Archives for posts with tag: Kelly Bundy Era

Human Highway

Human Highway (1982) ****

Co-scripted and directed by eccentric rocker Neil Young (using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey), Human Highway is the weirdo sort of movie destined from its inception to become an item of cult interest. Young stars as lamebrained mechanic Lionel, who dreams of rock stardom while making a mess of his duties at Dean Stockwell’s roadside gas station and diner, where coworkers include Sally Kirkland, Russ Tamblyn, and Dennis Hopper. The diner is situated near a nuclear power plant where the boys from Devo work and are exposed to so much radiation that they actually glow with red light. Stockwell, who has inherited the diner from his father and finds it in financial disarray, gets the idea to torch his unprofitable business and be rid of it; but will he be able to hatch his plot before toxic waste, radiation poisoning, or a full-blown nuclear holocaust throws a monkey wrench into his plans?

More of a gratuitously bizarre curiosity than a genuinely admirable film, Human Highway remains a valuable document of the prevailing new wave musical sensibility of the day as applied to cinema, and also conveys the anxieties of the eighties about the possibility of nuclear holocaust and the threat to man and the environment posed by toxic waste. This black comedy’s script, unfortunately, too often aims for the random and leaves most of the ideas and characters underdeveloped, while the production values are on the order of a typical episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse – which, depending upon the viewer’s individual taste, could be a blessing or a curse. The film really starts to fall apart from a narrative standpoint during the second half, with (for some reason) a montage of Native Americans dancing around a bonfire of wooden Indians and Lionel dreaming after being knocked unconscious of rock-and-roll stardom and excess, and letting a groupie suck milk off of him with a straw. The high point of Human Highway is an extended bout of down-and-dirty, feedback-fried riffing and jamming between Neil Young and Devo, with the team totally freaking out and looking like a bunch of psychos.

4 out of 5 glass parking lots.

Incident at Channel Q

Incident at Channel Q (1986) *****

Al Corley headlines this trash heap treasure as Rick Van Ryan, a smug, sarcastic, rebel-rousing VJ at regional television station Q 23. The teenagers love him, but stick-in-the-mud suburbanite parents and Christian conservatives are all in a tizzy and picketing Rick’s unwholesome influence, demanding that his program, Heavy Metal Heaven, be taken off the air in order to save young people’s souls. Corporate sponsors are getting nervous, the old guard at Q 23 hates his guts, and the Tipper Gore ticket is getting unruly, with two right-wing brutes ambushing Rick in an alley and beating him up, after which the young radical moves to bring the cultural crisis to a head, barricading himself inside the TV station and calling on his followers to lend him support. 

What passes for a story line in Incident at Channel Q is primarily a pretext for exhibiting a series of then-recent music videos in their entirety, these videos – ranging from Rush to Rainbow, KISS, Iron Maiden, and all points in between – taking up half or more of the movie and simulating the experience of watching 80 minutes or so of MTV on a typical day in the 1980s. The music, for the most part, is fantastic stuff for 80s rock buffs, with a trio of videos – Lita Ford’s “Gotta Let Go”, the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, and Motley Crue’s vicious “Looks That Kill”  – constituting some of the greatest, most outlandishly photogenic material ever committed to film. Poofy hair, horror lighting, whore makeup, chintzy sets, studded leather wristbands, tight pants, and other depravity abound, with KISS’s “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” being another fun and action-packed video, while others – Rush’s “Body Electric” and Deep Purple’s “Knocking at Your Back Door” – showcase the post-apocalyptic imagery that was popular in those years.

5 pentagrams for the rock and the morally righteous camp value. VHS copies of Incident at Channel Q are inexpensive, so readers who see one languishing on a used bookstore shelf or in a moldy box in a basement are advised to redeem it or suffer the vengeful disfavor of Satan. 

 

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Future Sodom

Future Sodom (1987) ****

An initial viewing of Future Sodom may be a disappointment if viewers allow the stylish cover photo of Laurel Canyon to lead them to expect a dark, creative vision of a futuristic world. When friends Mickey (Frank James) and Morgan (Jesse Eastern) find themselves transported into an unknown place and time – “to grow, to advance” in their sexuality – their sylvan surroundings resemble the idyllic woods around a summer cabin more than a dingy, urban vice capital. What follows is mostly a plotless succession of sexual encounters between the visitors and the carefree inhabitants of this sunny natural paradise.

