DVD: Super Duper Alice Cooper (2014)

January 18, 2015 | By

 

SuperDuperAliceCooper_sFilm: Excellent

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Very Good

Label: eOne Films

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  May 27, 2014

Genre:  Documentary / Music

Synopsis: Extensive chronicle of Alice Cooper, the original shock rocker, using a dense collage of stills, video, and interview footage.

Special Features:  Deleted Scenes (20:43) / Rare Footage (11:03) / Metal Evolution Interview Scenes (11:44)

 


 

Review:

A fascinating historical collage of rock star Alice Cooper, directors Sam Dunn, Reginald Harkema and Scot McFayden’s took the audio from extensive interviews and created vivid montages using stills, music, and archival concert video to trace Vincent Furnier’s ascension from an asthmatic teen living in Detroit to a pioneering rocker with a flair for macabre subjects and theatrics, including hanging, beheading, and using an assortment of weird ideas and extravagant costumes designed to shock parents and deepen the band’s attraction among what Alice Cooper himself describes as the fringe fans.

Manager Shep Gordon (himself profiled in the equally raucous 2013 doc Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon) recognized the only way for the band to distinguish itself was to emphasize the outrageous, and manager and star fed off each other’s energies to create incidents guaranteed to piss off parents (shipping LPs draped in panties helped), draw media attraction, and on more than one occasion, benefit from unexpected luck.

The utter dismemberment of a chicken at a concert in Toronto guaranteed the band made international headlines, and as the doc works its way through the late sixties / early seventies, one can see the band slowly evolving from the Phoenix high school cover band The Earwigs to the L.A. based The Spiders, and aided by an Ouija board, eventually settling on the name Alice Cooper.

The hard drinking, touring and combustible nature of a rock band’s lifestyle ultimately took its toll, and Furnier eventually changed his name to the band’s moniker, went solo, and navigated through several personal and professional career peaks and valleys.

One can argue the interviews are selective – there’s no critics / historians, fans, or the full band chiming in their memories of the early years – but with so much visual, aural, factual information (if not a dollop of hyperbole), Super Duper Alice Cooper is a great rock documentary, if one that’s unique for never once showing any of its interview subject onscreen.

The lack of face time doesn’t take away from the doc’s impact. The decision to restrict interviews to audio-only ensures everything onscreen stems from a treasure trove of stills and rare performance extracts, but it does take some acclimatizing, given the natural curiosity in wanting to see Cooper in person.

The grunge factor that dominates much of the archival video footage adds to the film’s look, and indeed the three directors, each contributing respective sound, picture, and animation skills, did an astonishing job in balancing the delivery of information with a fluid visual style.

Alongside the Robert Evans doc The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) and The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006), this is another leap in the use (and not over-use) of Adobe After Effects in creating visual transitions that are elegant yet never full-on ADD. The film’s title design is also a great blend of grainy film and video, and the use of intertitles and transformation scenes from the 1920 silent version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring John Barrymore reflect Cooper’s theatrical and grisly alter-ego. The footage also serves as markers tracing Cooper’s health issues as his stage persona, booze, and drugs reduce Vincent Furnier to an exhausted vessel. (The most disturbing footage isn’t Cooper being guillotined or hacking up a baby doll, but his emaciated state during the cocaine years.)

eOne’s DVD features a heavily compressed transfer – it’s fine, but the subtleties in the grays are the most affected – which probably stems from the lengthy bonus interviews consisting of excised trims, most augmented with straightforward stills, others just standalone interview footage of Cooper. There’s also a gallery of longer extracts of the rare video interviews featured in the doc.

It would’ve been great to hear the filmmakers discuss the film, its genesis and production, but as a package, the DVD is fine. There’s some shared information on the early years between Super Duper and Supermensch, but each film branches out in different directions, although the latter film also includes more details on Gordon’s publicity stunts, as well as the lawsuit between the band, Warner Bros. Records, and Frank Zappa which kept an album flipping between in / out of print status over a seven year period.

 

 

© 2015 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB
 
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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