Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (Lou Adler, 1981)

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.


video uploaded by priorityovernight

An historical commentary track by Marc Edward Heuck can be found here.
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16 comments:

  1. Awesome.
    I'll comment more when I'm less tired, but I did want to say how awesome those screenshots are. Love the escalator one.

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  2. Hey, thanks, I screenshot(?) them myself.

    The escalator and hallway scenes are my fave shots in the movie.

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  3. You're the man, Yum, for discovering Videosex all by yourself. If you're interested, I can upload their complete recordings (released as a 2CD "Arhiv" some ten years ago) for you. They made most of their hits while in their mid-to-late teens, had somewhat morbid lyrics and even had songs about masturbating and lesbian love. In the song you've linked to ("Moja mama" - "My Mother"), Anja Rupel (the niece of Slovenian foreign minister Dimitrije Rupel) sings about how this is not her biological mother; her biological mother hung herself from a rope shortly after she arrived on this world. She does sing that in a very happy tone, which kinda makes it weird. :)

    So, yeah, if you're interested in hearing their stuff - please, do tell, I'd be extremely happy to share. (There's even a cover of "Across the Universe" that Anja made with Laibach.)

    As for The Fabulous Stains, I've been meaning to watch my copy for months now and it'll probably finally happen soon. Diane Lane rules the world. We've entered the New Year with Streets of Fire on FOX here in Serbia; I swear I could watch that movie over and over again.

    By the way -- Happy New Year, Yum. :)

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  4. I knew you were going to mention E.G. Daily.

    Yeah, that "Professionals" song got stuck in my head worse than any Frazier Chorus song I've ever heard. :)

    I liked Lane's commentary on the final video scene, when she talked about her "Rumble Fish" hair.

    I see what you are saying about the film's quick pace. Their meteoric rise was, well, a bit too meteoric. A minor quibble, I guess.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the movie. I actually liked it more than I remembered from my late night Night Flight viewings from way back when.

    Oh, speaking of the "cinematic works of Kate Hudson," d. and I saw five movies this week and I swear, before each one, we saw that trailer for that god-awful-looking film with her and Anne Hathaway.

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  5. Rico: Yeah, Happy New Year to you too.

    "...for discovering Videosex all by yourself."

    This made me laugh for some reason. :D

    Anyway, I discovered Videosex, as with most bands on YouTube, totally by accident.

    Wow, I wouldn't have guessed that "Moja mama" was about that (it's such a happy sounding ditty).

    Anja does the vocals on Laibach's version of "across the universe"? Again, wow, I did not know that (and I own the 12" inch single).

    I'll let ya know if I become interested in hearing more Videosex (Google searches for this band are murder). I've been to their Myspace and dig their sound.

    Mmm, I could go for some Streets of Fire right about now.

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  6. Karim: Yeah, not mentioning E.G. would have been totally out of character.

    The fact that the movie features three versions of "The Professionals" doesn't help the stuck factor, either. And yeah, it blows the Frazier Chorus out of the water. ;)

    I don't listen audio commentaries that much anymore (their novelty has kinda worn out), but Lane/Dern one on the LAGTFS disc was a must listen.

    Speaking of late night viewing, did you know that The Fabulous Stains is airing on TCM at the end of the month? It's playing on TCM Underground along with Eddie and the Cruisers (which I plan on recording - I've never seen it).

    Five movies?!? Damn, I gotta get out see at least one of these Oscar-vying movies.

    Kate Hudson should step aside and let other actresses star in "god-awful-looking" films.

    Oh, and Much More Retro, a show I hadn't watched in years, just to happened to playing "Heaven" by the Eurogliders when I flipped it on the other day.

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  7. Haha, I'm in their top 4 friends, which is the only reason I don't want to delete my MySpace. It's not like I use it. :)

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  8. All right, thanks for the new Videosex video. Let me be the first to add it to their favorites.

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  9. Yay! The Eurogliders!

    Oh, when I went home this past week, my sister was telling me this Toronto story of a drug dealer trying to sell my mom a nickel bag. (My mother is a notoriously slow walker and probably looked like she was alone.)

    Sis said I was there--walking at a quicker pace, of course, but I can't say I remember. Plus, I was probably too young to understand once Mom caught up with us to tell us about the proposition. No, Mom didn't take the guy up on his sales pitch. :)


    I did hear about TCM showing LAGTFS, but didn't know about Eddie. Enjoy, but keep in mind that it's a film that really hasn't aged that well, unlike Streets of Fire.

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  10. Ah, getting together with family and reminiscing about all the illegal drugs our parents didn't buy. Good times. ;)

    It's no surprise, being asked to purchase hash every other block was a given while walking up Yonge Street back in the '80s. In fact, I always felt a tad slighted whenever I wasn't asked to buy hash.

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  11. I adore this movie. I'd kill to look like Diane Lane. Fell madly in love with Ray Winstone and Steve Jones after watching it over and over.

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  12. Hi, I found your blog (and this post) in the midst of finding material for my upcoming contribution to Arbogast On Film's ongoing "The One You Would Have Saved" blogathon. STAINS is one of my favorite movies, an object of devotion ever since I was in high school.

    If you're interested, I recorded a historical commentary track about all manner of unique details about the film and its participants. It would have been included on the Rhino DVD but Paramount's legal department would not approve it. (I still got a contributor credit on the final DVD though) So I have it available as a free mp3 download:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~meheuck/thefabulousstains

    I'm adding you to my blogroll, since we frequent a lot of the same sites.

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  13. The thing that makes this movie so depressing to watch is its satirical take on the music industry.

    One can imagine a struggling musician with a certain level of integrity becoming easily disillusioned after watching this film and ending up wanting to enjoy a life of working in a cubicle rather than in a recording studio or onstage. But I don't blame the writer(s) of the screenplay as much as I blame the music industry that the film satirically reflects. If anything, this movie serves as a warning to both aspiring musicians AND the music industry as well.

    As for neon eye shadow, I can't decide who looks better - Diane Lane in this film or Diane Franklin in "TerrorVision".

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  14. Diane Lane or Diane Franklin?!?

    Ahhhh! Don't make me choose.

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  15. I saw this last night. Despite.a few little things that bugged me, it was a mesmerizing movie. I was really surprised to see Paul Simonon. I did not recognize the rest of the band. Simony has a look you cannot mistake easily.

    The story reminds me of The Runaways, though they were legitimately talented. Lane was ridiculously awesome.

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