Thursday, June 10, 2010

BLACK ROSES (1988) - satire sells...but whose buying?

Ozzy Osbourne sure is looking haggard these days...oh wait, it's some lizard man rocking out. Hmmm...that reminds me of something....

I guess every free society needs their Mary Whitehouse, and Tipper Gore obliged in the 80’s, creating the PRMC, a conglomerate of beltway cunts that would get together in courthouses and Senate floors in order to vomit up pop science soundbites. Their overall complaint was that rock lyrics nowadays contained references to sex, violence, and the occult, and this was responsible for destroying the minds of America’s youth. After all, if you’re gonna follow a set of “values” like a zombie, make sure you get the right set (i.e. those that belong to rich white assholes).

The group was supposedly started when Tipper was with her daughter and heard Prince’s “Darling Nikki” which, shockingly, is a song about fucking. This quickly rocketed to the top of the PMRC “Filthy Fifteen” charts, quite unsurprisingly. I’m sure W.A.S.P. was gravely disappointed that their song “Fuck Like a Beast” only made it to number 9 (below a Madonna song no less). Wait a second...G.G. Allin didn’t make the list? Frankly, I'm offended. This piece of shit list is worthless.

The only real tangible result of all this was the “parental guidance” stickers, which aren’t a big deal, except when they are printed right on the booklet and cover part of an awesome cover, like when there are demon girl titties or something in the lower right hand corner. Other than that, it mostly amounted to a lot of gavel pounding, a bunch of retarded arguments, and some unintentional comedy. Maybe the high point of the whole affair (well, Frank Zappa thought so, and that’s good enough for me) was when some reverend quoted The Mentors’ “Golden Showers” (i.e. your face is my toilet paper). While a decent representation of El Duce’s genius, I’ve always preferred the following (these are from memory, mind you):

-round up all the glam faggots and stick ‘em in a cage/so the hetero Mentors can rock the stage!

-you wear earrings in your ear/ that’s because you’re a motherfucking queer!

-I like the way your head hangs like a bowling ball tied to spaghetti/ ‘cause when I hack it off, I’m gonna do it with a…RUSTY MACHETE!!!

Well, Black Roses was created knee deep into this hysteria by one John Fasano, the genius behind the John Mikl-Thor vehicle Rock n’ Roll Nightmare. Here is another Canadian ass rocker about the “Black Roses”, some sort of demonic metal band that sometimes wear foam masks that annoy the parents. The band, musically speaking, is pretty much the “real” band King Kobra, and Carmine Appice even plays himself as the drummer (if you follow me). However, “Me Against the World”, which the band opens the movie with, is a Lizzy Borden track. Go figure. Anyway, they decide to finally start playing live, and curiously kick off their first world tour by playing a whole week in a small town in Canada (what a bunch of lucky canuckleheads). Of course, every teenager in town is stoked beyond belief, waiting with bated breath for this demonic orgy of fretwork to explode out their asses.

The band curiously pulls into town in their Lamborghini's, all clean cut and wholesome (in that day and age when you could have a horrible mullet and still be considered clean cut). They play a "power" ballad called “Paradise” to kick of their first concert, with several teachers in attendance to feel the noize and approve the noize. As the song is positively REO Speedwagonesque (but not as shitty), they sign off, unaware that these staid AOR rockers will soon become demonic professors of riffology.

Amusingly, as the band becomes more evil throughout the film, and the music heavier, the band becomes more visually homoerotic; more leather, more chest hair exposed, bigger hair, and more makeup. This aspect reminds of the Rob Halford MTV interview when he came out of the closet. Many rivetheads were shocked beyond belief at the news, and when asked about this, Rob said something to the effect of “I always thought it was obvious. I mean, we released an album called ‘Hell Bent For Leather’”. In other words, this homoerotic dynamic in the film is totally without irony, and instead read as youthful rebellion at the time.

Look no further than resident jock goomba Tony who, shockingly, drives an Iroc and wears a wifebeater (also not to be confused with those mushroom guys from Super Mario Bros.). He too is getting swept away with Black Rose fever, and some dude in an Iron Maiden shirt tries to steal his LP, so he cold cocks him and body slams some other guy onto concrete. Well, he gets an earring, and father Vinny Pastore notices it and says “only pirates and faggots wear earrings, and I don’t see a ship in the driveway” (I think he just one-upped El Duce with that line…impressive). Needless to say, an evil Black Roses LP possesses the turntable, and this causes some sort of spider/lizard/dog to jump out of the speaker and attack Vinny, dragging him into the speaker. This little interlude raises a couple of questions, but I’m mainly interested in the “Death Records” logo on the actual LP.

Apparently, the soundtrack to Black Roses was released on Metal Blade records, and the label had (if memory serves, as I’ve been unable to corroborate this) a sub-label called “Death Records” at least through the early nineties. It was just a logo they would put on stuff like the early Cannibal Corpse records to distance themselves from more objectionable material should the authorities come calling (thanks to the PMRC retards). It comes as no surprise that a group as dangerous as the Black Roses would warrant that type of seal of approval. Also, I've always wondered if the "Death Records" logo was a tribute to Brian DePalma’s Phantom of the Paradise, which is about a rock composer getting fucked by the corporate machine known as, you guessed it, “Death Records”. If memory serves, even the logos looked similar.

