Okay, so these days “punk rock” is as much a lucrative corporate demographic as “young professional woman,” “sports fan,” “Tea Party member,” and, yes, “geek.” Classic punk songs can be heard on commercials for cars, fast food, and Target. Chain stores in shopping malls sell pre-ripped clothing, band t-shirts, spiked wristbands and hair gel. Bands termed “punk” by major labels sell millions and win Grammys. Punk is safe, it’s cute, it’s mainstream, and it makes a shitload of money for old men in ties.
But it wasn’t always that way. Time was it was considered honestly dangerous, it was offensive, it was the result of free-floating gut rage and boredom, and it scared the shit out of people. The kids who were punks thirty years ago would be locked up today as potential school shooters. Punks were also walking cartoon characters and perhaps the most easily exploitable subculture of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
I spent ages roughly 15 to 30 with a funny haircut, torn t-shirts, and an extremely poor attitude. I was half-deaf and pretty well bruised up most of the time from whatever show I’d seen the weekend before. I was in a short-lived band called The Pain Amplifiers and somehow ended up being G.G. Allin’s press secretary when he was in prison. Now, all these years later I have something closer to a respectable haircut and my clothes no longer sport hand-scrawled obscenities. My attitude hasn’t much improved, though. I don’t go to shows anymore (hell, there are no shows left to see), but I still pull out my Big Black and Suburban Mutilation albums every now and again, and should I get to feeling nostalgic for a decidedly and gloriously misspent youth, I have shelves full of films to remind me just how ridiculous the whole damn punk rock mess was.
As musical subgenres go the nihilistic, apocalyptic, hate-fueled punk I knew didn’t last long, really only about 15 years from the mid-’70s to the late ‘80s, but it both inspired and was inspired by a wider range of films than any other musical trend can lay claim to. My guess is this can be explained by the fact that punk by its nature attracted more geeks than say, heavy metal, hip-hop, C&W, or free jazz (well, okay, so maybe free jazz has its share). Punks were inspired by a library’s worth of films, which was reflected in countless lyrics, pseudonyms and band names (Killdozer, Faster Pussycat, and, yes, The Pain Amplifiers). Quite a few of those same punks then went out and made films of their own.
The whole style of punk rock, the sound and the look (the look especially often coming directly from films), also inspired other filmmakers, who found it an easy and colorful way to put youthful disaffection up on the screen. Why waste time letting a character speechify about how much he hates everything when you can just slap him into some torn jeans and combat boots and be done with it? It really was an all-purpose scene. The ‘70s reality show Real People regularly focused on punk culture to illustrate silly behavioral trends (“Tonight we look at punk food!”), In After Hours Scorsese used punks to point up how scary New York’s East Village could be for normal people, and a kid with a Mohawk even provided some comic relief in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (I can still sing the song he’s playing on his boom box). If a director wanted to immediately identify the villain in an ‘80s cop show, all he had to do was show the lowlife listening to a Suicidal Tendencies song (Miami Vice), or better still make him a member of a band called Pain (CHiPs).
The below list actually began as five or six different lists (general documentaries, films about specific bands, films made by punks, performance films, films that were directly inspired by punk rock, films that inspired punk rock, etc.). That quickly became very confusing, so I thought “what the fuck?” and mashed them all together into one big list. That list ran about 100 titles long, and being as lazy as I am I was in no mood to take that on. So I chose a smaller number and lopped it off. I wasn’t able to include everything that belongs here, but you get the idea.
Out of the Blue (1980)
In the midst of that incoherent dissolute stretch when no one wanted to deal with him, Dennis Hopper still somehow managed to write, direct and co-star in this indie shaggy dog of a sort-of coming of age story inspired by Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My.” Linda Mans (from Terence Malick’sDays of Heaven) stars as a tough-minded teenage girl in a small town whose dad (Hopper) is about to get out of prison, whose junkie mother is a waitress at a local diner and who, despite growing up in a flyspeck truck stop town in California has managed to develop a heavy New York accent. As she begins learning how to negotiate her way into the adult world she’s bored and frustrated and angry, and gets in some minor trouble as a result. She also loves Elvis and the Sex Pistols, lecturing truckers about both endlessly over the CB.
It’s a slow, dreary picture shot against a bleak gray landscape and not much happens until things turn ugly at the end. Everything about the film screams “late ‘70s independent film,” and the more I thought about it the more it seemed to parallel Easy Rider, but with an Elvis and Neil Young soundtrack. What makes it interesting in punk terms is its portrayal of the suburban/small town boredom and frustration that would lead so many kids her age to pick up that first Pistols album (or Ramones album, or Dead Kennedys album) in the years to come. If only Mans was actress enough here to be able to speak even a single line with the slightest hint of conviction. Well, on the bright side at least it’s a little more coherent than The Last Movie.
Blank Generation (1980)
Poet/musician Richard Hell of Television and the Voidoids, as well as the man credited with creating punk’s early fashion sense, stars essentially as himself in German cult director Ulli Lommel’s (Cocaine Cowboys) sort-of romance. Hell plays Billy, an East Village punk in 1978 whose band bears a striking resemblance to the Voidoids. When a beautiful French journalist begins documenting his career, they get involved. Trouble is, she already has another boyfriend in New York. None of that matters, and to be honest it’s all pretty tedious and uninteresting. What makes the film valuable is its portrait of the New York underground of the late ‘70s, from the fading early punk scene at CBGB to the fading glamour of Warhol’s Factory. So you got your drugs and your music and your oddball characters (including cameos by Warhol and Marky Ramone) and plenty of location shooting around the sleazy edges of a New York that simply does not exist anymore. And that, much more than Hell’s acting ability, is what makes the film worth watching.
The Tin Drum (1979)
When Volker Scholondorff’s Oscar-winning film played Green Bay for a week in ‘79, I went to see it every single night. I wasn’t exactly old enough by MPAA standards, but no one at the theater said a word, I’m guessing because four of those nights I was the only one in the theater. So what the hell makes a three-hour German film based on Gunter Grass’ Nobel Prize winning novel about life in Danzig during the early Nazi years so punk? Easy, just look at the core of the story. Oskar (David Bennent) is a young boy who at an early age becomes disgusted with the authority figures he encounters (teachers, preachers, doctors, parents) and the hypocrisy that seems to infest adult life in general. The Nazis don’t really help matters. In protest he decides to remain a child forever. Although his mind continues to develop normally, he wills his body to stop growing at age three. Moreover, he arms himself with a tin drum which he bangs incessantly (much to the aggravation of the adults) and a scream that can literally shatter glass. With those two weapons at his disposal he wages his own war on society.
