioner Black Moon Rising**), The Girls of Summer rises over the horizons of many of the similar, low-budget romance flicks airing on the Hallmark Channel.

Yeah, the B&S About Movies staff is pretty happy to see the director of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and the cinematographer of Trucking Buddy McCoy back together again. So kudos to Tori Titmas for penning a compelling script that inspired them both and brought them together — and back to our (streaming) screens. And shame on us for losing our inner-John D. Hancock and Misha Suslov after Prancer. So it looks like we got some catch-up movie watching to do, as team Hancock-Suslov have four other films on their dual resume that swept under our VCR radar: the Top Gun-centric Steal the Sky (1988; with Ben Cross), the rom-com A Piece of Eden (2000), the horror-thriller Suspended Animation (2001), and the musical-drama The Looking Glass (2015).

Other cult cable TV favorites in the Misha Suslov cannons are the teen delinquent drama 3:15 the Moment of Truth (1986; with Adam “My Bodyguard” Baldwin and Deborah “Valley Girl” Foreman) . . . and you know how we are about Eric Roberts (Power 98) around here: Suslov shot the 1986 Roberts-Rosanna Arquette comedy Nobody’s Fool. And, what the . . . he shot a Mark L. Lester movie . . . with Eric Roberts? Yep, 1996’s Public Enemies*ˣ. And does anyone remember the action-horror The Runestone (1991; with Peter Reigert of Animal House)? I do! (As if we don’t have enough movies to watch n’ review around here. Thanks a lot for opening that film canister of worms, Tori!)

Making its VOD premiere on Amazon Prime, The Girls of Summer recently made its free-with-ads stream debut on TubiTv. You can learn more about the film on its official Facebook page and website. And be sure to visit Indie Rights Movies and check out the trailers for their current roster of films, most of which, as with The Girls of Summer, are available on TubiTv.

Disclaimer: We weren’t provided with a screener nor received a review request from the filmmakers. We discovered this film on our own and truly enjoyed the movie.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.


* There’s more hicksploitation flicks to be had with our “Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List: 1972 to 1986,” rife with review links of redneckin’ drive-in classics.

** We reviewed Black Moon Rising as part of our week-long tribute to the Fast & Furious franchise, which we round-up with our Mill Creek “Savage Cinema” box set of reviews.

*ˣ We reviewed Public Enemies as part of our week-long tribute to the filmography of Mark L. Lester (just plug in “Mark Lester/Mark L. Lester” into the site’s search box and you’ll find cinema gold!).

REPOST: NO FALSE METAL MOVIES WEEK: Trick or Treat (1986)

From the Publisher’s Desk with R.D Francis: We’re sadden to hear that Pete Way, the bassist for UFO, passed away this morning, August 14, at the age of 69. His death was the result of “life threatening injuries” he received in an accident earlier this summer.

Pete Way
August 7, 1951 – August 14, 2020

In addition to help found UFO, Way formed his own self-named project, Waysted, and was the bassist for his longtime friends Ozzy Osbourne and Michael Schenker. He also co-founded Fastway, which provided the music for the ulitmate “No False Metal” god, Sammy Curr, in Trick or Treat.

Way left UFO to collaborate with Fast Eddie Clarke of Motörhead; their brief union became known as Fastway, co-founded with Humble Pie (Peter Frampton’s old band) drummer Jerry Shirley. The band quickly fell apart, with Way forming his namesake, Waysted. Fastway carried on with vocalist Dave King and bassist Charlie McCraken, Shirley’s old bandmate from the Irish power trio Taste that was headed by Rory Gallagher.

Fastway’s then three-album output: Fastway (1982), All Fired Up (1984), and Waiting for the Roar (1986) comprised the soundtrack for Trick or Treat.

Spend a few moments this evening to remember Pete Way and stream some UFO, Waysted, and Fastway. Godspeed, Pete. (You guys blew Cheap Trick off the stage in 1980! Three encores!)

Sadly, this isn’t the first rock-flick veteran we lost in these several months. Be sure to remember Nigel Benjamin, who served as the “voice” of the second greatest “No False Metal God” of rock flicks, Billy Eye Harper. You can read our tribute to Nigel with our “Remembrance of Nigel Benjamin” that reflected on his career with Mott, London with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue, and his work with the Sebastians on Rocktober Blood.

Here’s UFO at their absolute, bass ass peak in 1975. And enjoy this review of Trick or Treat from Sammy P. that originally ran on July 17, 2017, as part of our “No False Metal Movies Week.” Take it away, Samuel!

The director of A Dolphin’s Tale and A Dolphin’s Tale 2, Skippy from Family Ties and one of the stars of A Chorus Line made the most metal film ever. Let that sink in.

I grew up a fat, bespeckled child in a small town with crushing self esteem issues, a love for gore movies and a sarcastic mind that loved the way people treated me when I started dressing all in black. Every single situation that Eddie Weinbauer (Marc Price, the previously mentioned Skippy) endures in this film…I lived it. If a monster Glenn Danzig (Verotika) could take over shop class and kill my tormentors, I would have gladly welcomed such mayhem and menace.

Eddie is a big fan of Sammi Curr, a superstar who went to the same high school Eddie is in, was tormented and bullied the same way Eddie is, became a big star and then died in a mysterious fire. Radio DJ Nuke (Gene “inventor of the devil horns” Simmons, who played a great transgendered bad guy in Never Too Young to Die while wearing his girlfriend Cher’s clothes) gives Eddie the only vinyl copy of Sammi’s satanic masterwork “Songs in the Key of Death.”

Eddie does exactly what I’d do: he listens to the record and falls asleep. He has a crazy dream about the fire that killed Curr and awakens to the album playing backwards, telling him how to gain revenge on the bullies that torment him.