All in all, this is a curiously layered bit of business, a self aware self-critique on the part of Metal Blade, as they seem to be pointing a finger at themselves. They are knowingly one step ahead of the PMRC, distancing themselves from the evils of the Black Roses LP, while accepting responsibility for the unfair corporate structure in rock music, all with a detached ironic smirk. To think that I would have missed all of this if I had been paying attention to the story and shit instead of looking out for little logos.

Well, back to the characters at hand. One young couple in particular is ready to rock. Johnny, a rebellious Canadian with a by the numbers mullet, paints a Black Roses logo (a skull with a rose in its mouth) on the back of his sleeveless denim jacket (that’s fucking metal right there) while his father complains about the upcoming concert. Hey pops, if its too loud, you’re too old, and if you’re too old, you’re gonna die soon anyway…so fuck you. Dad also wants him to join his haircutting business, but he refuses, as you can't cut someone else's hair when you have a horrible mullet, and getting a haircut himself would constitute selling out. His girlfriend is shockingly hot, she of the blonde hair crimped into oblivion, and she tries to bring a Black Roses LP to school only to have it yanked out of her hands by her mom. I guess she was planning on reading the liner notes during class. Later, Johnny is so excited by the upcoming shows that he tells his girlfriend he wants to paint the town red, and pulls out a can of red paint. Me thinks Johnny is a bit literal minded.

Turns out I was right about Johnny. When asked about Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance by his English teacher (Matt), Johnny says that it’s “about relying on yourself”. The teacher also asks Johnny about Walt Whitman’s quote “evil propels me forward”. He responds with a speech on how the quote is like the town’s adults trying to ban the Black Roses concerts. Like his namesake Johnny Thunders, me thinks he has a one track mind. Matt ends up becoming the defacto hero, genuinely concerned about his students, and not hysterical and close minded to rock and roll (unlike stuffy Mrs. Miller, played by Julie Adams of Creature From the Black Lagoon fame, of all people).

Matt investigates the band, showing up for the first show, and even interviewing the band’s manager. The manager comforts him by pointing out that the band’s lyrics teaches kids about social and environmental concerns. However, Matt finally goes into action when he notices that his students are turning into a bunch of zombies (well, more zombified than usual anyway). Several students are even shot with lasers at one of the concerts, turning them into real zombies (the walking undead), including some dude wearing a Cro-Mags shirt (even crossover guys are swept up in the hysteria apparently).

This opens up the floodgates to a bunch of evil rebellious happenstance. Young Jesse D’Angelo (of Rock N’ Roll Nightmare and Blood Sisters non-fame) is playing with his action figures (wearing a Hulk sweater) and throws one in the fireplace (senseless…just senseless). His sister, Johnny’s girlfriend, has a hot chick friend that stays the night. The friend is left alone with Jesse’s father, and they decide to play strip gin (that’s how metal groupies roll). Thankfully, daddy wins. Even a metal ghost chick rubs her tits for no reason (not that you really need a reason) and (maybe) possesses Johnny, making him blow away his dad.

At this point, the evil starts manifesting itself in rubber monster/mask form, and Matt is the man to take on these metal maniacs. I don’t want to give everything away, except to say that at some point a monster appears that looks like a cross between the giant ghoulie from Ghoulies II and a really unpleasant frog. To bring the whole thing back, the movie would seem to fit in the PMRC world view. The band is allowed to invade this small town, and this turns the entire teenage population into an army of headbanging zombies whose only goal is to spread evil and destruction. The movie was probably able to get funded because of this hysteria, and therefore had to play along. However, I’d like to think that the movie, in actualizing the PMRC fantasy, shows how truly ludicrous the whole thing thing is. Look at it as satire with a literal sledgehammer (not literally, of course).

Looking at the above still again, it just suddenly dawned on me. Heavisaurus! Yes, we have a sort of modern day equivalent to the lizard men in Black Roses (with a hot lizard chick on bass), in the form of the dinosaur men of Heavisaurus (except for the girl Tricerotops on keyboards, of course), a group of kid friendly metallers from Finland. They are quickly enrapturing the children of the world (assuming you live in Europe) with a similar combination of rubber suits and an initial appearance of wholesomeness. It would seem that, heeding the word of Black Roses, we should assume that Heavisaurus might be a dangerous collective, hell bent on turning the youth of Europe into an army of wholesomeness destroyers. Well, fine...whatever. I mean...they fucking rock! And they're cute! Did I mention that they're a bunch of dinosaurs playing heavy metal? JESUS H. FUCKING CHRIST THAT RULES! I say destroy away boys (and one chick).


  1. Nice. I enjoyed this bizarre slice of aged cheese well enough, but long for the day when it's paired with Hard ROck Zombies for a truly rocking double feature.

  2. @Emily
    Yes, but Hard Rock Zombies is quite inferior. The band is wimpier, their songs subpar, and the film doesn't deal with BIG IMPORTANT ISSUES.