In one particularly remarkable scene, Oskar hides under the bleachers and uses his drum to disrupt and dismantle a local Nazi party rally. And being an epic German dark comic parable, it’s filled with more than its share of grotesque imagery (a rotting horse’s head crawling with eels, a preserved fetus in a glass jar tumbling from a high shelf, a man choking to death on a Nazi party pin) — After the film was released on video in the US, several states banned it, declaring it kiddie porn thanks to two scenes. In one well documented case a man in Oklahoma (I think it was Oklahoma anyway) was arrested for checking The Tin Drum out of his local video store. So you got a kid rebelling against the adult world with his drums and his scream, you got a bunch of twisted visuals, and you got the Man coming down on it hard. The question isn’t “What’s punk about The Tin Drum?” The question is “What ISN’T punk about The Tin Drum?”
Liquid Sky (1982)
If I may be allowed to blur the line here a bit between punk and New Wave (an unforgivable sin in the early ‘80s), I’ll include this embodiment of New Wave culture on a punk rock list. When it was originally released, Liquid Sky was all the rage. Roger Ebert hailed it as one of the greatest cult movies ever made, and everyone believed him, thinking it would be playing midnight screenings everywhere, forever. It had everything: an insane plot involving aliens landing atop a Manhattan penthouse, an outrageously powerful new drug made from brain chemicals, and plenty of models having New Wave sex. There were wacky characters everywhere you turned speaking wacky dialogue. And oh, the fashions! All those shoulder pads and skinny ties! The film buzzed with intense colors, inventive camerawork, makeup, music, and lots and lots of neon. Simply watching the film was a consciousness altering experience.
Well, it wasn’t long before everyone forgot about it. I think the problem was (and it’s the same problem faced by Tapeheads six years later) that it tried just a little too hard to be a crazy cult film. It was just a little too self-conscious. Looking at it now, especially star Anne Carlisle’s dual role, it feels like a distillation of everything I think of when I think of ‘80s style. That’s another way to consider it. Fun as it is to watch today, it was all style with nothing beneath it, which is how the punks generally dismissed the New Wavers. Still, for what it is and when it was made, it remains significant. It marked the beginning of a brief era when deliberately weird-ass indie cult films could become solid mainstream hits, at least for a week or two. Several of the films on this list were made possible only because Liquid Sky was made first, and Liquid Sky was borne out of a mindset and visual style established by punk and New Wave.
Human Highway (1982)
Sadly forgotten today, Neil Young’s directorial debut was another of those little weirdie pictures that should’ve made it big on the midnight circuit if anyone bothered to notice it that week it was in theaters. It’s a goofy apocalyptic musical live-action cartoon. Young himself (who ain’t half-bad) stars as a dorky, hapless, love-struck gas station attendant with dreams of rock stardom. I get the feeling David Lynch must be a fan of the film, since it also stars Dennis Hopper (in a dual role), Russ Tamblyn, and co-director Dean Stockwell (also in a dual role), years before they all ended up in Lynch productions. Hopper plays the whacked-out fry cook at the diner attached to the gas station, Stockwell is the sleazy owner of the gas station, Tamblyn is Young’s equally hapless best friend hoping to get a job at the gas station, and the members of DEVO are the employees of a nearby nuclear plant (if you’ve seen their video for “It Takes a Worried Man,” it comes directly from the film).
There’s not much use getting into the plot. The dialogue is silly, the performances over the top, there are cutaways and dream sequences and bad jokes. But the film is all about the visuals, which are intensely and intentionally artificial. The sets are cheap and obvious, set against an obvious backdrop, the flies Hopper chases around the diner glow green, DEVO glows red, and everything is bright and oversaturated. It’s oddly captivating, strange, and funny as hell. Young always had a clear affection for punk and the off-kilter, and while in Out of the Blue Hopper’s daughter quotes his “Hey Hey My My,” here we get to see him perform it with DEVO, with Boogie Boy on vocals. Then the whole thing ends with nuclear annihilation as the entire cast dances around with shovels, singing “It Takes a Worried Man.” So not only does the film contain the only recording of Young performing with DEVO, it also contains the only recording I’m aware of Dennis Hopper singing. Given the cast, you really have to wonder what kinds of drugs were flowing around that set.
Before going on to make a string of really awful, awful pictures based on old TV shows (The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies), Penelope Spheeris made a string of films about punks. The last of these was this revenge comedy that’s much lighter than a description might lead you to believe. John Cryer stars opposite Daniel Roebuck (fresh off his role as the teen killer in River’s Edge) as Grant and Biscuit, two LA punks on a road trip. After a friend is killed by a gang of rednecks led by Lee Ving (Fear’s lead singer who had a brief run in the late ‘80s playing movie villains) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Grant and Biscuit dress up like punk cowboys and adopt the code of the West to seek revenge. Interestingly, this came out the same year Alex Cox released his own punk Western (or punk Spaghetti Western if you want to be precise), Straight to Hell, with The Pogues, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, Courtney Love, Grace Jones, and Dennis Hopper. Cox’s film was grittier and nastier and funnier, as well as a drunken, incoherent mess. Spheeris has done better. Her earlier The Boys Next Door (with Charlie Sheen) was a much darker, nastier take on the teen road trip movie, and much better for it. This thing here’s a bit fluffy with a few good lines (and I always dug Lee Ving), but maybe she was gearing up for all those TV show reboots in which any punks would be silly cartoons instead of actual characters. Great soundtrack, though.
American Hardcore (2006)
The mistake music historians make when discussing the history of punk rock is that most tend to think it died when the Sex Pistols broke up in 1978 and then reappeared miraculously in 1990 when Nirvana hit the charts. They completely ignore what happened in between, when little hardcore bands cropped up in every suburb in the country, thousands of them banging away and playing little shows in basements and warehouses and in rented halls above bowling alleys. I grew up in Green Bay, WI, and by 1983 we had at least five or six hardcore bands in town, and a couple of record stores where you could find DIY albums and Xeroxed fanzines. But I guess since none of these bands were on major labels or made it on the charts or even got played on the radio, it didn’t exist. Documentary filmmaker Paul Rachman’s movie (based on Stephen Blush’s book) goes some way toward remedying this misperception, with interviews and clips of dozens of bands including Agent Orange, Millions of Dead Cops, Circle Jerks, and DOA. For what it is, it’s very good. Unfortunately what the doc boils down to in the end instead of a wide-ranging, broad stroke overview of something that was happening everywhere, it’s the very cloistered story of three bands, two from DC (Bad Brains and Minor Threat) and one from LA (Black Flag). It’s a bit limited that way. Worse in my book, there’s nary a single mention of anything that was happening between the two coasts. It was in the Midwest that things got weird and all the bands didn’t sound the same. But that’s just a personal gripe. As good as the doc is for what it is, I still found it profoundly sad to see all these men and women in their 50s talking about how they were still ready to kick it all over, how the scene was still alive and still vital. Well, no it’s not.