First, Mickey and Morgan double-team a blonde beauty (Canyon), Mickey receiving a boisterous blowjob as Morgan bumps her from behind, all while ethereal synthesizer and mechanized tribal beats convey that this is the future – either that or the 80s. After trading orifices and having their fill, Mickey and Morgan relax indoors and exchange philosophies about sex. Morgan, a hopeless romantic, is disillusioned with what seems to him to be the mechanical nature of sex; but Mickey is perfectly content to screw anything that moves. “It was so impersonal, man, it was hot as hell,” he says, describing why phone sex gets him excited.

Group play follows: first an enthusiastic threesome set to languid electric guitar with Laurel Canyon, Britt Morgan, and Peter North, who find that an open door policy spices up the boredom of marriage; and later a more elaborate session conducted by a toga-bedecked Instructor (gross Jew William Margold) who sets a proper orgy in motion – complete with oral and anal sex and disgusting asshole-licking – before joining the fray himself, ultimately slurping his own semen off of a woman’s back. All of this unfolds to some drab 80s disco.

In one of Future Sodom’s few acknowledgments of the notion that this is all supposed to be taking place in some kind of futuristic setting, one of the sordid celebrants is a tattooed, freakish “robot”, Lucy (played by Viper), who has been “specially programmed as an anal participant.” This bargain basement production’s idea of an android, alas, is a tramp in a Mardi Gras mask, with chains strapped across her chest, nipple and clitoris piercings, and obscenities like “motherfucker” and “eat shit” scrawled all over her body. Lucy explains that mischievous Boy Scouts are responsible for the physical graffiti. “They raped me anally and I castrated ten of them,” she says in Future Sodom’s most outrageous scene. “Yes, I programmed myself to castrate Boy Scouts.”

In the second of Future Sodom’s two standout performances – the first being newcomer Laurel Canyon – Frankie Leigh plays the mysterious “Woman”, a sexual chameleon who suits her behavior to the fantasies of her partner of the moment. This cute but thoroughly debauched brunette has the best scene in Future Sodom, sneering her needs at horny Mickey: “Nah, I don’t think you fucking understand. I want dick, dick, and more dick,  you hear that? And I want buckets of fucking cum. I wanna fuckin’ swallow it, I wanna choke on it. I wanna fuckin’ wallow in it. I wanna fuckin’ bathe in the fuckin’ shit, you know? I want you to turn my mouth into a fuckin’ sewer, into a goddamn toilet.” Leigh then proceeds to blow three guys in creepy transparent plastic masks like the ones in Last House on Dead End Street.

Underlying the flimsy excuse for a story, specifically in the old-fashioned Morgan character, is an awareness of a discomfort left in men’s hearts in the wake of the sexual revolution. Now that moral constraints are no longer an issue, do men really want their women to be voracious sexual beasts? What do women want? Paula Damiano’s script, unfortunately, leaves this speculative thread underdeveloped, the only semblance of resolution to Morgan’s uncertainty being his sullen resignation and determination of, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Future Sodom, though nothing particularly special, does have a few things to recommend it. The hair is big, the action is hot, and the actors are clearly enjoying themselves; and, with the exception of Viper, whose damaged goods and devilish scowl are a little intimidating, the principal actresses are exquisite. 80s aficionados will appreciate Jesse Eastern’s mullet, and may also be interested to learn the ultimate fate of Ronald Reagan. Viewers, however, should expect nothing profound from a film which, after all, was produced and directed by Deep Throat auteur Gerard Damiano.

4 out of 5 stars.

Load Warriors

The Load Warrior aka The Load Warriors (1987) ****1/2

From the first bleak, synthesized notes queuing up The Load Warrior’s ugly orange pixelated opening credits, all the makings of a 1980s pornographic classic are present: movie parody premise, pun title, hokey electronic music, garish eye makeup, and big, beautiful, puffy manes of whore hair. Peter North portrays the titular titillationist in this post-apocalyptic tale of a world devastated by a “great fire” (i.e., nuclear holocaust) followed by the “invisible fire” of radiation that causes fertility to plummet. The result is a wasteland in which “seed became money and men became cattle”, with female barbarians unceremoniously milking their slaves like farm animals, the old ways of love, foreplay, and even vaginal penetration having been forgotten by most – all but the Load Warrior.

