After years of toiling in extreme obscurity, the ultimate "lost movie," Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, has finally been introduced to my frontal lobe. The fact that my memory bank went so long without the image of a teenage Diane Lane (Streets of Fire) in florescent make-up and fishnets is not only a disgrace, it's a travesty of galactic proportions. My brain is literally filled to the brim with gallons useless crap; imbecilic nonsense and repugnant visual stimuli that I can never get rid off (eight seasons worth of Big Brother, Temptation Island, the cinematic works of Kate Hudson, I Love New York, hours of Bukkake). And to not have this in there is probably one of the greatest tragedies of the modern era. Well, I guess can stop whining, because it's in there; it's in my brain now. When some people use the term "meteoric" to describe the rise and fall of The Fabulous Stains, an unseasoned punk trio fronted by Corinne Burns, an ill-mannered brat and minor local celebrity (her firing from her fast food job by Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation was aired on television), they ain't exactly kidding. Brilliantly skewering everything from fads, trends, and bloated dinosaur rock to the fleeting nature of fame, media fueled hype, and the whorification of rock, the film moves at a nimble pace.
The expedient manner in which the brand-new band is thrust into the limelight was jarring. In that, one minute their moping around the bland interiors of Aunt Linda's house, and the next there on a grubby tour bus with The Looters (punk supergroup made up of members The Clash and the Sex Pistols) and The Metal Corpses (an over-the-hill glam rock group led by Fee Waybill of The Tubes). This narrative spryness actually made the Stains' first appearance on stage all the more intriguing.
Whether their first gig was a success or not is hard to say, but I do know there was an angry young wanker sitting at the bar who was deeply impressed. The disagreeable Billy, the lead singer of The Looters was obviously quite taken by the petite, yet feisty head of the Fabulous Stains, just like Corinne was when she first saw The Looters perform (I love how captivated she was by Billy's utter disdain for the audience).
Of course, the two of them being tempestuous ninnies who bleed punk rock swagger ain't gonna move the relationship forward in a healthy direction. However, it's good that they pretend not to like each other, as it makes their inevitable hookup all the more satisfying. (I don't usually care for the whole "revulsion miraculously turns into romance" story device, but I did like it here.)
Now, the idea of thousands of adolescent girls imitating Corinne and fellow Stains' look might seem iffy on paper, especially when you factor in the speed in which the punk-infused phenomenon envelopes the group. But the second you see Diane Lane all gussied up in the aforementioned make-up and fishnets, you will no doubt nod to yourself in agreement. The look Lane sports in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains blew me way. And the fact that I was so mesmerized by her outward appearance, only solidifies the film's point about the ease in which some people can be manipulated. That being said, it wasn't just the look itself that sold me. Sure, a borderline pre-teen Laura Dern and Marin Kanter, who play the other members of the Stains, boast the same hair and make-up, but there was something extraordinary about Miss Lane in this film.
Every time she appeared onscreen, my mind would literally implode. There was just something about the way the red eye make-up glistened on her pale skin. I'm telling you, it's a beautiful thing.
Spellbinding facial decoration aside, the rocky relationship between Diane's Stain leader and Ray Winstone's Looter frontman is the film's punky nucleus. I can't praise Diane Lane enough (well, I can, but I don't feel I need to). Anyway, the boisterous stage presence, the surly disposition, she's amazing as Corinne. Diane's greatness is something I expected. I mean, she's proven herself in countless movies since appearing as a Stain.
The sight of a baby-faced Ray Winstone leading a group of punk all-stars, on the other hand, is something I didn't expect. Displaying the same attributes as Lane (minus the swoon-inducing make-up), the non-pudgy actor channels his inner Johnny Rotten, giving a full-bodied performance. Hell, he even manages to get intimate with E.G. Daily (Valley Girl).
The wonderful Christine Lahti plays Aunt Linda and has a great scene where she talks to a news reporter (Cynthia Sikes) about her daughter and nieces. This scene also happens to be Laura Dern's finest moment as well. And the catchy nature of "Professionals" by The Looters and The Fabulous Stains is driving me crazy. Oh, and call me crazy, but I thought Combat Rock-era Paul Simonon was kinda cute in this flick.
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An historical commentary track by Marc Edward Heuck can be found here.