Suzi Q (2020)

If you’re a fan of Detroit rock ‘n’ roll of the late ’60s (Louder Than Love)—amid all the crazy fandom for all things Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, Iggy Pop, Bob Seger, and Ted Nugent—you might have heard of Suzi Quatro with her bands The Pleasure Seekers (You Tube) and Cradle (You Tube).

Then she hooked up with British music impresario Micky Most and RAK Records to become one of the U.K.’s biggest glam stars. And that success grew when she began working with Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, best known for their work behind the scenes in making Sweet (“Fox on the Run,” “Love Is Like Oxygen”) into international glam stars.

Achieving only minor Top 200 chart placings in the U.S with her Top 10 Euro-hits “Can the Can,” “48 Crash,” and “Devil Gate Drive,” Suzi eventually found notice in America courtesy of her recurring appearances as Leather Tuscadero during the 1977 to 1978 season of the ABC-TV U.S sitcom, Happy Days (you can watch a compilation of all her music appearances on the show in the video below).

Unfortunately, the show failed to consolidate her success on U.S radio, but she did score her lone Top 10 hit, “Stumblin’ In,” a 1978 duet with British singer Chris Norman. Eventually, with the Knack-inspired new wave in full swing, she scored her final two, U.S Top 100 hits with “Lipstick” and “Rock Hard” from her 1980 album, Rock Hard.

Then along came an artist that Suzi inspired: one who achieved that number one single and album in America that eluded her: Joan Jett.

However, while the Detroit-born bassist never found mainstream success in her homeland, she kept on rocking, scoring an international hit with “Strict Machine” from her 2011 album, In the Spotlight, co-produced with Andy Scott of Sweet.

What elevates this Australian made documentary heads and shoulders above other pedestrian “talking head” rock documentaries is that director Liam Firmager chose not to travel the “feel good” promo route and create a puff piece on his subject; he eliminated all of the usual docu-candy coating. Suzi Q isn’t a cookie cutter journal that inserts a talking head here, an old photo there, and a rare film clip here; Firmager chose to tell a story—through over 400 rare archival film clips—that gives Suzi Q the feel of a musical biographical drama. However, unlike other rock bioflicks (The Doors, Ray, Walk the Line) this chronicle on the life of Suzi Quatro has no filtering; there’s no compression or compositing of characters and fabrication of pseudo events for “dramatic effect.”

Firmager not only researched his subject, he spoke to his subject; he got inside his subject. So, while Suzi Q is for the fans of an artist who sold 55 million records around the world, it’s also a film for Suzi Quatro. This is a film that shows rock ‘n’ roll fans that, at the end of the day, a rock star is just a musician. And a musician is just a job. And behind that job is a person. And that person has hopes and dreams, success and regrets, joys and pain. Firmager makes us, the fans, realize that those people behind those records on our turntables and posters on the walls sacrifice life’s normalcies that we take for granted. Through this film, Firmager provided Suzi Quatro a cathartis; a spiritual cleansing and life resolution that most of us will never be blessed; a realization that our lives were worth the journey. And that, maybe, we didn’t end up where we wanted to be or expected to be, but we ended up exactly where we need to be. And Suzi needed to rock ‘n’ roll and be the trailblazer and harbinger for the lives of others.

Suzi Q will launch on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD on July 3, while the film had a planned theatrical release at select U.S cinemas on July 1. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic closing theatres, Utopia Distribution will host a “SUZI Q” virtual event on July 1st featuring the film and an exclusive Q&A featuring Suzi Quatro and a Special Guest (available for 24 hours only) in advance of the film’s traditional release on VOD and DVD on July 3rd. The Q&A will be conducted by Cherie Currie of the Runaways and Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s. A portion of the proceeds from the event will support MusiCares, the Recording Academy’s™ charity, to raise funds in support of the organization’s COVID relief fund for music artists in need.

To buy your ticket for the July 1st event powered by Altavod, visit: https://www.altavod.com/movies/suzi-q.

Suzi Q had its U.S. premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival on March 29, where Quatro made an appearance; it made its theatrical debut last fall in the UK and Australia, where Quatro had her biggest chart successes. You can learn more about the film at its official website.

Oh, and since B&S About Movies is a movie review site . . . there’s a “video fringe” connection to Suzi: her sister Arlene, also an ex-The Pleasure Seekers/Cradle member, is the mother of actress Sherilyn Fenn (Crime Zone, The Wraith, Outside Ozona). And here’s a tune from her uber-talented, underated brother, Mike Quatro.

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.

Disclaimer: This was sent to us by the film’s PA firm and has no bearing on our review.

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio (2019)

The Argentinean duo-brothers Nicolas and Luciano Onetti are back with another of their retro-Italian Giallos, which began with Deep Sleep (2013) and continued with Francesca (2015), What the Waters Left Behind (2017), and Abrakadabra (2018). This time they step back from their usual writer and director chairs and serve as producers on this horror anthology throwback to the Amicus pictures of old that unfolds as a “greatest hits” package of superior horror shorts from around the world.

Now if this sound a lot like the William Shatner-starring A Christmas Horror Story with our favorite starship captain as the macabre DJ spinning the portmanteau follies, you’ve guess right. But what sets this omnibus package apart: it’s an earnest attempt by the Onetti Brothers to provide an opportunity for unknown, first time filmmakers to present their work to a larger audience.

To package the films, the Onetti’s developed their own wraparound sequence that features—instead of say, a crypt keeper of the Sir Ralph Richardson variety from Freddie Francis and Milton Subotsky’s anthology gold standard, 1972’s Tales from the Crypt—a cryptic radio disc jockey. Unlike most anthologies that strive for long segments across three—but typically five stories—the Onetti’s opt for eight quicker and shorter tales—along with a ninth wraparound—with tales of the macabre.

The anthology flicks of the ‘70s that the Ornetti’s successfully emulate with A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio are rooted in the classic words of Gothic horror authors Sheridan Le Fanu, Gaston LeRoux, and Guy de Mausspaunt—Sheridan Le Fanu’s influential short-story collection In a Glass, Darkly (featuring the vampire classic “Carmella”), in particular.

The wrap around, if you haven’t already guessed, is the subtitle of the film:

Nightmare Radio: Rod Wilson (James Wright in his film debut; looking a lot like Rob Zombie) is the resident prick of a radio host (is there any other kind in suspense or horror films set inside radio stations?) of an overnight radio program, which he hosts in a converted ranch house, and is dedicated to all things metal and horror, as he spins his own tales and allows listeners to tell their own. Then, one evening, he receives enigmatic phone calls from a troubled child desperate for help. At first, Rod thinks it’s all a joke . . . until he discovers the calls are the clues to uncovering a dark secret of his own life that unravels across the stories:

In the Dark, Dark Woods: An invisible witch haunts a patch of woods and becomes a catalyst for another woman’s life . . .

