There aren’t a lot of options when you find yourself scoping out films featuring punks. Most are documentaries or band performances, and little celluloid has been devoted to fictionalized stories that include punks. Still, I found a few, revisited a few, and am recommending a few. Maybe you’ll like them too.
Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984)
Directed by David Markey (long-time documentarian of 80s and 90s Southern California punk scene) on super-8 film, this story follows teenage runaways Kitty and Patch and their band The Lovedolls, as they go on a rampage stealing money, beating people up, killing people (sometimes armed only with their music) and making mortal enemies of a rival band, the She-Devils. As they rise to the top, they exert revenge on anyone who had once trampled on their dreams. The movie features horrible acting, lighting and sound but also has its fair share of platinum gold one-liners and a very infectious theme song. A surprisingly hilarious one-take wonder of a movie.
Directed by Susan Seidelman, this story follow Wren, a homeless young woman living in New York City as she tries desperately to save enough money to follow the music scene to L.A. Determined to never return to her hometown of Jersey, she is devoted to her pursuit of living the dream in Los Angeles, and becoming of band manager or musician despite not having any apparent skill or experience in this area. Her only friendships are based on cycles of manipulation and desperation which end up giving Wren lots of trouble. Will she, and her remarkably pristine pantyhose, ever make it to Los Angeles?
I just want to be in a swimming pool, eating tacos and signing autographs, that’s all.
– Wren fantasizes about her future with her crush (played by Richard Hell).
Directed by Derek Jarman, this seminal punk film invites you to a dark and inverted royal jubilee, one where Queen Elizabeth I time travels to a dystopian 1970s England to witness the decay of her kingdom. It’s not so much a movie about a story as much as it is a pageant and homage to punk sensibilities and aesthetics, no doubt intended to injure its audience’s expectations. The movie is filled with impulsive, hedonistic and damaged citizens who live and rein by nonsense and violence. The heart of the film centres around a group of sadistic female misfits who live and play (and murder!) together to stave off depression and boredom. Notoriously hated by Vivienne Westwood, the film had many collaborators, including Brian Eno, Adam Ant and Siouxie and the Banshees. Rule, Britiannia! A must see.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982)
Directed by Lou Adler, this comparatively clean, big-budget movie tells the story of Corinne Burns, an angry teenager who changes her name to Third Degree Burns after her mother’s death, forms a band with her cousin (play by a young Laura Dern), and inadvertently getting loads of local press coverage. As their popularity grows, they make enemies on the road and also develop a legion of teenage followers. While the movie, like it’s protagonist, lacks a true vision or any guiding principles, it touches on a broad hunger that America had at the time for a female rock icon. A saving grace, for an otherwise sort of hollow movie. Still worth a watch.
Every girl should be given an electric guitar on her sixteenth birthday.
– Corinne Burns
Directed by Penelope Spheeris, this movie is a half-drama, half-thriller about a group of misfits who call themselves “The Rejected”. The group (played by real-life street kids, punks and musicians) form a mini punk commune in an abandoned part of the suburbs, based on real-life eminent domain tracts of land in various California cities. The group’s minor infractions against their community cause an uproar in town which leads to tension and violence and an eventual stand-off at the punks’ makeshift home.