& Roll All Nite
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back, party animals. This time out, I thought we'd crank The
Bottom Shelf up to 11 and focus on a few discs with a
rock bent. How exactly one can crank up a shelf or even an on-line
column to 11, I'm not quite sure but I'm willing to give it a shot.
So shout it out loud, head-bangers. Are you ready to rock?
Metal Parking Lot
1986 (2005) - Factory 515
I first saw Heavy Metal Parking Lot
a few years ago. The short film came into my possession in the
time-honored way of all underground movies. A friend gave me a
copy of a copy of a copy of a zillionth generation VHS tape.
Like so many others before me, I immediately fell in love with
the movie. Now, in honor of the short's 20th anniversary, it
looks as though the HMPL
underground railroad may be pulling into the station as
producers John Heyn and Jeff Krulik have released the definitive
In May 1986, Heyn and Krulik took some borrowed video equipment
from their local public access cable station to the Capital
Centre just outside of Washington, DC, to interview fans
tailgating in the parking lot before a Judas Priest concert.
What they captured is time-capsule filmmaking at its best.
fifteen minutes, we're treated to some of the funniest, most candid
drunken ramblings ever captured on ¾-inch videotape. From the
girl who's ready to jump Rob Halford's bones to the kid in the
zebra-striped outfit who declares that "all this punk shit
sucks" and says that Madonna can go to hell, HMPL
freezes the heavy metal scene in all its mid-80's glory.
What makes HMPL such a classic
is that while it captures a specific time and place, the bigger
picture you see here is universal. A similar movie shot at a
one-time event like Live Aid or at a stop on a milestone circuit
like a band's farewell tour wouldn't have the same universal appeal.
HMPL captures a seemingly
random stop on the tour of a very popular band. You may have never
attended a Judas Priest concert in your life but if you were around
small town USA in 1986, you knew people just like this. These aren't
big-city music fans hitting major clubs in New York or LA. These are
headbangers from the heartland. No matter if you spent 1986 in
Maryland, Minnesota or, like me, Montana, you'll recognize either
yourself or your friends in these faces.
Technically, Heavy Metal Parking Lot
looks and sounds better than ever on this DVD. I'm grading on a
curve here since in this case "better than ever" isn't
really a big leap over how most of us saw this movie in the first
place. Let's just say that the image is surprisingly good for a
20-year-old videotape. And the audio... well, it sounds pretty good
and frankly it's a bit of a miracle that they got sound as good as
they did. Judge for yourself. You can actually see the sound
equipment they used in pretty much every shot.
Since HMPL itself runs only
about 15 minutes, you'll probably be expecting some major extras to
justify picking this up on DVD. Thankfully, the disc does not
disappoint. You might want to make your first stop the interactive
timeline found in the Production Notes & Credits section of the
disc. This spells out the history of HMPL,
linking to most of the other features on the disc. If you go at the
bonuses this way, it'll help you understand some of the more cryptic
features on here such as the TV's From
Outer Space music video. The feature itself boasts a
commentary by Heyn and Krulik, an introduction by local TV horror
host Count Gore De Vol, and an amusing feature called Dub-O-Vision,
allowing you to watch the movie the way most of us saw it in the
first place, with all the quality of a 10th generation VHS copy.
The packed disc also includes new interviews with a few of the
alumni of the parking lot, some deleted footage from the original
shoot, a melancholy feature on the destruction of the Capital
Centre, and a bunch of features produced for the 15th anniversary
HMPL tour. You also get the
three official "sequels" made by Heyn and Krulik. Monster
Truck Parking Lot is actually more of a trailer for a
project that was abandoned after the filmmakers lost interest in the
subject. Neil Diamond Parking Lot
returns to the Capital Centre to chat with a very different group of
music fans. And Harry Potter Parking Lot
goes to a local bookstore to talk to kids waiting in line for a book
signing with J.K. Rowling. HPPL
was my favorite of these follow-ups, although NDPL
has its moments. There's a ton of other stuff on this disc,
including a music video "tribute" (or rip-off if you're
less charitable), media coverage, and a lengthy tour of a Priest
fan's metal-themed basement which may give you more information
about the band than you care to know. There's no denying you get
your money's worth with this disc.