Post-Mortem Mary: When a young girl dies in a rural Australian village, a neighbor and her young daughter help the girl’s parents prepare her body for burial. Through some post-mortem photography, they discover a sinister force in the woods has possessed her body . . .

A Little Off the Top: And for a little touch of Sweeney Todd, we have a psychologically-bent hairstylist with an unhealthy obsession about the “art” of his profession . . . and over one of his female clients. And that leads him to go Saw on her, strapping her head in a medieval torture device. Then he breaks out the Sharpie and starts to mark dashes on her forehead . . .

The Disappearance of Willie Bingham: A newly hired supervisor at a prison institutes a program (that reminds of Eli Roth’s Hostel) where criminals can atone for their crimes though elective surgery amputations based on the sex crimes they committed . . .

Drops: A professional theatre dancer’s struggles with relationship and professional issues takes a deadly turn when a demon begins to intrude in her life . . .

The Smiling Man: A little girl and a trail of creepy balloons. But it’s not a clown of the Stephen King variety responsible: it’s a gangly demon offering her a tasty treat made of something . . .

Ack! WTF! Watch out for the balloons. It’s The Smiling Man!

Into the Mud: The 10th Victim goes horror as a woman wakes up in the woods and finds herself pursued by a mysterious hunter; her salvation may come in the form of an equally mysterious creature . . .

Vicious: After a late-night out, a woman returns home and discover her sister in terror at the hands of deformed demons who’ve invaded the house.

The best three of the lot are In the Dark, Dark Woods, Post-Mortem Mary, and The Disappearance of Willie Bingham. But The Smiling Man . . . yikes. It’s a serious creep fest that I hope the Onetti’s expanded into a feature film.

Now, when you’re juggling multiple films from multiple writers, and even more directors, and trying to patch them together into a single, cohesive film, that spells trouble. It usually means you’ll end up with a disjointed film lacking in consistency across all the disciplines. Such is not the case with this latest Onetti Brothers’ entry. This looks a lot like Rob Zombie movie: well-shot, well-verse in its Giallo roots and filled with rich colors. Granted, it may have a few clumsy creative moments, and few strained performances in the acting department, but overall the Onetti’s Frankenstein’d a film worthy of a horror fan’s watch from horror’s newest crop of filmmakers.

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio recently premiered to a receptive audience at the Brooklyn Festival of Horror this past October and is currently in the market for U.S distribution. You can keep abreast on when it hits all of the usual online streaming and PPV platforms (definitely on Shutter and Netflix) via their Facebook page. You can check out more trailers from the catalog of the Onetti Brothers’ Black Mandala Productions on You Tube.

What’s that? You want more anthology flicks? Then check out our “Ten Horror Anthologies” exploration.

Some other portmanteaus we’ve recently reviewed are:

All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018)
The Dark Tapes (2019)
Dead of Night
(1977)
The Dungeonmaster (1984)
From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)
Hi-Death (2018)
Holiday Hell (2019)
Kwaidan
(1964)
Morbid Stories (2019)
Shevenge (2019)
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
Terror Tales (2016)
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
The Twilight Zone (1983)
Ugestu
(1953)
The Uncanny (1977)
Vault of Horror (1973)

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.

Street Survivors (2020)

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.

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.

Drive-In Friday: Musician Slashers Night

We, the celluloid thoughtful folks at B&S About Movies, with our vast end-of-the-world apoc-movie knowledge (as seen in our Atomic Dustbin roundup) know this recent Coronavirus lockdown is a trying time for all of us movie lovers. So we’ve decided to open up the B&S About Movies Drive-In where, each Friday afternoon at 11 AM (the Grand Opening was on March 13 . . . Friday the 13th!) we’ll feature four movies to get you through the viral outbreak—but rot your brain cells on bad films in the process.

This week, we’ll enjoy the acting horrors of ‘60s teen idols Fabian Forte and Frankie Avalon, ‘60s traditional music archivist Tiny Tim, and ‘80s Canadian god of thunder, Jon Mikl Thor—as they each eek out a living in the slasher ‘80s.

And as always: Make sure to drive with your parking lights on and clean up after yourself. And don’t forget to try our snack bar, which will remain open until the last feature starts.

Movie 1: Blood Harvest (1987)

God bless you, Bill Rebane (featured in Drive-In Asylum #17, which we reviewed), ye god of Drive-In fodder. You gave us The Alpha Incident, The Demons of Ludlow, and The Game. And you gave us Tiny Tim in his only acting role.

What’s it all about? A girl arrives home from college and runs afoul of a clown-suited Tiny Tim as the mentally-distributed clown “The Magnificent Mervo” killing by hook or by crook. You can watch Blood Harvest for free on TubiTV.

Movie 2: Zombie Nightmare (1987)

We reviewed Jon Mikl Thor in his big screen debut with Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare as part of our “No False Metal” movies week (well, actually, he made his debut with an in-joke support role in the Canadian Police Academy knockoff, 1986’s Recruits). And we also reviewed the thespin’ of Batman’s Adam West in One Dark Night and Omega Cop, so it’s inevitable, in the B&S About Movies universe, that they’d do a movie together.

So while you may have come for the Thor as the voodoo witch-revived zombie of these proceedings, you’ll end up staying for the metal of the film’s far superior soundtrack featuring Girlschool (“Future Flash” and “C’mon Let Go”), Motörhead (“Ace of Spades”), and Virgin Steele (“We Rule the Night”). Thor, of course, with his Thorkestra, composed the movie’s score. Someone recreated the soundtrack track-by-track on You Tube.

Oh, almost forgot! And who’s the dickhead punk who set this zombie revenge mess in motion? Friggin’ Shawn Levy, the producer behind 2016’s Arrival, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. He most recently produced the hit Netflix original series Stranger Things.

Shawn’s bitchy girlfriend: Tia Carrere—yes, Cassandra Wong, the smokin’ hot bassist-frontwoman of Crucial Taunt from Wayne’s World—in her film debut. And what’s Adam West do? He chops on a cigar from behind a desk and barks orders at Detective Frank Sorrell, aka Frank Dietz, from Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, Black Roses, and The Jitters (those three films, along with Zombie Nightmare, were written by John Fasano). Oh, and did you know that Frank Dietz is a screenwriter these days? We just reviewed his latest film, the rom-com (rom-com?) I Hate Kids.

