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This Movie Doesn’t Put Out

October 12, 2008

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

Simply put, rent this movie. It’s got performances by Diane Lane, Laura Dern and Ray Winstone — waaay early in their careers — that display why they have been so successful over the past two decades. It also bursts with so much energy, style and damned good punk (members of The Clash and Sex Pistols wrote half the songs on the soundtrack and appear in the film) that it re-invigorates the familiar plot into something fresh and exciting.

Ladies and Gentlemen… tells the story of the rise, fall and return of Corinne “Third Degree” Burns (Diane Lane) and her band, The Stains (Laura Dern and Marin Kantner), while she negotiates her identity, the jealousy of an experienced and cynical singer of a rival band, and the exploitation by the media and a corrupt manager (David Clennon (The Thing, thirtysomething)). 

Are You A Professional?

Are You A Professional?

Diane Lane’s character enters the film full of spit and fire; she is rebellious youth from the get go and suffering in small town Pennsylvania. But she’s got a plan, a vision that involves a “just Rock and Roll, and The Truth.” And her vehicle is The Stains. They hook up with The Metal Corpses, 70s glam has-beens, and The Looters, punks stranded in America and headed by a young, less corpulent, Ray Winstone.

When Corinne takes the stage sporting a skunk hair-do, Siouxsie Sioux eyeliner, fishnets and see-through blouse, and excoriates the crowd that she doesn’t put out, she inspires hundreds of disaffected youth to do the same — to stand up and take no guff from anybody. The media picks up on this and runs with it. And all this in a month!

Needless to say, the movie is filled with great performances both acting and musical. It made me want to create my own Stains cover band. And the early 80s punk styles are amazing. The hair, the make-up, the clothes. Everything. And while the entire movie is worth watching, I found the ending music video especially memorable; it’s such a video of its time, but also because we get to glimpse the characters a little further down the road from what the bulk of the film deals with, and it’s the most satisfying conclusion.

A second-runner up for best scene in the movie is where Christine Lahti, playing Diane Lane’s aunt, gives a TV interview. It’s heartbreaking for its honesty and allowing us a glimpse into the character’s backstory. It’s brief, but powerful.

And the movie wouldn’t have worked without the chemistry between Ray and Diane. Ray’s character has been struggling a long time to gain success, but it has eluded him; when Diane’s character seemingly captures success practically overnight, it wounds him. However, they are both attracted to each other; when she hears his band perform, she is enraptured; it spurs her on to cement and embrace her identity as Punk.

There’s this amazing scene where they share a motel room, and at one point they are on the bed in close proximity starting to undress, and he is reaching out to her, quoting the lyrics of his song; she asks for the lyrics and he becomes evasive, so she moves to the bathroom and slams the door, cutting him off. But when he reveals that he can’t read, she opens the door wearing only a towel. She then enters the shower, and starts telling a story from her past; Ray enters the shower also naked, and the scene ends with a passionate kiss.

As the scene plays out, they are undressing, literally and metaphorically, revealing to each other very personal things; also, the barriers between them grow less and less both physically and metaphorically. It’s the closest the two characters get and is very tender.

So I guess that’s three scenes.

Anyway, I highly recommend this film. If you’re curious about the early careers of its future stars, or if you love good punk music or the 80s style, or even if you don’t, you really need to check this out.

Three and a half out of five stars.

Next up, I try not to mess with the Zohan.

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