The Load Warrior satirizes the seeming reversal of sex roles effected by the sexual revolution, the entry of women into the workforce, and the cold commoditization of reproduction through sperm banks. “‘Married’?” Willow (Krysta Lane) asks, puzzled at hearing the word for the first time. “What’s ‘married’?” Men, reduced to utilitarian sex slaves, are left wanting foreplay, affection, and some sense of sexual autonomy, while women have become violent, impersonal brutes, as typified by ruthless businesswoman Queen Humongous (Lois Ayres), who reigns like a callous CEO over a “bustling rat hole” called Motherload. Here the remains of the wasteland’s men come to sell their sperm at the trading post of Dr. D (Jesse Eastern), who hands out “antique” broccoli and rotten chicken (“Of course it’s got maggots in there. That’s the nutritious part.”) in exchange for their more or less ineffectual sperm. Fortuitously, the Load Warrior comes and pounds into the women an important truth: “A load in the bush is worth far more than any in the hand.”

Sharon Mitchell, who participates in an ambitious fivesome (!) with Eastern and others in the “Blow the Man Dome”, is typically tough and charismatic as the aptly named Wilde, who threatens to cut off a woman’s tits and make lampshades out of them. Too much time is spent on an interracial scene between Eastern and Angel Kelly; but the sex, if not consistently scorching, is solid, and for the most part tastefully photographed, greatly enhanced by the scuzzy art direction of “C.L. Jaz”. Much of the action in The Load Warrior plays like a music video, with the imitation Tina Turner theme song smoothing North’s scene with delectable Gail Force being a definite highlight of the show. Also, the manner in which the hero dispatches the bitchy Queen Humongous is not to be missed! Hot, heavy, and humorous, The Load Warrior is mandatory sleaze for 80s strokers.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Underground

Underground (1991) *****  “Most of the people who come here you can hardly call people,” says bartender Whitebread (credited as playing “himself”) of the clientele at the strip club that serves as the sordid setting of Bret Carr’s remarkable exploitation entry Underground. The fun begins when innocent bimbo Allison (Rachel Carr), fresh off the Greyhound bus from Nebraska, gets lured into a waitressing job, unaware that her new place of work doubles as a white slavery clearing house run by degenerate Rudy Gantz. Clement von Franckenstein delivers Underground‘s center ring performance as grime-dripping, gloriously potty-mouthed Gantz, the super-sleazy strip club proprietor who introduces himself to the viewer by unleashing a mightily sustained volley of hall of fame profanity worthy of Joe Pesci or Al Pacino as he makes a dishonest deal over the phone. The clearly psychotic Gantz spends much of the movie badgering his subordinates as he frets and mugs and arranges to rectify an unprofitable “paucity of pussy”, sending henchman Tony (Jack Savage, a poor man’s Alan Rickman) on thankless errands to procure fresh meat for his periodic auctions.

Underground is a real treat for trash aficionados, with roughly half its run time devoted to sultry strip routines, the amazing Debra Lamb being particularly praiseworthy in her balletic pole turns as “Fire Girl”. The film should please admirers of Katt Shea’s contributions to the erotic strip-thriller subgenre, especially Stripped to Kill, to which Underground bears a telling stylistic resemblance with its dark, cavernous nightclub and atmospheric use of colored lights, shadows, and smoke. Both films mythify the lowest of Los Angeles, recasting the city as a decidedly adult fairy tale universe of ogres, princesses, and spells as exemplified by juggling jester Whitebread when he says of Allison’s transformation into an LA temptress, “Hey, man. You got the magic. She ain’t the same virgin princess as last night. I think some prince fucked her and woke her up to reality.”

Bret Carr’s screenplay is just as nasty a joy as the dance routines in Underground. Other memorable lines include any number of Rudy Gantz’s utterances, such as when he barks at Allison, “I am not Dick Clark and this is not the fucking Solid Gold dancers. Now lose the top, you cunt!” Then, too, there is the appalling “Rat”, who, brandishing and licking a knife, waxes sentimental about a woman and laughs, “I loved her. All I wanted to do was cut her pussy and save it for my collection.” Even the scummy songs accompanying the strip sequences, several performed by Jean Stewart, contribute to the all-pervading perversion of the experience, with titles like “Clit Fingers” and “Panties Down”; references to bestiality and statutory rape; and such lines as, “Piss on the teacher! Shit on her desk! Rip all her clothes off! Scratch your name on her chest!” In sum, Underground is mandatory viewing for seekers after the obscene and extreme, a triumph of reverent, aesthetically piquant presentation of the female form and an LA-flavored highlight of what this reviewer likes to term the Kelly Bundy Era in movie bimbo fashions.