How is it that we have not given Zombie Nightmare a full review proper, Sam? Honestly, what we’ve said here is more than enough. Sorry, only the MST3K riffed-version is available. You can watch it for free on TubiTV.

But wait . . . there is more to be said about Zombie Nightmare! The Master Cylinder blog not only reviewed Zombie Nightmare proper, but also offers production insights from director-writer John Fasano and star Jon Mikl Thor.

See you under tent, Sunday. I’m selling comics, old movie posters, and VHS tapes at the Flea Market. Okay, let me go bush-hog the lot.

Movie 3: Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981)

Did you know Fabian (Forte, of the moonshiner-becomes-a-stock car racer romp Fireball 500 and the Mario Bava Euro-spy comedy Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs*) made a movie with Marilyn Burns from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Did you ever wonder what the ‘80s comedy Weekend At Bernie’s would be like if it was made as a horror film? Well, wonder no more. Two kids—check that, psychic kids—keep their murdered dad “alive” so that the authorities (Marilyn Chambers) don’t put them in an orphanage. Is Fabian the killer dad? Nope, he’s the sheriff on the case. You can watch a free VHS rip on You Tube.

Movie 4: Blood Song (1982)

So you’re a noted television director and producer—responsible for everything from the ‘60s skit comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the ‘70s series Columbo and The Six Million Dollar Man, and bought us Jan Michael Vincent in Airwolf—and now you’re facing the onslaught of the slasher ‘80s. What do you do?

Well, if you’re Alan J. Levi, you work those television contacts and hire the uber-hot Diane Alder from NBC-TV’s Hello, Larry, aka Donna Wilkes (1978’s Jaws 2, 1980’s Schizoid, 1988’s Grotesque) to play a crippled young woman stalked by a hatchet-wielding psychopath from whom she once received a blood transfusion. And, get this: Niels Rasmussen who, if we believe the IMDb, was not only the editor on Blood Song, but he also directed the American-recycled Asian slopfest, The Serpent Warriors (aka Calamity of Snakes).

And who’s the Peter Pan whistling his “Blood Song” on his flute and wants his blood back? Frankie Avalon! You can watch the full movie for free on You Tube. What? Frankie made a Euro-spy romp, too? Yep, he did: Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine*.

Anybody out there know a good Bush-hog repair man? Looks like I burnt another flux-capacitor and the warp-inversion coils need a good back flush. That grass is gettin’ pretty high.

* April was “James Bond Month,” were we reviewed all manner of ’60s and ’70s spy flicks—including Eurospy films.

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.

The Incoherents (2020)

“The alternative/independent rock scene that exploded in the late ’80s/early ’90s was a period we hold dear to our hearts. The music created during that stretch still has great influence today, as the descendants of Nirvana, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Replacements, Radiohead and their compatriots are everywhere on rock radio.”

I’ve couldn’t have said it better myself, ye press bard for Loaded Barrel Studios.

April 5th marked the 26th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain and he’s still as much alive in our hearts today as he was in the MTV 120 Minutes days of our lives on The Cutting Edge. I am forever grateful for the opportunity afforded me to be on the air as a DJ during the ‘90s alt-rock explosion. If you’ve read my “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ‘90s” and “Exploring: Radio Stations on Film” featurettes, along with my nostalgic waxing over the era-films A Matter of Degrees, duBeat-e-o, S.F.W., and Trees Lounge, you know of my melancholy and infinite sadness at the grunge-era’s passing. It is a time—like the Beatlemania-British Invasion, the late ‘60s San Francisco-seeded progressive rock era, and the ‘80s hair metal nation teased in Los Angeles (chronicled in the frames of Incident at Channel Q)—that can never be duplicated; only remembered, as the refrains of “Freak Scene,” “The Second I Wake,” and “Teenage Riot” from Dinosaur Jr., the Screaming Trees, and Sonic Youth poke digital reminders on our vinyl-reminiscing eardrums via our iPods.

The vinyl-pumping heart within the kindred spirits of writer-star Jeff Auer and director Jared Barel has created a film for us: we the drowning survivors of Seattle’s grungy backwaters. They know these musicians as well as I know these flannel troubadours: the once local, college-campus band rescued from indie label-dom, catapulted to mainstream acceptance on a national label (e.g., the Offspring, Rust, Shudder to Think, the Toadies, etc.), only to land with a marketing thud as a one hit wonder (Collective Soul, Marcy’s Playground, Possum Dixon, Semisonic, 7 Mary 3, Tonic, Tripping Daisy, and Vertical Horizon) as rap music became, as Gene Simmons pointed out, the new de rigueur “heavy metal” of 21st century. As if J. Mascis, Mark Lanegan, and Thurston Moore would receive an Elvis-embrace by more than 1% of America’s 300 million-plus consumers. . . .

Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s rock ‘n’ roll love letter to his days as a ‘70s rock journalist, is reflected upon in the press kit for The Incoherents. And while Auer-Barel’s mellifluous billet-doux to ‘90s alt-rock certainly lives up to Martin Scorcese’s critique as a “needle drop” film, the analog VHS centers of my brain loaded in a copy of the lesser-known 1998 British rock flick, Still Crazy. While Almost Famous was the tale of the on-the-top-of-the-world Stillwater (aka Humble Pie) falling apart, the Brian Gibson directed (of the punk-rock version of Almost Famous: 1980’s Breaking Glass) Still Crazy chronicled the reformation of the once-great Strange Fruit (aka The Animals) for a second shag n’ bite of Eve and that damned apple.

“Welcome to the music business,” cackles Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, the three weaving witches of the looms of fate.

And the threadbare soul of Bruce Flansburgh (Jeff Auer), a 40-something New York paralegal, is desperate enough to give the Moirai one more spool of thread. If the Pixies and Soundgarden can tempt those Greek bitches, then why not The Incoherents?

Tracking down his fellow stagnated grunge stallions, Bruce quickly opens old wounds with Jimmy (Alex Emanuel), the band’s guitarist and co-songwriter, who served as the Keith Richards to Bruce’s Mick Jagger, aka the Joe Perry to his Steven Tyler. But the glimmer’s long since gone and the toxic resentments of the “Simmer Twins” still simmers bitter. And the reunion deepens the already festering wounds of his stalemated-homemaker wife Liz (Kate Arrington) who wants more than Bruce’s paralegal job can give. Will The Incoherents rule the charts once again in the young man’s game of rock ‘n’ roll?