Class of 1984 (1982)
Speaking of cartoon punks, Mark Lester, the author responsible for Roller Boogie, insists his humorless 1982 exploitation revenge cartoon is a film with a serious social message. He’s sorely mistaken about that, and thank god for it. Class of 1984, his loose reboot of Blackboard Jungle, came out during the early Reagan years when the Moral Majority was at the height of its influence and for some reason the media had decided punk rockers were the biggest threat facing the nation. This was news to us, given we were mostly a bunch of skinny geeks who got beat up a lot and who, despite harboring endless visions of annihilation, were reduced to seeking revenge vicariously through loud, angry music. But you want to consider us a threat? Cool beans. And Lester’s picture fed straight into that paranoid public mindset, presenting a violent gang of drug-dealing punk rock white slavers who control the halls of an inner city school. The chief punk sums up their philosophy this way: “Life is pain. Pain is everything. You will know pain” (which, yeah, was pretty on the mark).
In a very early role, Michael J. Fox plays a nice kid (of course) who mistakenly runs afoul of the gang (led by one of those Van Patten kids) and gets stabbed in the cafeteria. Roddy McDowell co-stars as a biology teacher pushed over the edge, and Perry King is an idealistic new music teacher who finally has to go all Charles Bronson after those dirty punks gang rape his pregnant wife. It’s a fast, bright, nasty exploitation number, and it provided all those punks in the audience with a new role model. Given what most of us faced every day in school, dealing drugs, running a prostitution ring, and best of all inspiring deep and tangible fear in everyone we passed looked mighty cool indeed. Come to think of it now, maybe that was Lester’s social message.
The Cramps Live at the Napa State Mental Hospital (1981)
In January of 1968 Johnny Cash played two free shows at Folsom Prison. The results have become legendary. Ten years later in June of 1978, The Cramps gave a free show in the day room of the California State Mental Hospital in Napa, and in certain circles the results were almost as legendary. All you have to do is say “The Cramps video” and people know what you’re talking about. It was shot with a single clunky old b/w video camera and recorded with a single microphone, so not much can be said about the picture or sound quality. Perhaps given the setting the band is a bit more low-key than usual, and the show only lasts about half an hour. Still, although including a concert video here seems a cop-out, this goes far beyond that, and in the end (if accidentally) says a whole lot about a whole lot of things.
Punk rock may have been a refuge for self-proclaimed outcasts, but the mental patients in the audience have taken it a step further, having been deemed so unfit for human interaction they’ve been removed from society completely. They lumber about, hop arrhythmically to the music, stare, and scream. A female patient gets so worked up she tackles Lux Interior. Another takes control of the microphone and emits a terrifying, unearthly howl that comes from the depths of lord knows where. Thinking about it now, I guess it wasn’t that different from a few real shows I attended. A lot of people see the video as a sick, even cruel joke at the expense of the patients, but I’ve always thought it was a perfect encapsulation of a schizophrenic age. My only question is, who the hell on the hospital administrative staff gave the green light to this?
Cinema of Transgression (1979-1988)
In the ‘80s a number of people involved in the scene began making films of their own. Underground shorts and features made by punks for a punk audience that in one way or another reflected punkdom (punkitude?). They rarely found their way into actual movie theaters, more often being screened in bars, basements, or rented lecture halls on college campuses. Some were deadly serious, and some were sloppy comedies, like David Markey’s Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984) and its sequel Lovedoll Superstar (1986) about an all-girl hardcore band. Most all of them, though, were, simply put, just plain god-awful. They were made with no budgets, no production values, sub-amateur actors, and often almost no equipment. Still they made a splash (if a little one) at the time, and need to be considered.
The two most notable filmmakers of the sub-sub-subgenre were Nick Zedd and Richard Kern, who with a small handful of others on Manhattan’s Lower East Side formed a DIY filmmaking movement they called The Cinema of Transgression. Yes, they used that name seriously and were able to talk about it with a straight face. The idea was to put images onscreen that were as shocking as possible. The resulting films, like Geek Maggot Bingo, Fingered, You Killed Me First, Right Side of My Brain, and Manhattan Love Suicides tended to be brutally violent, sexually graphic, and focused on sleazy characters in ugly circumstances. Kern and Zedd took it all extremely seriously and made extremely serious films, though their efforts to be shocking on occasion slipped over into the merely ridiculous. Looking at them today they might seem a little silly and pretentious (though you get to see Lydia Lunch naked a lot), but back in the day, well…I always thought they were kind of silly and pretentious. They were nevertheless an important side reflection of the mindset and the times.
Cafe Flesh (1982)
Okay, so it’s a porn film. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s a porn film. But it’s a punk porn film. Beyond that it’s an arty, dystopian porn film with a sci-fi storyline and a grim, seedy atmosphere. Director Stephen Sayadian has always had a taste for the bizarre, and his films have always danced the line between arthouse, smut, and cult. He made the films, to put it another way, that Nick Zedd was trying to make later in his career without much luck. And here, as on a couple of Sayadian’s other films (Night Dreams and Dr. Caligari) things are elevated considerably by a script written by screenwriter and bestselling author Jerry Stahl.
In a post-nuke future, see, humans have been divided into two camps, the Sex Negatives and the Sex Positives. The Negatives can’t have sex without becoming physically ill, while the Positives, as you might guess, remain normal. So every night the Negatives (a frustrated, dour lot who dress like Goths) gather at sleazy clubs like Cafe Flesh, where they drink, chain-smoke, and stare at the Positives who are forced to perform onstage. These aren’t the kind of typical, tedious sex scenes you find in most porn. These are elaborately staged performance art pieces complete with sets, themes, and music that goes way beyond the abuse of a wah-wah pedal. There are a few storylines that develop within the crowd of Negatives, but that’s neither here nor there. What I’ve always taken away from Cafe Flesh is the atmosphere of the club itself, which is cold and grimy and about as unsexy as you can imagine. It’s a chilly and bleak dark comedy, and how often can you say that about a porn film? In fact it occurs to me that watched as a double bill with Mondo New York (1988), that documentary of sorts about the underground performance art scene in the mid-’80s, it might be hard to discern which was the art and which was the porn.