Tokyo Decadence

Tokyo Decadence aka Topaz (1992) ****1/2  One of the most shocking and frankly depressing films ever to emerge from Japan or anywhere else, writer-director Ryu Murakami’s Tokyo Decadence offers a chilly portrait of his country as an emotional dystopia of nihilistic sado-power relationships, sunglasses and blindfolds, rubber and plastic, sterile interiors and intimidating exteriors of steel, concrete, and glass that weigh upon the individual, in this case delicate call girl Ai (Miho Nikaido), still wounded after being jilted by a socially superior lover. Set in the ragged aftermath of Japan’s years as an economic powerhouse, the film is an exotic and more depraved cousin of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street in its message that soullessly transitory economic and earthly prosperity can come at a terrible price, at the national as well as the individual level. Japan, as depicted, is a place uprooted from tradition and morality, left to drift and divert itself in jaded, mutually degrading sadomasochistic pleasures, and Ai, as she moves from blackly absurd gig to gig, meets an array of men and women representative of the decline: gangsters, sluts, drug addicts, and a rogue’s gallery of self-loathing, degenerate johns who share what Murakami characterizes as the fatal Japanese misfortune of “wealth without pride”. Tokyo Decadence is an experience that, for better or worse, burns itself irreparably into the viewer’s memory, and is recommended more for the art house crowd than for exploitation audiences, its explicitness being more unpleasantly allegorical than erotic.

Bikini Drive-In

Bikini Drive-In (1995) ****1/2  One of the quintessential Fred Olen Ray classics, Bikini Drive-In features all of the traits his fans have come to expect over the years: campy acting from a mix of has-beens and shapely young performers, genuine American trash culture nostalgia, a man in a monster suit, broad humor, and heaping helpings of big, bare breasts!  Or the world’s cheapest special effect, as Ray might put it.  The plot, a variation on the old motley-crew-of-underdogs-bands-together-to-raise-money-to-save-the-[insert school, summer camp, or recreation venue] Roller Boogie or Screwball Hotel type, finds beach babe Ashlie Rhey inheriting a decrepit drive-in theater and having to fight to save it from real estate gangster David Friedman.

Thousands of dollars have to be raised in one weekend – what to do?  Fortunately, the mogul’s son, the adorably dorky Richard Gabai, has the hots for Ashlie and comes to her rescue with the idea of turning the family-friendly but deadsville drive-in into a bacchanalian gonzo bikini-infested party headquarters and showing exploitation films like Ray’s own Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.  All of this, of course, is a fine excuse to show scantily clad floozies cleaning up the drive-in montage-style in preparation for the gala opening (and turning the hoses on each other, naturally).  What then follows during the film’s final act is one of the greatest party/riot/saturnalia sequences in memory – maybe not quite as happening as Animal House or Bachelor Party, but pretty mightily crazy and loose.

The cast is a real bonanza for fans of the Wynorski-Ray-DeCoteau-Sloane heyday of low-budget L.A. cinema.  Michelle Bauer appears to sizzling effect as a sultry scream queen duped into appearing at the gala re-opening; seedy Ross Hagen is one of Friedman’s henchmen; Tane McClure, renowned stripper Nikki Fritz, and porn actress Sarah Bellomo (aka Roxanne Blaze) are among the film’s many bimbos; and Becky LeBeau (so memorable as the nearsighted stripper in Not of This Earth), in addition to performing some of Bikini Drive-In‘s pleasantly cheesy soft rock songs, plays a stripper recruited to seduce cocky disc jockey Fred Olen Ray.  Other cameos include Gordon Mitchell, Forrest Ackerman, Jim Wynorski, and (posthumously, via photograph) even John Carradine.  Bikini Drive-In is essential viewing for any fan of Ray, Gabai, big breasts, or drive-in movies, and the interior sets are a treasure trove of posters for vintage exploitation films like Death Curse of Tartu, Sting of Death, Cannibal Girls, and Wild, Free, and Hungry.  4.5 of 5 possible stars.  Recommended.