What sells the film—like the soundtracks of Still Crazy and the Gina Gershon-starring Prey for Rock & Roll (2003)—is the ’90s college-rock retro original music that breathes life into the faux-proceedings. Actors Alex Emanuel and Jeff Auer—both accomplished musicians in their own right—wrote and perform the band’s songs; their backing band features ‘90s alt-rockers Sean Eden from Luna and drummer Kevin March of Guided by Voices. A great song—or songs—can sell a film: the ’60s retro-romp That Thing You Do! and 1999’s likeminded The Suburbans (a low-budget tale about a Knack-cum-The Romantics-esque reformed one hit wonder) come to mind. And The Incoherents brings the tunes to the turntable.

The marquee names on this indie-gem are the instantly recognizable Annette O’Toole (stealing the show as the salty-mouth rehearsal studio owner Mrs. Graham) from her too many-to-mention films and TV series. Fans of Showtime’s Billions and CBS-TV’s The Good Wife will recognize Kate Arrington, while others will remember Amy Carlson (as a dream-stealing industry mover n’ shaker) as Mark Wahlberg’s wife on CBS-TV’s Blue Bloods. And you’ve seen leading man Jeff Auer in his guest-starring roles on TV’s The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Luke Cage. Adding a realistic-retro vibe to the plight of The Incoherents are the acting cameos by (an insult hurling) guitarist Richard Barone of The Bongos and Lou Reed, along with Chris Barron—who’s all too familiar with cruel realties of the alt-rock ‘90s rollercoaster ride with his band, The Spin Doctors (aka the ’90s alt-rock inversion of the ’80s Men at Work).

Director Jared Barel has six shorts under his belt—one was the 2013 short-film version of The Incoherents. Coming off a successful festival run, the feature-length version won “Best Feature” and “Best Home Grown Feature” at the 2019 New York Coney Island Film Festival and New Jersey’s Garden State Film Festival, while Barel walked away with double awards for “Best Director” and “Best Feature Film” at the Studio City Film Festival. It also garnered nominations for “Best Feature Comedy” and “Feature Film” at the Queens World Film Festival, along with multiple nods at the SoHo International Film Festival. So that tells you The Incoherents is worth hitting the big red streaming button.

And it tells you I really dig this film.

The Incoherents is high on my rock ‘n’ roll VHS charts alongside American Satan, Bandwagon, Breaking Glass, Prey for Rock & Roll, Rock Star, and Still Crazy as a gold record-standard for accuracy in the lives of the men and women who suffer for their art. And the ones who lugged their equipment: like me.

The caveat is that one must consider this reviewer’s radio and roadie background: you may want to take my raves as an incoherent grain of salt—as I can’t not rave about a film that namedrops the Archers of Loaf, Generation X, Guided by Voices, Pavement, and Sebodah (especially Archers of Loaf?! Sebodah?! What the hell, Auer?). The Incoherents is a case of “you had to be there” to appreciate Jared Barel’s retro-vinyl craftsmanship. This isn’t a pretty n’ pat, major studio Jamie Foxx or Joaquin Phoenix music-bio crafted to entertain the mainstream masses via an actor’s Oscar-hopeful mimicry. This film is, first and foremost, about the music. It’s a film for guys like me: the ones who perpetually swim against the aqua firma and mount the musical and film driftwoods of salvation in those drowning, mainstream waters.

And, with that, I’m pulling out the forgotten cardboard tchotchke that is the Screaming Trees’ Invisible Lantern, and following with vinyl chasers from the Buck Pets, the Divine Horsemen, the Doughboys, and Mary My Hope . . . and remembering when my life was a bit more incoherent. And freakin’ beautiful.

The Incoherents is available on iTunes and all VOD platforms on April 28. You can learn more at the film’s official website and Facebook.

(If you need more faux bands on film, be sure to check out our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies” featurette.)

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.

Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR company and, as you know, that has no bearing on our review. But, as you can tell by this review, we would have bought it anyway.

It All Begins With a Song (2020)

I could go on and on all day long, uh, all week long, about the unsung musicians of yesteryear. I should know, I wrote two books about Jim Morrison’s doppelganger from 1974, an artist cast as The Phantom, who released an album now heralded as a heavy-metal classic: Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1.

Over on my Medium page, I wax nostalgic about the careers of songwriter extraordinaire Russ Ballard, of pop smith Lane Caudell, of rockers Jim Gustafson, Neil Merryweather, and Kim Milford, of gospel’s Gene Townsel, of county’s Jessie Lee Turner, and of Detroit’s Jerry Zubal—each deserves a documentary film in their own right. But that’s never going to happen. And I am a writer first and everything else second, so I do what I can on my little digital puff of the cloud to preserve the lost chords of forgotten troubadours. (Shamless review plug: we touch on the unknown career of Lori Lieberman in our “Radio Week” review of Play Misty for Me.)

However, be the musician known or unknown, before they get into that studio, it begins at 3 AM at the kitchen table with a notepad and a guitar; it begins with that song written by a lone soul who, if they recorded their own music, they’d be bigger than Elvis or Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

And this movie is about the unsung kitchen musicians who wrote the hits for those two artists—and so many, many more.

They’re the melodies we hum, the songs we sing in the shower and to our car radio by heart. They’re forever lodged in our psyches. They are the songs that make us laugh about a memory of good times. And make us cry as we remember the bad. Those days of love and of heartbreak live in the songs of others. And while we sing their songs, that songwriter who we associate with those moments of our lives, is unsung.

So, in this music document, the stars of pop, rock, and country take a backseat to give voice to the songwriter—the Nashville songwriter—a town that’s responsible for more hit songs than any other town in world.

You’ll be amazed at the hit after hit song rattled off in the trailer. And you’ll be amazed by this film directed by the Venezuelan born and raised, Chusy, an ex-advertising executive who successfully transitioned into the world of short film and feature documentaries. He expertly culled over 100 hours of interview with the Nashville-based songwriting-artists you know, including Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Kacey Musgraves, and Brad Paisley, and the songwriters you don’t know, including Jessi Alexander (“The Climb” by Miley Cyrus), Desmond Child (“Angel” by Aerosmith and “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi), Mac Davis (“A Little Less Conversation” and “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley), and Mikky Ekko and Claude Kelly (“Grenade” for Bruno Mars and “Circus” for Britney Spears).

It All Begins With a Song does for Nashville what Paul Justman’s Standing in the Shadow of Motown (2002) did for Detroit’s The Funk Brothers. It’s a film that needed to be done. It’s a film that’s a must watch for any musician or for any serious music lover who wants to know who’s responsible for half of those 3,000 songs in their iPod.

It All Begins With a Song made its streaming debut on March 3 courtesy of TriCoast Pictures on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, and You Tube Movies.

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.

Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR company and, as you know, that has no bearing on our review.

Louder Than Love (2012)

For Kurt Cobain: February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994

Before Nirvana, the Spin Doctors, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Pearl Jam, no one knew the meaning of grunge, or even cared where Seattle was: flannel was a fashion no-no. Do you remember the days of post-modern and cutting-edge rock, when everyone wore black and they were always depressed? Remember the days when Gen-X’ers were confused, unable to decide if they were “alternative” or “progressive,” so they stumbled through the X-decade, trying to be both?

Well before those incoherent flannel days of Seattle, when a muddy, grunge wave swept across America—and while the West Coast was frolicking in the Fillmore to the sounds of the Summer of Love in 1967—Detroit was rippin’ out a hard-driving, gritty and raw sound from the four walls of the scene’s epicenter: The Grande Ballroom.

The Grande is where the likes of the MC5, Iggy & the Stooges, and Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes got their start. The Grande also served as the main-Midwest concert stop for legendary acts such as B.B King, Cream, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and the Who. Then there’s the local Detroit bands that made it to the biggest stage in town—some signing record deals, that you may have never heard of—such Dick Wagner’s the Frost, Frigid Pink, Dave Gilbert’s of the Rockets precursor Shakey Jake, SRC, and Arthur Pendragon’s Walpurgis (aka Phantom’s Divine Comedy).

The Grande is the dance hall that started it all. Some of the world’s best bands came from Detroit from 1967 to 1980 and Louder Than Love is the story of those times—of The Grande—as told through the artists who graced her stage.

Filmmaker and music historian Tony D’Annunzio is currently offering a free stream of the U.S. PBS-TV broadcast version of the film (60-minute running time) on his You Tube page. While there’s no online streams of the feature-length version (80-minutes/1 hour and twenty minutes), you can purchase DVDs of that theatrical/direct-to-video version—released in 2016—at various brick-and-mortar and online retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Amazon.

And since this is Kurt’s special day . . . take a moment to remember him with the Seattle documents 1991: The Year Punk Broke on Daily Motion and Hype! on TubiTv. And, while you may not know him, could you take a moment to remember the unsung career of Detroit’s Arthur Pendragon? You can listen to his complete catalog over on my You Tube tribute page to his life and career.

In fact, here’s the 1973 full concert debut of Walpurgis at The Grande Ballroom opening for Dick Wagner’s the Frost and Jethro Tull. Arthur Pendragon — April 23, 1951 – March 28, 1999 — would be 69 this month.

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.

Trees Lounge (1996)

In tribute to Kurt Cobain: February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994

There are two reasons (of many) why I love Trees Lounge: First: It serves as the screenwriting and directing debut by one of my favorite actors: Steve Buscemi. He’s the type of actor who appears in huge, major studio tent poles—like Armageddon and Con Air—and he leaves you clamoring for another film that centers on his character’s backstories. Second: Trees Lounge has an incredible (nostalgic for me), ‘90s college rock radio gem with a theme song from Hayden. If you love Chris Whitley (who? here, listen to this), if you love the alt-country of Uncle Tupelo (who? listen here), or the indie-sounds of California’s Pavement (listen here), Britain’s Placebo (listen here), or the crowded-kings of college rock, Dinosaur, Jr. (listen here), you’ll love Hayden.

Yep. I love Hayden and the college rock era . . .

And Steve Buscemi also loves his rock ‘n’ roll.

“The Stealer” from Paul Rogers and Free (you know, the “All Right Now” guys) receiving a well-deserved soundtrack position? And we’re not hatin’ on Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up,” John Mayall’s “Light the Fuse,” Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet” and “Roll On Down the Highway,” and Earl Hooker’s blues chops with “Off the Hook,” either. And tunes from The Ink Spots? Just wow.

It’s an incredible soundtrack replicating just what you’d expect in the jukebox at a decrepit, little bar in small-town America. And we have Evan Lurie, who, with his brother John Lurie (John consulted-scored John Travolta’s Get Shorty), founded the ‘80s jazz collective, the Lounge Lizards, to thank. You know Evan though his music consulting and scoring on a wide array of films, such as the Oscar winners Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, along with the rest of Steve Buscemi’s writing and directing credits: Animal Factory (2000), Lonesome Jim (2005), and Interview (2007).

Check out the rock video single of “Trees Lounge” . . . featuring Seymour Cassel on drums and Rockets Redglare on guitar?

As for Trees Lounge, the movie . . .

It’s of a time and place. It’s of the ‘90s when indie record labels, such as Homestead, Dutch East, SST, and Caroline, cultivated the college rock scene. Meanwhile, on the big screen, studio imprints, such as Miramax (shameless plug: check out our “8 Films of Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures”) and Orion Classics (which distributed Trees Lounge), filled the rising alt-nation’s screens with all manner of indie art-house and foreign films. It was the era that entertained us non-mainstream swimmers with the likes of Greg Araki’s The Doom Generation, Eric Bogosians’s SurbUria, Larry Clark’s Kids, Tom DiCillo’s Living in Oblivion, Richard Linklater’s Slacker and Dazed and Confused, Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Mall Rats, Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy, and Wayne Wang’s Smoke, along with Bandwagon, Floundering, Gas Food Lodging, The Low Life, Roadside Prophets, and S.F.W.

Yeah, the ‘90s were my music and film heaven.

I know, I know. “Geeze, Marie, enough with the trip down memory lane. When are you going to review the movie?”

Well, that’s just the point: Trees Lounge is Steve Buscemi’s trip down memory lane.

Long before he became an actor, Buscemi served as a New York firefighter in the early ‘80s at Engine Company 55 in Manhattan’s Little Italy. So, if you’re from the five Burroughs, keep your eyes open: you’ll see your old streets of The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.

Rob’s Body Shop doubled as “Nick’s Service Center” (where Steve’s character is fired from). Scenes were shot at Stobierksi’s Lucas Gardenview Funeral Home and Firemen’s Memorial Field (where Steve’s character is attacked-by-baseball bat). The Assembly Bar on Cooper Avenue, in Glendale, Queens, doubles as “Trees Lounge” (where Steve’s character drinks away his troubles). And Trees Lounge was a real place: after the original bar shut down, Steve purchased the sign and restored it for the movie, but he was ultimately not allowed to use it. (So he gifted it to his friend: a waitress-bartender who worked at Trees Lounge for over forty years.) Another autobiographical element of the film: before becoming a fireman, Steve, as his character, drove an ice cream truck on the movie’s same streets.