Island of Lost Souls (1932)
In 1932 after discovering the money making potential of horror films, Universal slipped up, releasing two films that maybe went a tad too far, were too terrifying, too dark, too disturbing for most audiences at the time, and which almost half a century later would become hugely influential on the punk scene. One I’ll get to in a bit, and one was Earle C. Kenton’s Island of Lost Souls, based on the H.G. Wells story The Island of Dr. Moreau and starring Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, and (over there in the background) makeup man Charlie Gemora. It was such a dark, grim film, how many bands could resist naming themselves (or at the very least writing a song called) The House of Pain? Not many, it seems. And as The Sayer of the Law, Bela Lugosi’s repeated and hopeless refrain, “Are we not men?” became the title of DEVO’s first album. In fact several references to the film made it into a number of their songs, and in a long interview with DEVO’s Gerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh on the Criterion Collection disc, they explain in detail their attraction to the film.
If you think about it, it makes sense in punk terms, right? You have a group of outcasts, all funny-looking in their own way, who’ve been twisted and deformed and turned into the freaks they are by people in power (in this case Laughton’s brilliant turn as Moreau), and at film’s end they band together and strike back. Most punks may not have had torches and claws, and most never literally struck back at all, but the dream was there.
Breaking Glass (1980)
Along with the Desperate Teenage Lovedolls films mentioned above, there was an odd string of mainstream features in the ‘80s centered around all-girl punk bands (which I guess to mainstream audiences were more interesting than the usual all-boy punk bands). Among the first was the British number (and future cable regular) Breaking Glass, which if not exactly about an all-girl band was at least about a punk band with a female lead. Hazel O’Conner plays Kate, a young punk from London who is torn between her anarchist ideals and her desire to be rich and famous. Now I don’t know how anyone would think forming an anti-authoritarian punk rock band would ever lead to fame and fortune, but there you go. I guess it’s the movies. Well sure enough in the end she sells out, becomes a pill-popping neon-lit sci-fi New Wave queen playing stadiums, and she feels bad about it.
While often described as “gritty” by people who apparently don’t know what gritty means, the film (which seems to be very loosely based on the band X-Ray Spex) is a slick, bright, funny at turns, and fast-paced rock’n’roll fantasy version of All About Eve. O’Conner may not be Bette Davis, but still turns in a fine performance as a pretty, talented, ambitious and ultimately annoying woman caught in a cookie-cutter story we’ve been hearing for centuries. Cool soundtrack though, with O’Conner doing all her own singing. I’ve always had a soft spot for this one, maybe due in part to one scene’s clear nod to Brian DePalma’s Phantom of the Paradise (1974), and in part because I saw it so many damn times on cable.
Times Square (1980)
Speaking of gritty, the same year Breaking Glass came out Allan Moyle released Times Square, a film produced by Robert Stigwood, the same man (bless him) who gave us Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Bee Gees and John Travolta are nowhere to be found, though, in this lesbian punk fantasy about two teenage girls, Nicky (Robin Johnson) and Pamela (Trini Alvarado) who run away from a mental hospital, hide out in an abandoned warehouse near Times Square, and form a punk duo called The Sleaze Sisters. In a standard Hollywood move, Pamela is a sad and neglected rich girl who writes poetry, while Nicky is a tough, brash street kid who hates authority figures of any kind. Yes, well, we’ve seen that before. The fantasy grows more fantastic as a local late night deejay (Tim Curry) sympathizes with the girls, plays their songs on the radio, and transforms them into cult legends, inspiring young misbegotten teen girls all over New York. One neat twist here, especially given what happened to NYC ten years after the film’s release, Pamela’s father is a wealthy and powerful commissioner out to clean up and gentrify Times Square. He becomes a double villain here, using his wealth and influence to not only track down his runaway daughter, but also to make the last fun, sleazy, interesting part of New York clean, boring, and tourist-friendly. In the early ‘80s, that was a punk’s worst nightmare, considering the grindhouses, peep shows, pimps, dealers and small-time hoods were our idea of heaven.
It’s amazing to consider a film with a pro-angry kid, pro-sleazy Times Square message would be produced by someone like Stigwood. What isn’t amazing is that Stigwood insisted Moyle cut most of the film’s more overt lesbian scenes and that moreover new scenes be shot in order to fit more songs on the soundtrack. In the end Moyle split the project before it was finished, but he still left behind an amazing, melancholy document (thanks to all the location shooting) of a Times Square that no longer exists. And Stigwood, thanks to all his meddling, left behind a great soundtrack double album featuring Talking Heads, Patti Smith, XTC, Lou Reed, and dozens of other acts who were still considered radical and dangerous back then.
Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains (1982)
Two years after Times Square, Paramount released yet another girl punk fantasy, and one that was at heart strangely similar to its predecessor. As stories go, The Fabulous Stains made little sense, at least in terms of anything connected with any kind of reality. So much so in fact I was convinced at the end we’d be told it was “all just a dream.” I’m awful glad this didn’t happen, though, as then I’d’ve been forced to shoot my TV. Corinne (a 15 year-old Diane Lane) is a disaffected small town dropout who has no job and whose parents are dead. Somehow though she has a knack for ending up on TV news shows, where she gets to express her cynical teen angst. She teams up with her younger dropout sister and her cousin Jessica (a 12 year-old Laura Dern) to form a punk band called The Stains. After only three practices (and apparently only learning one song) they’re offered a spot as an opening act on a nationwide tour featuring an old fart revival act, The Metal Corpses, and a new British punk band, The Losers (whose members include Ray Winstone, Paul Simonon of The Clash, and Paul Cook and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols). Although The Stains are awful, Corinne’s onstage feminist rants are championed by a local TV journalist who reports on her every move and makes her a heroine to disaffected young girls everywhere.