Assault Nerds 2

Assault of the Party Nerds II: The Heavy Petting Detective (1995) ****  First of all, any nerd movie or cheap trash aficionado who is not yet an admirer of the redoubtable Richard Gabai and has not yet watched the incomparable Assault of the Party Nerds needs to do so immediately.  Gabai, an actor who better than any other strikes a captivating balance between accessibly handsome and hopelessly if charmingly dweeby and made a semi-star of sorts of himself in that 1989 Revenge of the Nerds-inspired opus, returns as writer-director-star of its sequel, The Heavy Petting Detective, which, clearly designed with the intention of pleasing fans of the original, has also reunited several members of its cast, including Christopher Dempsey and Robert Dorfmann as secretly gay jocks Bud and Chip; scream queens Michelle Bauer and Linnea Quigley as airheads Muffin and Bambi; and even, in a cameo, hairy Richard Rifkin as the World’s Oldest Living Active.  New and welcome additions to the Party Nerds coterie include Laugh-In‘s Arte Johnson; Batman‘s Burt Ward; USA Up All Night‘s Rhonda Shear (sporting some outrageous hair and kooky outfits that have to be seen); Tane McClure as Dempsey’s seductive secretary; and Tony Scaduto, Spridle Esponda, and Steve Rosenbaum as a trio of next-generation party nerds.

Long since having graduated, Gabai’s alter ego Ritchie Spencer is currently working as a private detective and finds himself mixed up in a wacky imbroglio involving his old greek life acquaintances and rivals when Burt Ward hires him to investigate his son-in-law, who just happens to be the narcissistic and villainous Bud, now married to Muffin and working as an executive at her father’s company.  Bud, having discovered that Muffin has actually inherited the business, concocts a fiendish scheme to sow discord between his wife and her family and so get her to sign the company over to him.  In the course of his investigation, which has to compete for Spencer’s time with a concurrent case involving an elusive potato chip truck driver, Spencer also catches up with Bambi, who, while still somewhat ditzy, has become a cynical, sexually jaded golddigger.  Also complicating matters is the fact that the nerds’ fraternity has fallen on hard times and that the jocks, it turns out, own the deed on the property and are threatening to evict the brothers.  Can the nerds save their frat house?  Will Muffin ever win her husband’s affection again?  Will Spencer ever grow up?  Will the new generation of party nerds rise to the occasion like their forebears and manage to lose their virginity before they graduate?  Naturally, and in the venerable Party Nerds tradition, everything comes to a head at a zany fraternity party.

Though not quite as classic as Assault of the Party Nerds, The Heavy Petting Detective is in some ways superior and offers a lot to recommend it.  In addition to the over-the-top commitment of its entirely colorful cast, the film is fast-paced and never slows down long enough to be boring, even when the humor is occasionally (or usually) lame.  Gabai’s pop ‘n’ roll band, the Checks, provides several upbeat songs (some also featured in Bikini Drive-In) that contribute to the movie’s tempo and harmless, friendly feeling for the viewer.  A few gags are repeated from Assault of the Party Nerds, which, depending on individual taste and affection for the original, could be a plus or a minus.  In the end, however, what probably matters most for partisans of independent VHS glory days, is that The Heavy Petting Detective brings Michelle Bauer, Richard Gabai, and Linnea Quigley together again to do their things, and what, in all honesty, could be better than that?  4 of 5 possible checks.

Stripped to Kill

Stripped to Kill (1987) *****  The first in a series of seedy adult fairy tale collaborations between writer-director Katt Shea and co-writer Andy Ruben, Stripped to Kill is among the finest erotic thrillers of that genre’s late 80s/early 90s peak period. Kay Lenz brings a valuable earnestness to her exploitative role as an L.A. policewoman going undercover as a stripper at the Rock Bottom, a club whose talent is falling prey to a mystery maniac. Greg Evigan plays her charmingly unshaven, doughnut-scarfing, zen-aspiring partner and, inevitably, love interest.

Shea, Ruben, and crew imbue Stripped to Kill with a convincing but expressionistic visual sensibility, a nocturnal air of stylized grime and neon magic that sets it apart from its thriller cohorts. “Deny the Night,” a moody, low-key rock song written by Ruben and performed by Larry Streicher, burns over a glorious opening credits strip sequence, perfectly establishing the darkly beautiful tone and themes of the film. Night, wet streets, red light, flashing knives, and fire dimly illuminate the dangerous world of this film and give it much of its personality.

Tawdry it is, but never at the expense of its humanity, with each character granted a more or less believable individuality. The supporting cast is especially strong. Three’s Company‘s Norman Fell is adorably sleazy and jaded as the strip club manager, while all of the dancers are captured at their expressive and memorable best both on stage and in their dressing room moments. Diana Bellamy also deserves special mention for her minor supporting role as Shirl. Icy and tough but also funny and almost warm at times, Stripped to Kill is a unique experience not to be missed by fans of murder thrillers and the female form in motion.