Influenced by the buck-the-studio system indie flicks of John Cassavetes (1958’s Shadows, 1968’s Faces, 1970’s Husbands, and 1974’s A Woman Under the Influence), by the writings of poet-author Charles Bukowski (whose work was translated as the 1987 Mickey Rourke-starring Barfly), and Jack Kerouac’s novels On the Road (1957) and The Dharma Bums, Buscemi brings his tales of the lonely, lost denizens of Trees Lounge.

It’s the story of Tommy Basilio, an unemployed car mechanic who, even when he was employed, spent most of his time drinking his life away at a blue collar watering hole where he lives alone in an apartment above. And, as with the tragic-heroes of Cassavetes and Bukowksi: Tommy is a self-destructive, Type D personality who blames everyone but himself for his troubles. (In fact, if you salt Tommy with more violent tendencies, you’d get Buscemi’s Carl Showalter in Fargo.)

In quick succession: Tommy loses his job after borrowing money (i.e. he stole it and got caught) from the auto repair shop where he work; in turn, he loses Theresa (Lorraine “Goodfellas” Bracco’s sister, Elizabeth), his girlfriend of eight years to his boss, Rob (Anthony LaPaglia)—and now she’s pregnant. And Tommy believes he’s the father. To make ends meet, Tommy reluctantly takes over his late Uncle Al’s (Seymour Cassel) ice cream truck route.

Tommy’s logical response to his ever mounting problems: making them worse. And he accomplishes that goal by having an affair with Theresa’s flirtatious seventeen-year-old niece, Debbie (Chloe Sevigny). Then Jerry (Daniel Baldwin), the husband of Patty (Mimi Rogers), Theresa’s sister, takes him to task with a baseball bat and trashes the ice cream truck.

Yeah, it’s only a matter of time before Tommy takes over the stool of longtime barfly, Bill (Bronson Dudley; the “bass player” in the Hayden video) . . . and stares down into the errs of his ways . . . in the bottom of a glass on the bar at Trees Lounge.

The bottom line: Steve Buscemi’s debut as a screenwriter and director is pure magic in a bottle. Not a bad for a film shot for just over a million dollars in 24 days.

And the rest of the supporting cast of Trees Lounge’s outcasts: wow. Rockets Redglare (an actor in over 30 films, he roadied for Billy Joel’s The Hassels and was the Sex Pistol’s Sid Vicious’s drug dealer), Carol Kane (Fred Walton’s When a Stranger Calls), Mark Boone Junior (American Satan), Kevin Corrigan (Ray Liotta’s little brother in Goodfellas), and Michael Imperioli (TV’s Law and Order, The Sopranos) are each excellent in their roles. Co-stars Anthony LaPaglia and Debi Mazar (Ray Liotta’s coke-snorting hussy in Goodfellas) also starred in Empire Records. And watch out for Samuel L. Jackson.

So spend a day in Trees Lounge—with movie and the soundtrack. You’ll be drunk-in-amazement on how awesome it all is. You can enjoy this soundtrack re-creation (below) that I cooked up on You Tube. And you can watch the movie for free—with limited commercials—on TubiTv.

You can also remember Kurt by visiting our “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ‘90s” feature and our review for the quintessential movie about college-rock radio, A Matter of Degrees.

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.

S.F.W. (1994)

In tribute to Kurt Cobain: February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994

First, there was Rick Van Ryan, the malcontent, social injustice warrior VJ of Incident at Channel Q. Then, when the metal ’80s buckled to the grungy ’90s, the Catcher In the Rye-styled, disenfranchised Generation X’ers of America needed a new hero: they got Cliff Spab.

If Cliff Spab had been a pirate radio DJ, he would have been “Hard Harry” in Pump Up the Volume. If Cliff had gone to college, became enchanted with the campus radio station, and took the course titles “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Ethnicity,” he would have been Maxwell Glass in A Matter of Degrees. A well-read, apathetic convenience store clerk: he’d be Dante Hicks (well, maybe more Randal Graves) in Clerks. If Dustin Hoffman’s Ben Braddock from The Graduate had been a hippie: he’d be Spab. A filmmaker: he’d be Alan Shapiro in duBeat-eo—each expounding the same Holden Caulfield nihilism-cum-Abbie Hoffman anarchism. And, is it just me, but is Ethan Hawke’s Troy Dyer from 1994’s Reality Bites just a little too close-for-comfort-Spab coincidental?

R.E.M’s Michael Stipe produced (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Velvet Goldmine), along with noted rock video producer Sigurjon Sighvatsson (Hard Rock Zombies, American Drive-In), this loose adaptation of Andrew Wellman’s satiric Generation X novel that explores the price of fame colliding with reckless tabloid journalism. Stephen Dorff (while he played the role younger, he made his big screen debut in 1987 at the age of 14 in the “No False Metal” classic The Gate; he recently wrapped the first season of FOX-TV’s Deputy) is the apathetic-reluctant hero, Cliff Spab, whose “catch phases”—his stock answer to everything is “So Fucking What?”—during his captivity of a televised hostage crisis, transforms him into a media sensation—and his unwanted, new found fame serves as a bigger prison than his previous apathetic fast-food worker lifestyle (apparent in the novel; lost in the movie).

In this tale of youth alienation, Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers goes grunge as Spab becomes a nation anti-hero after surviving for 36 days as one of five hostages in a non-descript, suburban Detroit convenience store by a gang of armed, camera-wielding terrorists—complete in white janitor-jumpsuits and stocking masks—who force the networks to carry the crisis in its entirety on the air. When Spab and his childhood friend, Joe Dice, kill the terrorists (and Dice dies in the process), Spab becomes a media sensation, alongside fellow hostage Wendy, an upper-class girl (Reese Witherspoon), splashed across the covers of magazines and reported on TV ad nauseam.

The novel’s writer, Andrew Wellman, at the age of 21, won the 1989 Playboy College Fiction Award and was quickly signed by Random House. The publisher then took the “unfinished” award-winning manuscript “The Madison Heights Syndrome,” (at a breezy 147 pages, the book is more novella than as the novel it is marketed), and chose a truncated version of the Spab character’s oft-repeated dismissive as the new title. And, because of the book’s timely correlation to the grunge ethos sweeping America, the book was marketed for a movie deal. If you read the now out-of-print book (my local library still has a copy), you’ll discover Wellman’s social commentary analogous to the voice of Bret Easton Ellis, whose (awesome) novels of disenfranchised malcontents—Less Than Zero (1985), The Rules of Attraction (1987), and, to a lesser extent, American Psycho (1991)—were adapted into films (that were more successful than S.F.W.).