Oh, there are your assorted conflicts on the tour bus, a would-be romance, a wise Rasta bus driver, and what all have you. Even though the tour is only a month long and from the landscape never seems to leave western Pennsylvania, The Stains get really, really good, snag the headline spot, and are marketed up the wazoo without even recording a single song or signing a contract. It’s really something. Then it goes to hell and ends with a music video. If you can ignore all the downright silliness, the dialogue (especially Corinne’s) is sharp and funny, and for being a couple of teenage girls, Lane and Dern are impressive playing a couple of teenage girls. In the end it’s another cookie cutter big studio fantasy, but one with a few smarts sneaking in around the edges in spite of itself. A year after this was released, an LA hardcore band started calling themselves The Stains. I don’t know if it was a direct reference, but they lasted about as long as the movie version.
Female Trouble (1974)
John Waters began his career making the films the above-discussed punk filmmakers tried and tried to make, but without Waters’ humor or talent. Not only was he an inspiration that way, Waters and his films always expressed a charmingly twisted punk attitude and his follow-up to Pink Flamingos even went on to inspire one of the most notorious and anticipated unfulfilled threats in punk history. The ever-remarkable Divine stars as Dawn Davenport, the spoiled juvenile delinquent who runs away from home and becomes a famous criminal fashion model (it’s a long story). As her crimes intensify, so does her fame and notoriety. At film’s end she stars in a one-woman stage show in which she bounces on a trampoline (I always loved that), brags of her myriad relationships with famous killers (“I blew Richard Speck!”), then pulls out a gun and kills the audience. It’s all a hell of a lot more punk rock than most punk documentaries can claim.
Now, a scene very similar to Female Trouble’s climax (minus the trampoline) closes the music video to Sid Vicious’ cover of “My Way,” made four years later, shortly before the whole Nancy Spungen ugliness. Fifteen years after Female Trouble was released, G.G. Allin, a punk known for his outlandishly violent and self-destructive performances, vowed that he would kill himself onstage during a show. He even gave the exact date this would happen. I asked him about his plans shortly after he made the official announcement and he confided that he was going to either bring a gun and kill as many audience members as he could before shooting himself, or jam a stick of dynamite up his ass, light the fuse, and jump into the crowd. Either would’ve been mighty punk rock to be sure, but it struck me he was lifting ideas straight from John Waters and Daffy Duck. Of course if it was fame he was after, it worked for both Daffy and Dawn Davenport, so who the hell was I to say?
Hated: G.G. Allin and the Murder Junkies (1993)
Speak of the devil (or close to it), in 1987 I was in one of GG’s backup bands for a show in Minneapolis. After the usual shitting on stage, beating himself bloody with the microphone, and occasionally performing a song, GG dragged a woman out of the crowd and began assaulting her. When her boyfriend intervened, GG smashed a Jim Beam bottle and carved the guy’s chest open. Then as the woman tried to scramble away he caved in the back of her skull with the mic stand. Later in the hospital she refused to press charges, saying she knew what she was getting into when she went to the show. Yes, that’s pretty much what the GG Allin experience was all about. It was really something. Not long after that show, someone did press charges and GG ended up in prison for a stretch. When he got out around 1990 he moved to New York where his brother Merle had pulled together what would become his regular backup band, The Murder Junkies. At this same time then-underground filmmaker Todd Phillips began following GG with a camera, interviewing friends, fans, even former teachers along the way, intercutting scenes from shows (most of which only lasted about 20 minutes), spoken word performances, and TV appearances.
The resulting doc is ugly, nasty, funny, sad, and…well did I mention ugly? I showed this to a class I was teaching once, and all but two walked out during the scene in which GG receives his birthday present. What made it sad for me was GG’s own interview segments. He recites his revolutionary slogans by rote, without any real conviction left. It strikes me that after a decade of abusing himself in public he’d simply grown tired of the shtick. He took it all deadly seriously, but by this point he’d become a cliché and a clown. Still, it’s a sharp portrait of a, if not exactly complex man, at least a fascinating one. As Philips was editing the final cut, GG shirked on his live suicide threat by dying of a heroin overdose at a party following an aborted show in the East Village (the DVD contains that last show in its entirety, as well as the mayhem in the streets afterward).
Philips then went on to direct The Hangover and make a bazillion dollars pandering to the mainstream.
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Before GG, there was The Germs’ Darby Crash, and before Darby, well, there was Sid. After the wild-eyed sci fi conspiracy punk cartoon antics of Repo Man made it an immediate cult hit, director Alex Cox moved to more serious punk ground with his highly romanticized (and cleaned up) portrait of the brief, tragic love affair between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman does a remarkable job channeling Sid in all his dim adolescent fuck-up glory, and as Nancy Chloe Webb is perhaps the screen’s most abrasive presence prior to Courtney Love (who has a cameo here and would return in Cox’s Straight to Hell). It’s also a fine portrait of the punk scene in England in the mid-’70s and New York a couple years later.
But there’s no denying the film, as good as it is, is still a Hollywood fantasy, with Cox taking steps to make Sid and Nancy far more sympathetic than they actually were (normal people seeing the film might find that hard to believe). The Hammer and Sickle t-shirt Sid wears through much of the film was in real life a swastika t-shirt, the shooting-up sequences are played either for romantic or comic value, and whether or not Sid was responsible for Nancy’s death is left more than murky. Even Malcolm McClaren gets off easy here. But Cox knew what he was doing, knew the film he wanted to make, and bless him for making a Hollywood romantic comedy about two completely fucked-up junkies. It is hilarious at turns, and the scene in which Nancy and Sid kiss in an alley as garbage tumbles all around them like rain is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I still want to punch him for that final shot, though, but would refrain if he told me once and for all who Rockhead was really based on.
The Filth and the Fury (2000)
In 1978 in the hours after the Sex Pistols imploded at the end of their Winterland show in San Francisco, Malcolm McClaren flew everyone but Johnny Rotten (who’d had more than enough) down to Rio where director Julien Temple began shooting scenes for The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle. The film was to be a kind-of documentary which purported to tell the whole true story of the Pistols from McClaren’s perspective. As big a Pistols fan as I am I have no patience whatsoever for the film. As a film, it’s a train wreck of unfunny comedy sketches (one involving Sting as a gay rapist), unrelated musical numbers, sloppy animated sequences, and Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs as Rotten’s replacement. Twenty years later Temple returned and made the real Sex Pistols documentary, this time told from the perspective of the band.