Stripped to Kill 2

Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls (1989) ***1/2  This disappointing sequel, again from the team of Shea and Ruben, fails to recapture the right combination of elements in writing, cast, and design that made Stripped to Kill such a special film. As a stand-alone piece, however, and without its classic predecessor to throw it into such an unflattering contrast, Stripped to Kill II is a passable if mopey and fairly predictable piece of trash.

Maria Ford, who developed a following for her willingness to appear naked in such films, is a picture painted from a gaudier palette than Kay Lenz and is less capable of carrying a demanding dramatic feature. She is, however, a more accomplished dancer than Lenz, more convincing as a stripper, and is actually at her best as an actress in her surreal dance and dream sequences, which, along with the other dancers’ periodic interludes, constitute Stripped to Kill II‘s strongest suit. Of particular note is Ford’s cat routine with roommate Karen Mayo-Chandler as the lion tamer.

Stripped to Kill II‘s cast is adequate, but – as with nearly every other aspect – falls short of the bar raised by the original. Eb Lottimer is innocuously low-key in his turn as the police detective who falls for Ford, the prime suspect in this installment’s series of stripper murders. All of the strippers are physically gifted artists and fine in action, but less than charismatic in dramatic scenes. Norman Fell, had his character returned, would have been a welcome source of seriocomedy, as would Greg Evigan or Diana Bellamy, sorely missed, the endearing role of Shirl having passed to ghastly Virginia Peters.

Shea, focusing on a more sundazed set of characters, would return to form and further develop her sleazy L.A. fairy tale aesthetic with Streets (1990).

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) *****  Heavy metal and film are a natural match, integral as visual self-definition and showmanship are to the various musical styles and ways of life that fall under that broad banner.  In 1987 and 1988, filmmaker Penelope Spheeris was granted priceless access both to the towering figures and to the nameless nobodies, musicians and fans alike, who constituted the heavy metal subculture at its crest, resulting in one of the greatest music documentaries ever made.

Interweaving performance with interviews and footage of fans, The Metal Years is not only a treasure trove of source material, but a triumph of creative, witty, and meaningfully critical editing.  Interviewees range from titans like Ozzy and Steven Tyler to would-be stars and shabby groupies in varying degrees of candidness and spontaneity.  Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are epigrammatic and more or less in character for the camera, while Bret Michaels and others are disarmingly chatty and almost come across as dweebs.  Others, particularly the members of Odin, merely come across as pitiably self-absorbed, delusional, mediocre, and doomed.  Also featured are peripheral figures like a sleazy old dance contest promoter and a judgmental “de-metaling” activist worried about the music’s insensitive attitude toward women.

Spheeris poses a number of interesting questions, both overtly and by implication over the course of the film.  For instance, what thought processes and meanings inform the songs?  Does rock godhood cause alcoholism?  Are rockers patronized by groupies afraid of catching AIDS?  Is rock the natural emanation of overpowering manhood, or are all of these guys just insecure?  Are they irritated or gratified when others take their ideas?  Is heavy metal as a profession a wise or even remotely plausible aspiration for all of the self-confident unknowns?  Are any of these people sane or healthy individuals?

On the latter score and with regard to alcoholism, Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P. provides a fascinating case in point as Spheeris finds him lounging in his pool and drowning himself in liquor in front of his reticent mother.  Holmes at different points claims to be both happy and sad and calls himself “a piece of crap”.  Which is the truth?  Is Holmes putting on an act for the camera or is he really a tortured wreck?  Either way, his segment is one of the most memorable, and there’s something compellingly revolting or heroically abrasive about a man who calls himself a “motherfucker” in the presence of his own mother.

The tension between reality and rock phantasmagoria is sustained throughout The Metal Years.  How much of the story is theatre and how much is really lived – or do such distinctions exist for these people?  Almost omnipresent and acting as a theme or a character in The Metal Years is the smoke that filters the light in the bars, arenas, and dim rooms where these characters live their dreams and nightmares.  Is it stage fog, all just part of the show, or is everybody from Odin on up living in an illusory fug of their own unsavory exhalations?  Part of the joy of The Metal Years is its willingness to allow the viewer to draw for himself the necessary conclusions.

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