Eddie chickens out though — he doesn’t want to kill the jocks who have made his life so rough. Sammi takes matters into his own hands, creating an electric surge that allows him to escape the record and come back to our reality. Eddie responds by smashing his stereo. Sammi’s response is as fucking perfect as it gets: “No false metal.”

Sammi’s friend Roger gets involved and unwittingly plays a cassette — fucking metal — at the school dance, causing Sammi to leap out of a guitar amp and take the stage. The crowd goes wild before Sammi starts killing audience members, shooting lightning at them and revealing his burned face. Holy shit — I saw this scene at the drive-in this year and the exuberance of hearing Fastaway blasting from car stereos in the fog at 5 AM is an experience I recommend to every single person reading this.

Can Eddie stop Sammi from being played on the radio and attacking everyone that hears it? Of course. It’s an ’80s horror movie. But man — I’m all from more Sammi Curr (sadly, Tony Fields died of AIDS in 1995).

Oh I forgot – Ozzy is a preacher in this that Sammi attacks. It’s a small cameo, just like Gene Simmons’ role, but that doesn’t stop my DVD cover from claiming they starred in this.

If you’re an 80s metal fan (and if not, man, thanks for reading this far), there are so many band logos and posters to spot in this, from the expected like Anthrax and KISS to the out of left field like Raven, Exciter and Savatage. You’ll also be much more likely to not dismiss this film as a piece of shit.

Me? I quote from this film almost every day. “The bait is you. Let the big fish hook themselves. You’re the bait. The bait is you.”

NEVER BOW TO FALSE METAL!

Me & Will (1999)

So, did you know . . . sandwiched between the ‘60s original and Phil Pitzer’s 2012 revisiting, Easy Rider: The Ride Back, there was another unofficial “sequel” to Easy Rider, which concentrates on a search for the famed Captain America chopper that appeared in Easy Rider? Never heard of it? It’s okay. No one did.

Be it an unintentional sequel or a loose remake—with a Thelma and Louise twist—of the counter-culture classic Easy Rider, there’s definitely a dash of another late 60’s cinematic classic, Midnight Cowboy, in these engine revs written and directed by its stars, Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr. (Another Easy Rider-inspired biker-epic, the better known Roadside Prophets, made in the early 90’s with John Doe, the bassist and singer from X, and a Beastie Boy, may even come to mind as the story unfolds.)

Told from the point of view of Jane (the “me”), a hard-living aspiring writer, she meets an equally burnt-out artist-cum-party girl named Will in an L.A. drug rehab clinic. After watching a late-night showing of Easy Rider on TV, Jane (Sherri Rose) and Will (Melissa Behr, aka “Doll Chick” from Bad Channels and its sequel, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys) decide to make like Wyatt and Billy and break out of rehab to embark on a trip to find the legendary chopper ridden by Peter Fonda—which is rumored to still exist in the city of Willsall, Montana.

As the road trip unfolds, Jane and Will meet the usual cross section of bikers, hippies, burnt-out garage mechanics, psycho waitresses, abused women, and abusive cops—as well as the rock bands Space Age Playboys (yes! Kory Clarke and Warrior Soul!) and Keanu Reeves’s band Dogstar. (I played Dogstar on the radio and went to their shows back in the ’90s; they were a solid indie, alt-rock band and not the “actor-gimmick” they were smarmy-labeled.)

What helps this lost bikers-searching-for-their-souls flick is the cast featuring those actors we care about at B&S About Movies: Seymour Cassel (Trees Lounge), M. Emmet Walsh (Escape from the Planet of the Apes), Steve Railsback (Lifeforce), and Grace Zabriskie (Galaxy of Terror). (Oh, shite: she was also George’s mother-in-law on Seinfeld. Sorry, Sam.) And keep your eyes open for Johnny Whitworth (Empire Records), William E. Wirth (The Lost Boys), and Tracy Lords (Shock ’em Dead).

Oh, and Jane’s boyfriend, Fast Eddie, is Patrick Dempsey (the ’80s cable comedy-classic Can’t Buy Me Love and “McDreamy” from TV’s Grey’s Anatomy). Of course, when Grey’s Anatomy became a ratings juggernaut—and as with Katherine Hegyl’s equally unknown 2006’s Zyzzyx Road—the DVD reissues of Me & Will feature Dempsey front and center—with Rose and Behr kicked to the curb.

In addition to the ‘Playboys and Dogstar appearing on the soundtrack, there’s music by Dwight Yoakam, Josh Clayton, formerly from School of Fish (remembered for their ’90s hit, “Three Strange Days”), in addition to classic tracks by the Doors and a solo-bound Mick Jagger. Matt Sorum of the Cult/Guns n’ Roses scored the film—with a guitar-style that almost leaves it feeling like a Tangerine Dream-scored film (Thief comes to mind, IMO), sans the synths and moogs.

To dismiss Me & Will as a vanity-driven “female Easy Rider” and to be alpha-male ruffled by its “female empowerment” message is a chauvinistic disservice to Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr’s efforts to dissuade the film from disintegrating into a hail of bullets of a gone-wrong crime caper, ala the somewhat similar Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke buddy-biker action flick, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991).

Me & Will is a gallant effort; a heart-felt, solid indie-film and Rose and Behr certainly deserved better than their exploitation resumes allow. And kudos to Columbia Pictures giving their blessings and not having the proceedings degrade into the legalese haze of Phil Pitzer’s not-as-bad-as-they-say Easy Rider homage. You can watch Me & Will as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv or without ads on You Tube.

So, as with Phil Pitzer’s Easy Rider: The Ride Black: Me & Will is an alright effort. So do Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr a solid and support indie film by streaming the ad-stream version on TubiTV, will ya?

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.