Heavy Metal Parking Lot is one
of my favorite short films of all time, guaranteed to remind you
where you were in '86. I'm extremely happy that it's come out on
DVD, if for no other reason than maybe now John Heyn and Jeff Krulik
might be able to make some money off this movie that has been
bootlegged for so long. It's available on their website at
Check it out and play it loud.
Film Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/A
2004 (2005) - Film Finance Corporation Australia (Anchor Bay)
Metal fans are also the focal point of the Australian comedy
Thunderstruck. In 1991,
five friends and band-mates make each other a promise following
an AC/DC concert. If any of them should die young, the others
will bury him next to the grave of AC/DC's late lead singer Bon
Scott. Flash forward to 2004. The mates' band, The Jack, has
broken up and they've gone their separate ways. Only one of them
has found any measure of success in the music industry, selling
out as a jingle writer and married to a harpy of a pop singer.
His death in a freak accident (struck by lightning on a golf
course) reunites the remaining four. They steal their friend's
ashes and embark on a road trip across Australia to keep their
Thunderstruck is an
amiable, if somewhat standard road comedy. You could think of it
as the AC/DC equivalent to The
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The
mates fight, joke, sing, reminisce and eventually rediscover
their bonds of friendship.
the way, they encounter all sorts of bizarre Australian locals,
including a hostile wheelchair rugby team and two metalheads truly
obsessed with AC/DC who are under the mistaken impression that the
ashes belong to Bon Scott himself. Some of this works and some of it
doesn't. But the cast is quite likable and there's no denying the
effectiveness of the rousing, if somewhat hokey, finale.
Anchor Bay's DVD does a fine job presenting the film with a solid
picture and a pretty good 5.1 sound mix. Extras include a decent
audio commentary by director Darren Ashton and producer Jodi
Matterson, joined via telephone at various times by various actors
and writer/actor Shaun Angus Hall. There are a number of deleted
scenes, each of which is introduced by Ashton and film editor Martin
Connor. The 13-minute Making
Thunderstruck is a fine but quick featurette, mostly of
interest for providing a glimpse at some rehearsal footage. The disc
also has a couple of Easter eggs and trailers for this and other
recent Anchor Bay releases.
Thunderstruck is a fun little
movie that is probably worth checking out once, especially if you're
an AC/DC fan, but didn't really strike me as particularly memorable.
The film's breezy attitude and brief running time make it a
difficult movie to dislike, even if there's not much here to really
fall in love with, either.
Film Rating: C+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B-
Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons
1969-1974 (2005) - Daphne Productions (Shout! Factory)
If you're looking for a demonstration of how much television
has changed in the last thirty years, look no further. The
Dick Cavett Show, which ran on ABC in various
incarnations from 1969 to 1975, was truly like nothing else on
the air today. The format of the show was fairly standard-issue
late night chat. But Cavett's odd mixture of guests, coupled
with his charm and skill as an interviewer, made the show
unique. Charlie Rose comes close but doesn't provide the odd
melting pot of personalities that Cavett's show had.
For reasons that remain unclear even to Cavett himself, his show
became a popular destination for many of the era's most
legendary rock stars. Rock Icons
is a three-disc set compiling several of the show's best
music-related episodes. Disc one kicks things off with one of
the most famous rock moments ever broadcast on television.
August 19, 1969, the day after the conclusion of Woodstock,
Jefferson Airplane, Steven Stills and David Crosby appeared on
the Cavett show. Jimi Hendrix was also scheduled to appear but
couldn't make it, having closed the show just hours before.
on the program was a young Canadian singer-songwriter named Joni
Mitchell. Mitchell had been invited to Woodstock but her manager
forbade her attending, insisting that appearing on The
Dick Cavett Show was far more important to her career
than going to a music festival. It's a fascinating hour, with
terrific performances by all the artists and a free-spirited sit-in
of an interview. The disc continues with a legendary episode from
1970 featuring Sly and the Family Stone. Their performance is
excellent but it's when Sly joins the panel (including Debbie
Reynolds, tennis player Pancho Gonzales, and Senator and Mrs. Fred
Harris) that things really get bizarre. The final episode on the
disc is a 1974 hour devoted to David Bowie. He performs "1984"
and "Young Americans" before nervously sitting down for an
Disc two boasts three episodes featuring Janis Joplin, a favorite
guest of Cavett's. She performs a number of songs on these episodes,
from "To Love Somebody" to "My Baby", all of
them electrifying. The first episode feels the most dated, with the
improv comedy troupe The Committee performing and getting both
Cavett and Joplin to participate in an improv exercise. Episode two
demonstrates how unusual the groupings of guests could get, with
Janis, Raquel Welch, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and newsman Chet Huntley
on the panel. The final episode on the disc has an equally eclectic
mix, as Janis shares the stage with Gloria Swanson, ex-NFL star Dave
Meggysey, and a young, pre-Lois Lane Margot Kidder.