Sadly, as is the case with cinematic adaptations of books-to-screenplays, an author’s flights-of-fancy narratives must be compressed, with events and characters composited and sanitized to the Hollywood screenwriting standard of 90 to 110 pages. As result, the film loses Wellman’s effective analogy regarding the sensationalistic tendencies of film by having Spab hiding out inside an abandoned movie theatre—where the character relates his story in flashbacks (just a like a movie).

Luckily, the film retained the book’s character of Morrow Streeter (an excellent Jake Busey; the jarhead “Ace Levy” in Starship Troopers), Spab’s shady-violent friend who’s prone to gay-bashing and pulling guns on and urinating on girlfriends (toned down for the film, natch). Another film highlight alongside Busey’s is Richard Portnow’s (Howard Stern’s dad in Private Parts) FBI agent who’s utterly convinced the store siege was an elaborate ruse perpetrated by Spab.

Another creative, celluloid choice that stifled the power of Wellman’s book is the film’s awkward “message” on consumerism—by stocking the non-descript convenience store with similarly non-descript, white-packaged generic item (e.g., cans of soup say “soup,” paper towels, say “paper towels” with no brand names). The “artistic” images and its related “message” flat lines on the screen.

And what’s the deal with Gary Coleman from TV’s Diff’rent Strokes being cast (it’s not in the book) alongside the clumsy-uncomfortable Tori Spelling-clone (aka, the sexually-degradingly named “Dori Smelling”) in the “TV movie version” of the hostage crisis? And there’s Levy’s “in-joke” with one of his previous film’s characters from Inside Monkey Zetterland (played by Steve Antin) appearing. What’s the point? What’s the message? The self-deprecation—especially Coleman’s—falls flat. (As a kid actor, Dorff starred in an episode of Diff’rent Strokes; were they still friends and did he bring Coleman onto film?)

Then there’s the . . . well, I can best describe it as the “Eddie Murphy Coming to America gag”—via the casting of John Roarke (lots of network TV series, but I remember him best from the truly awful sci-fi comedy rental, 1989’s Mutant on the Bounty) as the thinly-disguised clones of popular, real-life celebrity journalists Alan Dershowitz, Phil Donahue, Sam Donaldson, Ted Koppel, and Larry King. True, Roarke is a very talented impressionist-mimic, but unlike Eddie Murphy’s work (also in The Nutty Professor), it’s obvious to the viewer it’s the same actor in each of the rolls. We’re not fooled. And telling us that the “distortion” of the celebrity reporters are being filtered through “Spab’s point of view” doesn’t sell it either. Why would he “distort” reporters in his mind to look like Phil Donahue? The gag induces groans and any intentions at contemporary hipness are a total loss; the film would have been better served by playing it straight via casting an array of actors as faux-celebrity news hacks.

In the end the Coleman and Roarke celluloid subterfuges negate the film’s goal: the irony of the media complex transforming tragedies (e.g. 9-11) into television “programming” and then dipping in their hands in the tills a second time with their post-adaptations of those misfortunes with biographical and fictional films (World Trade Center, United 93).

S.F.W. was written by Danny Rubin (Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day) and directed by Jefrey Levy. Levy’s career began with the multiple award-winning, 1991 independent feature Drive (starring David Warner, of From Beyond the Grave and Ice Cream Man, as an acidic, middle-aged Brit reduced to chauffeuring the rich, liberal elite). During your mid-‘90s HBO excursions, you may have come across Levy’s feature film debut proper, Inside Monkey Zetterland (1992), a semi-autobiographical tale about an out-of-work gay screenwriter in Hollywood. That film starred Steve Antin (“Jessie” of Rick Springfield’s video hit single, the teen comedy The Last American Virgin, Don Coscarelli’s post-Phantasm flick Survival Quest, and three seasons on TV’s NYPD Blue; he wrote and directed the 2010 Christina Aguilera and Cher-starring bomb, Burlesque).

After the failure of S.F.W., Levy rebounded with a successful directing career on U.S network television and self-produced a couple of never-heard-of-them, low-budget indie flicks. Rubin, after writing the Marlee Matlin and Martin Sheen-starring Hear No Evil (1993), vanished from the business.

At the time of S.F.W.’s release, grunge was all the rage and the major label record companies and film studios couldn’t sit back and allow the indie label network (Homestead! Dutch East! SST! Caroline!) and college radio stations (staffed with guys like me) that birthed the alt-rock ‘90s in the first place, rake in all the dough. So began a corporate synergy to create a plethora of soundtrack-film hybrids with the likes of the aforementioned A Matter of Degrees, along with Kevin Smith’s Clerks (the soundtrack clearances cost more than the film itself), and Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites. The only problem: the soundtracks for most of these films featuring the then college radio and MTV 120 Minutes and IRS: The Cutting Edge darlings—especially in the case of A Matter of Degrees—were more successful than the box office bomb movies they promoted. And the S.F.W. soundtrack is no exception.

“Jesus Christ Pose” — Soundgarden
“Get Your Gunn” — Marilyn Manson
“Can I Stay?” —  Pretty Mary Sunshine
“Teenage Whore” — Hole
“Negasonic Teenage Warhead” — Monster Magnet
“Like Suicide (Acoustic Version)” — Chris Cornell
“No Fuck’n Problem” — Suicidal Tendencies
“Surrender” — Paw
“Creep” — Radiohead
“Two at a Time” — Cop Shoot Cop
“Say What You Want” — Babes in Toyland
“S.F.W.” — GWAR

Three songs appearing in the film but not on the soundtrack (clearance issues) are the Ronnie James Dio-era of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow with “A Light in the Black” (featured in the trailer), Australia’s Mantissa with “Mary, Mary” (they appear via their rock video on TV), and Ireland’s Therapy? with “Speedball.” And while they make an appearance via a “Spab Tribute Concert” and spew some dialog, Babes in Toyland do not perform their soundtrack contribution. (Personally, we could have done without the Coleman bit and had Babes in Toyland “live” on stage; the Cheap Trick original of “Surrender” (which could have been a nice homage to the similarly themed, juvenile delinquent flick Over the Edge (a Kurt Cobain favorite) on the soundtrack, and had Paw represented by their then popular tunes of “The Bridge” or “Jessie.”)

And there was one more song that was planned to be included in the film. And if this chain-of-events sounds a lot like Cameron Crowe wanting to include “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in his 1992 grunge-flick entry Singles . . . then it probably is.

In the pages of a June 1994 issue of Entertainment Weekly (yes, the studio put their full marketing gauntlet behind the film), director Jefrey Levy spoke of the Cliff Spab-to-Kurt Cobain parallels, as both were just regular kids with extraordinary sensitivity thrust into extraordinary circumstances. So, to that end, Levy wanted to include Nirvana’s then hit single, “All Apologies,” from the band’s third album, In Utero.