It’s not a pretty story, especially considering they were, Christ, only 16, 17 years old at the time. They were manipulated, cheated, robbed, then hung out to dry by their supposed impresario. Temple makes two brilliant decisions here, along with the usual blend of interview and archive footage, he places the entire story squarely within the context of the economic conditions in Thatcher’s England at the time in order to illustrate why and how British punk exploded in the first place. He also conducts the contemporary interviews with the four band members in shadow. We never see their faces (which are looking pretty haggard these days, gotta say). It’s a film about youth, about anger, and by hiding the faces of these middle aged men he assures those damned kids on the screen are going to be the ones we remember, not a bunch of fuddy-duds reminiscing about the olden days. Nevertheless, the most memorable scene here is John Lydon talking openly about Sid’s heroin use and death, and how giddy they were (again they were just kids) to see the States for the first time. It’s oddly touching and sad, especially considering he was once the most dangerous man on the planet.
Any film that opens with an infant being torn apart by a pack of wild dogs along the side of an LA freeway is okay in my book. Does this make me a bad person? Add Roger Corman’s name as producer and things just get better. Well, at least as long as the opening credits roll. After that things go straight down the crapper. Penelope Spheeris first narrative feature concerns a group of abused and neglected kids who ran away from miserable homes to become squatter punks living in a filthy abandoned house on the outskirts of LA (a theme she would return to in 1998’s Decline of Western Civilization, Part III). The wild dogs are both a constant presence and an easy metaphor (the dogs were abandoned or thrown out too, see, then joined a pack of other castoffs and turned feral). The squatters don’t really do much. They watch TV, talk about how abused they were, go to hardcore shows, steal, vandalize, harass people, and don’t clean up after themselves. In fact they’re a bunch of obnoxious little assholes, and there’s not really much of a plot here save for watching them be all squatty. Then some nearby unemployed redneck suburbanites tired of having their places robbed and vandalized by these snotty little bastards form a citizen’s action group to get rid of them.
Although Spheeris clearly thinks otherwise, it’s a film with no sympathetic characters, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, here the squatter punks are so damned self-serious and pretentious and humorless about their nihilism you just want to smack them. I may have been a cruddy nihilistic asshole in my early 20s too, but at least I had a sense of humor about it. My god how I despise this movie (despite a swell soundtrack and live footage of The Vandals, TSOL, and D.I.), and almost punched the screen when Spheeris dropped in her trademark shot of the film’s central characters walking side by side in slo-mo toward the camera. I think it’s supposed to be dramatic or something, but when she uses it in every goddamn movie it’s a useless annoyance. Still, as much as I hate it, it was a significant picture in that it was the first dramatic mainstream feature to present a serious and realistic portrait of early ‘80s punk culture. At least one small pretentious slice of it.
Oh, though, how I wanted to see those dogs come crashing through the windows of the squat to maul these little fuckers.
Blade Runner (1982)
The relationship between Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir and the punk scene was a two-way street, and it had nothing to do with the characters, the story, or the special effects (Character? Story? What are those?). It was all an issue of production design, costuming, and makeup. Scott’s team took existing punk fashion as a starting point for their own costume design, and if you look carefully in the crowd scenes you’ll see more than a few cases of terminally spiked hair and wraparounds. Then of course there’s Darryl Hannah’s Goth bandit makeup (which may have been a nod back to Times Square). Most important of all though was the dystopian backdrop of a malignant, filthy, overcrowded, and perpetually dark and soggy LA filled with neon and jumbotrons. The film’s overwhelming environment, both desolate and claustrophobic, becomes foreground as much as it does in Soylent Green. It was a deliriously, beautifully ugly crumbling urban jungle the punks had been pretending they were living in for years before Scott made it real. So Scott fed off the punk aesthetic, turned around and fed it back to them, and the punks ate it up and reflected it back on themselves, soon adding elements of Blade Runner costume design to the standard ensemble.
Another State of Mind (1984)
In the summer of ‘82 the members of Youth Brigade, one of those positive, idealistic, upbeat punk bands, bought a bus and together with Social Distortion set out on a 5-week tour of the US and Canada. A filmmaker tagged along to record the adventure as these youngsters tried to spread a positive message of some sort and change the media’s perception of what punk rock was all about. They had no backers, no big label making arrangements for them, no real hopes of anything more than maybe breaking even. It was an exercise in punk’s fundamental do-it-yourself philosophy. What could be more inspirational and positive than that?
Of course you throw a bunch of hormonally-overloaded teenage boys, no matter what their message, together on a ratty old bus for a month, make bathing, eating, and sleeping in a bed rare luxuries, a lot of those positive attitudes are going to get a little strained. It’s not long before things start going all Spinal Tap, but without the jokes. Club owners rip them off, the bus keeps breaking down, what little money they do have goes into repairs. There’s no money left for food, and everyone starts getting on everyone else’s nerves. Yeah, these kids sure had some admirable ideals when they were comfortable, but make them a little uncomfortable and stinky? As troubles mount, members of the road crew (and later the bands) start abandoning the tour. At one point the filmmaker asks the idealistic Youth Brigade frontman, “what about unity?” and he replies, “If you’re hungry there is no unity. You can’t be fed on unity.”
In many ways the verite doc is not that different from countless other “rock band on the road” docs. What makes this one stand out are the interviews with kids along the way (most notably one with a wheelchair-bound, seriously brain damaged punk and a French Canadian girl) and what amounts to the most realistic portrait of what these little shows in basements and tiny, grimy clubs were really like. Watching the gig scenes I could smell the sweat and stale beer, my two most vivid memories of those days. A little too much time is spent on the nature and technique of slam dancing, but since no other doc bothers with this, maybe it’s worthwhile. There are countless interesting side notes along the way (a visit to a Christian ministry out to save punks), and throughout the movie we watch Social Distortion’s Mike Ness slowly develop the song that closes the film. The most honest portrayal of the early ‘80s scene out there. More interesting still, a lot of these guys (now in their late 40s) appear in a number of more recent docs, and it’s fun to compare the rosy-tinted, romanticized reminiscences of middle aged men with what they really did and said in the midst of it all. A later mockumentary, 1996’s Hardcore Logo, tries to recreate the ephemeral moment and real human tensions and energy captured here, but fails miserably.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
You didn’t see many white jumpsuits and bowlers at hardcore shows, but you saw plenty of codpieces and fake eyelashes. You also saw plenty of Clockwork Orange t-shirts. It’s hard to gauge just how deeply Kubrick’s darkly comic dystopian study in violence and free will inspired the scene, given as it seemed to crop up everywhere, from band names and song lyrics to how much of Anthony Burgess’ language was co-opted by the combat boot crowd (“yarbles,” “in-out,” and especially “ultraviolence”). Despite Alex’s abiding love of Ludwig Van, that smartass nihilistic delinquent was the screen’s first truly modern punk rocker (at least in terms of how the punks liked to picture themselves) three years before anyone heard the term.
