Saturday, October 30, 2010

TERROR ON TOUR (1980) - sometimes a rock and roll fantasy can turn into a nightmare, with all apologies to Bad Company

The Clowns are ready to rock out in strictly hetero fashion (yes, cocaine is involved)

Don Edmonds, the director of Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S., which is 90 minutes of women being tortured in a Nazi camp, does an aesthetic about face with Terror on Tour. This is the heart warming story of a band, "The Clowns", an afro’d scuzzbucket cross between Alice Cooper and Kiss, who specialize in cutting off women’s body parts on stage, all in order to fund their coke orgy lifestyle. Unfortunately, someone is killing off their groupies while wearing the costume of the band, which is: afro wig, white face paint, black cape, and black leotard. Seemingly low rent, but keep in mind that this is pre-exploding codpiece era.

There are generally two depictions of hard rock/heavy metal in film (and that includes
VH1 Behind the Music). They are:

1. The band doggedly pursues crass commercialism in the form of anti-establishment hijinx in order to fund their drug and sex habits.

2. The music takes precedence to the point that it results in dour committal to the craft. Bathing in a canoe filled with Molson Ice and naked sixteen-year-old girls is perfectly acceptable as long as it doesn’t interfere with band practice.

These “clowns” clearly believe in the former, which is fine, but they must be resigned to becoming a laughingstock when rockers in leotards who chug their chords becomes passé, as they won’t be propped up by the crutch of artistic “integrity.” Manowar has, from day one, proclaimed from the highest mountains that screaming about the derring-do’s of elvin warriors while wearing loincloths is out of pure self expression, and anyone who doesn’t like it can go fuck themselves. Resultantly, they managed to tour and release albums even in the grunge era.

Well, the structure of the film is pretty cyclical. The band comes on stage, plays their music, rips apart some mannequins, and tells the audience that they are going to kill them (which functions as antithetical posturing in the light of the usual love and joy expressed towards the audience, by the likes of, say, that asshole Stevie Wonder). They party with groupies, and occasionally take one to some sleazy back room for some sexy action (one particular room is a surreal filth hole, spattered with fake blood, complete with chains and a noose). Occasionally, a presumably fake clown stabs a naked girl, and this raises the ire of a useless porker who snoops around.

The band occasionally counsels with their manager (played by Larry Thomas, Seinfeld’s soup Nazi, clearly one of the party’s more endearing efforts) on drugs, ladies, and future success (i.e. money). Eventually, the fake clown is revealed to be the Nazi soup manager, who uses the old chestnut “they are all whores”, which, they kind of are, but that is no reason to be judgmental. His last murder spills onto the stage during a performance, thereby blurring the line between real violence and fake violence, fake whores and real whores.

I place the film in the narrow genre of the hard rock horror film, along with Hard Rock Nightmare (and Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park might qualify here). Musically, the band lacks the savage punch of a heavy metal knee to the groin (the knee packs quite a punch, if you follow). Also, as stated earlier, the ethos at work here is more "party band" than empowering musical fantasy, and that places it in the hard rock horror category as opposed to the heavy metal horror slot (I make the rules around here). I know this seems like a ridiculous splitting of hairs, but I guess that makes me the world's most anal retentive barber.

The victims are all young women stuck in an adolescent state, permanently “partying with the band”. These girls sink to the level of proclaiming the band is “better than The Kinks”, which is clearly not the case, but nevertheless, it keeps the party going. It would seem to be ironic that groupies would be killed for “being whores”, which would defeat their very existence, but, again, it is their state of adolescence that is being disrupted. The killer’s motive is just a means to an end. It’s a justification in that someone is using it to justify something. The streets of hard rocking dreams are paved with tar heroin and groupies, with or without limbs. The audience is just an unwitting vice supplier.

P.S. More fun in the soon to be over lazy baker's dozen Halloween horror countdown. Only a couple more to go! Three I think. Shit.

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