Levy stated that while Cobain responded positively to the movie, he failed to acquire formal permission to include the song due to Cobain’s suicide (on April 5, 1994) shortly after. Levy did, however, as a consolation prize, was able to include the song “Teenage Whore” from Kurt’s widow, Courtney Love and her band Hole (for the scuzzy-love scene between Spab and Joey Lauren Adams’s Monica Dice). Cobain’s peripheral attachment to the film took on an eerie quality when Love, during the televised park vigil reading of Cobain’s suicide note, kept chastising Cobain with the term “So fucking what?” over and over.

And did that Cobain connection, in conjunction with the soundtrack that our favorite college radio DJs spun ‘n plugged (as with A Matter of Degrees and Clerks) make us rent the VHS copy, then search out Andrew Wellman’s book? Yep!

Full soundtrack re-creation courtesy of You Tube/R.D Francis

So W.T.F.? There’s no online rips? No TubiTV freebies? Not even a PPV over on Amazon? Denied. So, in addition to the trailer, you can check out these film clips on You Tube: trauma, guest VJ, Tobey Maquire stoned, and Cliff Spab’s philosophy.

What’s that? You need more grunge? Then check out our tribute to ’90s Gen-X films with “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ‘90s,” which we also touch on, in part, with our tribute to radio stations on film: “Exploring: Radio Stations on Film.” And, speaking of box office failures (S.F.W.‘s total box office take was less than $65,000 against an unknown eight-digit budget), we explored a week of those films with our recent “Box Office Failures Week.”

And, with that, we’ll catch you on the “flippity flop,” Kurt.

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.

AC/DC: Let There Be Rock (1980)

This is the film that broke AC/DC in America.

Yes, a film had to break one of metal’s most enduring bands because, as usual, U.S radio was—and always will be—a day late and dollar short, stumbling behind the times. Sure, there were a few of the still independent progressive FM rock stations—ones not yet gobbled up by corporate America and its damned marketing consultants with their cursed “focus groups” and computerized “McDonald’s of Radio” playlists—that gave a few spins to the pre-Highway to Hell tunes “High Voltage,” “T.N.T.,” and “Whole Lotta Rosie.”

U.S radio eventually caught up with its European counterpart, where AC/DC was already a well-known and respected band, by way of their sixth album, the pretty-hard-to-ignore powerhouse, 1979’s Highway to Hell, featuring the now classic rock radio staple title song. But when the band’s first concert film played as a midnight movie in U.S theatres in the winter months of 1980, their stardom as a premiere heavy metal band in American was sealed.

And we have Tracy Sebastian, aka Billy Eye Harper, the leader of the greatest faux rock band of all time, Head Mistress, to thank for bringing AC/DC to America.

To hear Ferd Sebastian, the director of Rocktober Blood, tell it in the U.K pages of Hysteria Lives!, his son, Tracy, was on vacation in Paris and seen the French-shot and European-released film that chronicled a December 9, 1979, AC/DC performance during their “Highway to Hell Tour” at the Pavillon de Paris.

Tracy, being a rock ‘n’ roll fanatic, and with his dad in the film business, a light bulb went off: he was adamant Sebastian International Pictures bring the film to America. After taking care of some post-production sound issues with the film and finalizing a distribution deal, the film was released on the U.S midnight movie circuit and, according to Ferd, “we four-walled the theatres and brought the money home every night. Lots of it.” And Warner Bros. took notice and wanted a piece of the action. So the Sebastians cut a deal with Bugs and the gang and made even more money. And it was the funds from the film that broke AC/DC in American that financed the production of our beloved heavy metal horror film featuring the slashin’ n’ singin’ of Billy Eye Harper.

Sadly, AC/DC’s lead singer, Bon Scott, never had a chance to enjoy the film’s success: he died on February 19. 1980, just over two months after filming was completed. Though the film shares its title and artwork, along with a few songs, from AC/DC’s fourth studio album, Let There Be Rock, the movie also includes live versions of songs from their albums from T.N.T., Powerage, and Highway to Hell, their 2nd, 5th, and 6th albums, respectively.

The film spends its first ten minutes with the band backstage, and then the music starts. For those of you not familiar with the pre-Brian Johnson era of the band, this is a chronicle of AC/DC when they were still, essentially, a bar band, only carousing on a larger stage—and sans the stage effects and pyrotechnics they became noted for in their post-Black In Black years. As the music unfolds, interviews conducted with the band two days before the concert are intercut between the songs.

What sets Let There Be Rock apart from other midnight movie concert films of the era: instead of shooting upwards, from a fan’s pit vantage point in front of the stage, as is typical of most concert films, Let There Be Rock is shot from above or on the stage—and is noted as the first concert film that “put the fans on stage” with the band.

The U.K Platinum-selling (50,000 copies) VHS home video version of the film

The subsequent Warner Bros. DVDs—that ditched the original 1980 artwork (totally bogus!)—are readily available on all of the usual seller sites—even Walmart. But how are there no PPV online streams? Luckily, you can watch a pretty clean rip of the film on Daily Motion.

There was individual track-by-track playlist of the soundtrack on You Tube, sans interviews and backstage scenes, featuring film’s songs in order of their film appearance, but that playlist has since been deleted (par for the You Tube course).

“Live Wire” (T.N.T., 1975)
“Shot Down In Flames” (Highway to Hell, 1979)
“Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be” (Let There Be Rock, 1977)
“Sin City” (Powerage, 1978)
“Walk All Over You” (Highway to Hell, 1979)
“Bad Boy Boogie” (Let There Be Rock, 1977)
“The Jack” (T.N.T., 1975)
“Highway to Hell” (Highway to Hell, 1979)
“Girls Got Rhythm” (Highway to Hell, 1979)
“High Voltage” (T.N.T., 1975)
“Whole Lotta Rosie” (Let There Be Rock, 1977)
“Rocker” (T.N.T., 1975)
“Let There Be Rock” (Let There Be Rock, 1977)

In lieu of that deleted playlist, you can watch this version of “Live Wire” from the the film.

There’s more “midnight movies” to be had with our “10 Movies That Were Never Released to DVD” and check out our three part “Exploring: Video Nasties” featurettes. There’s more bands on film—of Billy Eye Harper and Headmistress and not the AC/DC variety—with our “No False Metal Movies” and “Ten Bands Made Up For Movies” examinations.

“Let there be flicks!”

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and B&S Movies, and learn more about his work on Facebook.