I would’ve been very curious to see if the film had the same impact had Kubrick opted to include the novel’s final chapter as well. Also worth noting here is Walter Hill’s slam-bang live action comic book The Warriors (based on Sol Yorick’s goofy novel), which, while by no means another Clockwork Orange, is at least much funnier than Class of 1984 while delivering much the same message. Author Stephen Blush argued the hardcore scene was a collection of tribes, and Hill’s ultraviolent drive-in classic about angry, misbegotten and misunderstood youth gangs in funny costumes embodies that perfectly and remains an old punk favorite. We had our uniforms and symbols and warring factions too, though I don’t recall ever seeing any mime punk gangs.
I mean, what the fuck was the deal with that mime gang anyway? What the hell were they going to do against the Baseball Furies?
End of the Century (2003)
As documentaries about rock’n’roll bands go, few are better or more thorough than Jim Fields’ portrait of The Ramones. It’s an expansive and valuable record made at the right moment, especially considering three of the four original members have subsequently died. He talks to everyone involved, got his hands on some remarkable archive footage, and paints a penetrating portrait of both the times and the 20-year career of what amounted to the most unlikely group of hugely influential rock stars you can imagine. Who would have thought these four dorky guys from Queens, with their leather jackets, pageboy haircuts, and three chords would go on to not only invent and define modern punk as we know it, but become so damned beloved by so damn near everyone? I mean, my MOM liked the Ramones!
The one problem, especially for those of us who grew up listening to them but were never a part of their circle, is that the doc may be a touch too thorough. Did we need to know about Joey’s OCD, or about Johnny stealing and marrying Joey’s girlfriend, or that the two hated each other about as deeply as two people can hate each other for most of their career? And did we really need to see that painful rap video Dee Dee released? Okay, yes of course we did, but that’s beside the point. After seeing the film I could no longer hear “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Mental Hell,” or “Beat on the Brat” without noting a grim undertone.
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
After writing Dark Star and Alien, that geeky Dan O’Bannon was finally given a chance to direct his first feature, and was handed a zombie film written by George Romero’s ex-partner. Not wanting to step on any toes, he tossed the script and wrote his own, a wild, goofy, loud splatter comedy with nods back to Romero, but only slight nods. I’m not sure why O’Bannon decided to make his central characters punks and give the film a punk soundtrack, but I guess it was his only logical option considering the film. What other youth subcult would want to party in a graveyard? And what other soundtrack (with The Cramps and 45 Grave) could offer so many songs about corpses?
Add great (non-punk) character actors like Clu Gallagher (who appeared in any number of cult films in the ‘80s), a military conspiracy, a double armload of quotable lines, and an apocalyptic ending, and you get the perfect balance of the ridiculous and, well, half-eaten brains. Sure, the punks here are little different from most of the cartoon versions you saw on Quincy, M.E. or CHIPs (but with more cursing and Leanna Quigley getting all naked), but the whole damn movie’s a cartoon, and a good one, so who cares? The end result was an eternal cult film.
Tod Browning made his slow, stiff, half-hearted version of Dracula (1931), simply enough, because making it meant Universal would allow him to make the film he really wanted to make. Scorsese made The Color of Money and Monte Hellman signed onto Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 for the same reason. Things turned out a bit differently when Browning finally got his chance, though. Freaks, with its cast of real sideshow freaks who take a turn for the nasty (but justifiably so) horrified studio execs and mortified mainstream audiences. I never understood that, given Browning had been making dark films about often deformed carnival types for years, and this seemed to be the culmination of that. But who can guess how people think? The film was quickly yanked, gathering dust in the Universal vaults until it was rediscovered in the late ‘60s, when the counterculture’s self-proclaimed freaks made it a hit on the college circuit.
Well thank god for that, because a decade later the punks picked up on it, and where would they be without it? The Ramones’ “Gabba Gabba Hey” may be a misquote, but we all know where it came from. Freaks also gave them their pinheaded mascot, and in End of the Century Johnny Ramone has a set of original Freaks lobby cards framed and hanging on the wall of his house.
Sideshow freaks are of course the perfect romantic punk analogy. If punks see themselves as outcast, and the mental patients in the Cramps video (see above) are even more outcast, then sideshow freaks are the ultimate in underground outcastdom. The carnival in general was the final refuge for people who simply didn’t fit anyplace else, and within that world the freaks are kings. And you get a story in which, like in The Island of Lost Souls from the same year, the outcasts band together, arm themselves, and strike back at a normal world that ridicules them? THAT’S punk rock. I wonder if Browning would’ve taken any comfort in that, given the film destroyed his career.
Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
Long before directing The Beverly Hillbillies, Little Rascals, and Wayne’s World, Penelope Spheeris was the first filmmaker to recognize the emergence of the hardcore scene out of the ashes of the first wave of punk. A couple years after the Pistols broke up and everyone thought punk rock was gone forever, supposedly comfortable suburban teenagers, it turns out, were still bored, pissed, frustrated, full of angry energy they couldn’t explain, and were turning it into something. Along with filming early performances by Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, X, The Germs, and Fear, she interviewed kids involved with the scene, psychologists, parents, assorted frightened authority figures, and the film that resulted remains probably the single most important documentary made about ‘80s punk.
It’s also funny as fuck. Not only did it help spread the word across the rest of the country, it also supplied plenty of damning film clips aired by paranoid talk show hosts and newscasters convinced punk was the greatest danger facing our national security. Who needs to fear commies when you see this interview with Darby Crash laughing about how he posed for pictures with a handyman who’d died in his backyard? I mean, these kids obviously care nothing at all about human life! Not their own or anyone else’s! Of course Darby died of an overdose shortly after the film was completed, so maybe they were on to something.
Eraserhead probably sold more t-shirts than even A Clockwork Orange. So what was the deal? Henry (the immortal Jack Nance) wasn’t a brutal, cackling delinquent, he didn’t band together with a bunch of other outcasts to attack people in power, he wasn’t spouting revolutionary slogans, there was precious little violence in the film. In fact Henry was a nervous, uncomfortable schlub. There was the hair, sure, that helped. So did Henry’s lonely, hapless schlubbiness, as that’s how most of us felt at heart.
