Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'd Love To Turn You On - At the Movies #38 - Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984, dir. David Markey)

The first thing you need to know about Desperate Teenage Lovedolls is that it’s a really bad movie. Horrible. The acting sucks. The plot is ridiculous. It was shot on a sound super 8 camera with the microphone attached to it, so you can hear the motor whir throughout every scene. But it’s a good bad, definitely in the “so bad it’s freakin great” zone. I’ve watched it more times than I care to admit, going all the way back to the early nineties when I found it in a video store on Haight St. Directed by Dave Markey, who would go on to make the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke, it’s the story of Kitty, Bunny and Patch, three rocking chicks who put together a band after Patch escapes from the nut house. One day they’re playing their guitars and singing by the ocean when a sleazy record producer hears them and promises boundless fame and riches. But the path to success is not a smooth one. They’ve first got to get past their archrivals, the knife-wielding She Devils, in a fight on the beach at sunset to the accompaniment of the jamming part of “Stairway to Heaven.” The scene is so righteously raw and cheesed up, it made me love that song like I never had before.
Be forewarned: Desperate Teenage Lovedolls is not for innocent eyes. There’s a shooting up scene where you can see the needle sinking into one of the Lovedolls’ veins, and a rape scene that always pushes me right to the edge of my comfort zone, especially when I’m watching it with a woman whose never seen (which for some reason has always been the case). But the film’s awfulness is so campy it’s irresistible. And the soundtrack kicks ass. The project was spearheaded by the members of Redd Kross, who wrote and played the Lovedolls’ “big hit” and sing the theme song. There are also numbers by Black Flag, White Flag, and the Bags. I had a copy of it in high school and I played it all the time in the mid-to-late eighties. It’s a nice blend of loud and scuzzy punk chords with pop, heavy metal and a pinch of psychedelia. The music and the movie nicely capture that moment in time, when punk rockers were starting to master their instruments and began exploring actual music as opposed to stuck-in-one-gear hardcore thrash. The guys in Redd Kross chose the 70s as their palette, and ironically this put them well ahead of their time, because the retro fad of the late 80s was the 60s, and the 70s wouldn’t really be “in” until the 90s.  
One mark of this film’s greatness is its sequel. Lovedolls Superstar is similarly low-budget and bad, but it’s nowhere near as charming as the original. Yet it stars a veritable who’s who of the L.A. underground scene at the dawn of the 90s. Which proves that the first one was such a surprise runaway success that everybody wanted to be part of round two.
- Joe Miller

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