The third and final disc offers a 1970 episode with Stevie Wonder,
who unfortunately leaves before the other guests (including Elsa
Lanchester, Alain Delon and Tex Ritter) arrive. The second episode
focuses on George Harrison. He performs a number with Gary Wright
and Wonderwheel before spending the rest of the episode chatting
with Cavett. Ravi Shankar appears later in the episode, performing
and joining Harrison and Cavett on the panel. Finally, Paul Simon
appears in an episode from 1974. He performs a number of songs,
including great versions of "Loves Me Like A Rock" and "Bridge
Over Troubled Water", and demonstrates an unfinished version of
"Still Crazy After All This Years" for Cavett, several
years before the tune would be released. The second half of the show
is an unusual panel plugging Cavett's recently released
autobiography, with noted authors Anthony Burgess, Barbara Howar,
and Jerzy Kosinski interviewing Cavett on his writing process.
Rock Icons showcases great
musical performances as well as fascinating period interviews. If
you're not interested in, say, Pancho Gonzales' thoughts on tennis,
Shout! Factory wisely provides an option allowing you to just play
the performances and skip all the other stuff. It's a great idea to
have that feature but I'm really happy that Shout! Factory presented
the complete, uncut episodes for those of us who care to see them.
The Dick Cavett Show was
one-of-a-kind and to see these episodes as they were originally
broadcast (complete with Cavett making plugs for sponsors like Breck
shampoo) is to take a trip back in time. Cavett himself provides new
introductions for each of the episodes, setting the stage and
providing insight into what was going on behind the scenes.
The episodes themselves are remarkably well-maintained. They look
great and the sound, while certainly limited by the technology of
the era, is generally quite good. Besides the episode intros, there
are a couple of extras on disc one. Bob Weide, a friend of Cavett's
and current director of HBO's Curb Your
Enthusiasm, interviews Cavett in a 33-minute featurette.
They reminisce about the show, share backstage stories, and try to
shed some insight into why so many legendary rock stars would only
appear on the Cavett show. Cavett Meets
The Rolling Stones follows the host backstage at Madison
Square Garden, interviewing Mick Jagger during the Stones' 1972
tour. Weide and Cavett set the stage for this segment as well.
At first glance, The Dick Cavett Show
might not seem a likely candidate for in-depth DVD treatment. But
once you pop it in, it's tough not to become addicted to the 70's
vibe, the great music, and the unique format. Dick Cavett was a
great host and it's too bad that today's TV landscape probably
wouldn't have a place for his low-key, thoughtful, witty style.
Loading Rock Icons into your
DVD player turns your TV into a window on the past. It'll almost
make you wish you had a wood-paneled behemoth of a set instead of
that fancy widescreen thing you're stuck with these days.
Program Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B/B-
Space - The Midnight Special
When I decided to do a rock-themed column, I knew I'd have to turn
to Mr. MusicTAP himself, Matt
Rowe, for advice on the Shelf Space.
Particularly since I've already used my top two music choices, Tom
Waits' concert film Big Time
and The Johnny Cash Show, in
previous wish lists. Sure enough, Matt provided several excellent
candidates for DVD release, including the classic series Hullaballoo
and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
But I'll have to go with The Midnight
Special, the great late-night music show with Wolfman
Jack that ran on NBC from 1972-1983. Like any long-running show,
there's a fair amount of misses mixed in with the hits. But the show
attracted the likes of Santana, David Bowie, Aerosmith, Jim Croce,
as well as comedians like Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin,
and members of Monty Python. So far, you can only get one measly
episode of the show on disc and that one focuses on Andy Kaufman.
Some enterprising company needs to roll up their sleeves and sort
out the tangled web of licensing issues that would come with a
project like this. The Midnight Special
deserves to live again on DVD.
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