But the key to Eraserhead’s importance, like Blade Runner’s, is atmosphere. Lynch created a vast, howling, desolate industrial wasteland like no other on film, a world so deeply and profoundly ugly and unpleasant the punks couldn’t resist it. At least I couldn’t. That was the world I wanted to wake up in every morning (and did for a while). Making it even more attractive is Lynch’s deliberate, nihilistic, disturbing weirdness, from the Baby to the Girl in the Radiator (her song, by the way, is written and performed by the late Peter Ivers, host of the public access show New Wave Theater). It was a black comic American version of Un Chien Andalou (1929) without being all pretentious and arty about it. It was a film that out weirded and out-grossed the punks themselves, and made normal peoples’ brains hurt. That was just dandy.
Repo Man (1984)
I went to see this for the first time with the members of Killdozer, and it was nearly a religious experience from the opening shot of an electronic map (and the first beats of Iggy Pop’s theme) to the amazing shot under the closing credits. To my mind at the time it was a picture with absolutely everything. It had realistic suburban punk kids, dead aliens, government conspiracies, Harry Dean Stanton, Tracey Walter, thugs, lowlifes, televangelist crooks, mad scientists, a great soundtrack, it was fast, nasty, violent, hilarious, and had a tone and attitude that clicked with the way I saw the world.
It occurred to me only later that what director Alex Cox had done in his debut feature was make a 90-minute film version of a hardcore song. And best of all, he didn’t take any of it seriously, and was perfectly willing to make fun of a punk scene which, by the mid-’80s, was becoming a little too self-serious for my taste. For all its timeliness, for its inescapable sense of era, it’s a film that never gets old. And Tracey Walter, dammit, is right about absolutely everything.
Rock ’n’ Roll High School (1979)
And before Repo Man there was Roger Corman’s Rock ’n’ Roll High School, a film that did many of the same things Cox would do five years later. As silly and childish and plain dumb as Rock ’n’ Roll High School is, I would argue it’s an even better picture given the focus here, for the decision to move the goings-on to a high school, pitting the students against an evil principal (Mary Woronov), and tossing The Ramones into the mix as the triggering factor who would lead a rebellion culminating in the bombing of the school. What, I ask you, could possibly be better than that?
After producing so many dozens of teen rebellion films over the years, Corman finally hit the pinnacle, the ultimate teen rebellion picture, with the cartoon antics ratcheted up more than a few notches. There are so many bad jokes flying around, so many visual gags and film references packed into every scene, so many overwrought teen film clichés pushed way past absurd, it’s a film that demands multiple viewings. Even if “Riff Randall, rock ’n’ roller” (P.J. Soles) doesn’t look much like any punk chick I ever knew, I’m perfectly willing to accept it. And in historical terms, it really was this film more than the 4 albums they had out at the time that spread word about The Ramones to mainstream America, and that’s worth something. Old as I am I still get a thrill every time the students and the Ramones blow up Vince Lombardi High, and anyone who doesn’t must be wrong in the head somehow.
Taxi Driver (1976)
If not for two figures, the ‘80s punk scene simply would not have existed. The first was Ronald Reagan. He graced so many hardcore fliers and album covers, was the subject of so many songs, was referenced in so many band names that if you took him away, if Jimmy Carter had won re-election in 1980, three-quarters of everything released between ‘80 and ‘88 would simply vanish. There was even a specifically designated subgenre of hardcore songs known as “Fuck You, Ronnie” songs. He was the perfect demon, a living symbol of everything we hated. Without him we’d’ve been lost.
The other was God’s Lonely Man himself, Travis Bickle. Bickle was the embodiment of the punk attitude and the one in whom so many of us saw ourselves reflected. He was a comparatively young white boy who was alienated, isolated, frustrated, violent, who harbored a brewing anger at the world, he didn’t have friends, had trouble talking to girls, was completely out of touch with mainstream culture, and lived in a cheap and shabby room. He was everything we imagined we were, and everything we wanted to be. As mentioned before, the sleazy mid-’70s Times Square he inhabits looked like a filthy heaven full of interesting degenerates and people behaving badly. And like Bickle, we wanted to kill everyone. He was the poet laureate who gave us our language as much as Anthony Burgess had (“All right you fuckers, you screwheads…”).
Richard Hell might’ve been responsible for the fashion sense of the early punks, but come the ‘80s Travis Bickle was our Armani. From him we got the boots, the jeans, the army surplus jacket and of course the hair style. Sad thing is, the Travis Bickle look and attitude became such a damned cliché (even screenwriter Paul Schrader has talked about this) and I began running into so many wannabes whose fixation bordered on mental illness, that I left it behind and stopped watching the damn movie every single goddamn day. Instead I latched onto Elisha Cook, Jr., who seemed a more realistic role model.
Believe it or not there are a LOT more punk films out there I wasn’t able to include, so let me list a few of them here as Honorable Mentions.
The Punk Rock Movie (1978); DOA: A Rite of Passage (1980); Punk Attitude (2005); Rude Boy (1980); Urgh! A Music War (1981); Hardcore Logo (1996); X The Unheard Music (1986); Smithereens (1982); Cruising (1980); Phantom of the Paradise (1974); The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975); du-BEAT-eo (1984); We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen (2005); New York Doll (2005); Stroszek (1977); Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974); Brazil (1986); anything by Herschell Gordon Lewis; The Honeymoon Killers (1969); New Wave Hookers (1985); Helter Skelter (TV miniseries, 1976); Pink Floyd The Wall (1982); Gimme Shelter (1970); Anything from Troma; Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (1965); Kongo (1934); Blue Velvet (1986); Max Headroom (TV, 1987-’88); Videodrome (1983); Soylent Green (1971); They Live (1988); River’s Edge (1986); Maniac (1934); Maniac (1980); The Elephant Man (1980)
Sonny Boy (1990); American History X (1998); Made in Britain (1982); Romper Stomper (1992); Apocalypse Now (1979); Corrupt, aka Cop Killer (1982); Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986); Titticut Follies (1967); Willard (1970); The Young Ones (TV, 1982-’84); What We Do is Secret (2007); Rage: 20 Years of Punk Rock, West Coast Style (2001); Control (2007); Superman II (1980); Square Pegs (TV, 1982-’83); Garage Days (2002); The Runaways (2010); The Last Pogo (1978); Night of the Demons (1988); Shock Treatment (1980); Deadbeat at Dawn (1988); Manson (1973); Basket Case (1982); Valley Girl (1983); Maniac Cop 2 (1990); The King of Comedy (1982); Natural Born Killers (1994); Un Chien Andalou (1929); Notes From Underground (1990); Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970).