Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Corinne "Third Degree" Burns (Diane Lane) is an aspiring punk rock singer. Her band is called The Stains. Corinne's mother has just died and she's gotten some public notoriety from a news report that featured her quitting her old job. Along with her sister Tracy, Corinne lives pretty much on her own with some minor assistance from their Aunt Linda (Christine Lahti). Corinne's cousin, Jessica (Laura Dern) also comes from an unhappy home life which is of course one of the main motivations for being in a punk band right?
The Stains all goto see a punk rock show featuring bands The Metal Corpses and The Looters. Fans of 'real' punk rock will recognize Paul Cook & Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols and Paul Simonen from The Clash. They play members of The Looters which is led by Billy (Ray Winstone), the Johnny Rotten-Joe Strummer-esque singer. After watching the show, Corinne goes backstage to ask Billy for a place on their tour as a backup band. He just sneers and walks out disgusted, but the bands' Rastafarian tour bus driver "Lawn Boy" (Barry Ford), knows who Corinne is and helps her get aboard. The Metal Corpses' lead singer is the legendary Lou Corpse played with comedic abandon by real life rocker Fee Waybill of the New Wave/Punk group The Tubes ("White Punks On Dope", "She's A Beauty"). Fee brings a lot of humor to the first half of the film. He's playing the jaded rock n' roll cliche figure who has done and seen it all and is now looking down on the immature punk rock scene and doesn't even like The Looters. The Metal Corpses performance is truly terrible and we can see that the rock n' roll life has seriously messed with the band's outlook. The Stains begin as an opening act and are pretty terrible themselves as they play their sparse spoken word single "Waste of Time", but there is a spark of artistry and punk rock attitude in Corinne's declarations of protests towards the audience. She yells at all the people and lets them know that she's not going to put out cuz shes a chick! Corinne also styles a new look for herself, the iconic black, blonde and pink "Skunk" look. One night on the bus, Billy tells Corinne he likes her hair, and she plays the punk rock snot even better than the actual real punk rockers on the bus! Billy explains to Corrine he'll help her out because he sees that she has promise. This soon turns into a relationship between the two. Another change comes when The Metal Corpses' guitarist Jerry is found dead of a drug OD in a rock club's women's bathroom. This is where news reporters swarm on the scene and luckily for Corinne, she is somehow noted to be Jerry's old lady. With her outrageous, colorful fashion style and attitude being shown on television, it isnt long before she develops a following of young teen girls who adopt the "Skunk" look themselves and begin supporting The Stains. The Metal Corpses leave the tour and The Looters and The Stains are the main acts. As time progresses, The Stains get better, although they never really learn how to play 'great'. But that doesnt matter because The Skunk fanbase is so huge, The Stains go from being nobodies to the newest big thing.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains does a really great job of showing the realities of being in a band on the road. It's a lot of quiet boredom, interrupted by loud, exciting rock n' roll shows. You can see how it can be an adventure, but also lonely and uncomfortable at the same time. What it gets across well is how it is a lot of work to be in a rock band and unless you truly love it, you won't last. The acting in the film is excellent. This was Diane Lane's first lead role (she was only 15 years old!) and she's got a really good personality as Corinne. She's a tough punk rock girl and doesn't ever really show that much vulnerability throughout the film which makes it all the more realistic and not a teeny bopper type sentimental piece. In the end, The Stains find their place on the pop scene and become a Go-Go's-esque band. Music Producer turned Director Lou Adler had previously shot Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke (1978). With The Stains he does keep a level of comedy going. You can even see a little dash of Cheech and Chong in the character of Lou Corpse who seems to end every sentence with the word "man". The soundtrack features original music performed by Barry Ford, The Stains, The Looters and The Tubes. This is a film that I'd recommend to punk rock and also cult film fans in general.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.