Super Duper Alice Cooper, Blu-ray (2014)

by | Jun 23, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Super Duper Alice Cooper, Blu-ray (2014)

Studio: Eagle Vision/Banger Films EVB334809 [6/3/14]
Directors: Reginald Harkema, Scott McFadyen, Sam Dunn
Video: 1080i HD for 16×9, Color
Audio: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Extras: 12-page insert booklet; Deleted scenes (20 mins.), Rare footage (11 mins.), “Metal Evolution” interview scenes (12 mins.)
Length: 127 minutes [not including extras]
Rating: ****

This is the story of the son of a preacher, who grew up to become one of the most iconic hard rock/heavy metal musicians. Super Duper Alice Cooper tells how Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) went from straight-laced, cross-country runner to the hell-raising, alcohol-swigging and drug-taking frontman of the shock rock band also called Alice Cooper. Super Duper Alice Cooper is a lean, thoroughly-crafted documentary which will appeal to both neophytes and long-time fans. That’s because co-directors Reginald Harkema, Scott McFadyen, Sam Dunn compiled a treasure trove of archival video and film footage; historical photos; new and older interviews with Alice Cooper, former Cooper band members, producers, family, and fellow musicians. The project also has a well-written, in-the-moment, and compelling narrative structure about an artist who survived his own worse enthusiasms and self-indulgence. Super Duper Alice Cooper is available in a single-disc DVD or Blu-ray configuration and a deluxe edition with a bonus DVD of a 1972 gig; a 2009 concert on CD; and a 60-page photobook. This review refers to the single-disc Blu-ray version.

Super Duper Alice Cooper begins, as many rock legends have started, with Ed Sullivan. Cooper talks about how, as a teen, he witnessed the Beatles’ auspicious debut on Sullivan’s television program, and was smitten with the idea of putting together his own band, initially dubbed the Earwigs (a sly reference to the then-popular Fab Four wigs) then the Spiders and finally the Nazz (not to be confused with Todd Rundgren’s first group). After some local success in Phoenix, the Nazz’s hometown, they headed west to the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Just before hitting the highway, the Nazz changed their name to Alice Cooper, by means of a session with an Ouija board. Cooper says the moniker reputedly is attributed to a 17th century witch. The Alice Cooper band quickly developed an outrageous, prank-styled performance, which could not overcome the group’s questionable musical talent. Nevertheless, the Alice Cooper group signed to Frank Zappa’s Straight label, distributed via Warner/Reprise. Their subsequent two LPs flopped.

Going on the road again, the itinerant group eventually landed in Detroit, Furnier’s birthplace. In the early ‘70s, the Motor City was powered by anarchic musicians who challenged listeners with hard-charging, proto-punk music. The theatrical Alice Cooper, who were tighter and more aggressive by this time, fit right in with likeminded acts like Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5. This was the next phase of the Alice Cooper tale. There is footage of the infamous chicken incident, when Cooper flung a live chicken into a frenzied audience, who tore the unlucky bird to pieces. Cooper explains he thought poultry could fly. The ensuing media coverage made Alice Cooper front page news in the rock music press.

The result was a string of well-regarded records, hit singles such as the anthemic “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out,” and scandalously forceful stage presentations which featured Cooper’s darkly smudged eye makeup, huge boa constrictors, guillotines, androgynous costumes and dismembered baby dolls. From that point, the Alice Cooper story turns into a sordid account worth a VH1 “Behind the Music” segment: alcohol abuse, then a bout of cocaine addiction. Also the firing of the Alice Cooper band, and how Cooper became a caricature of his own self, hobnobbing with celebrities on late night TV talk shows; guest-hosting on the Muppets program; and taking up golf. The ‘80s in particular were unkind. There is videotaped material from a Tom Snyder conversation where Cooper looks strung out and emaciated by his cocaine habit. In the film, Cooper is remarkably honest when he reflects on his life during this timeframe. Cooper’s solo albums from this period were unfocused and unable to match the innovative punk and new wave music which pervaded the marketplace. Eventually, Cooper detoxed and went clean; patched up his marriage; and only allowed the Alice Cooper character to take over while on tour. The documentary ends in the present day, when Cooper has a comfortable cult status and releases mainly solid, professional efforts.

The numerous interview subjects consist of former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon, Elton John and John’s lyricist Bernie Taupin, Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider and others. They add depth to various scenes, but regrettably are not often seen onscreen and not identified on their voiceovers. Notable sections include when Cooper meets his hero, Salvador Dali; and lots of scarce concert snippets. Unfortunately, Super Duper Alice Cooper is marred by overused film clips from the 1920 silent movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The attempt is to portray Furnier’s recurrent transformations from good guy to his decadent personage, but the effect is overdone (once would have been enough). There are several decent to commendable extras. The 20 minutes of deleted scenes contain further discourses on wedlock and Cooper’s ‘90s comeback. The 11-minutes of rare footage is mostly television interviews. A lengthier 12-minute discussion for Dunn and McFadyen’s 2011 “Metal Evolution” cable documentary series is a bit more fascinating. The accompanying booklet comprises credits, historical pictures, and liner notes which give details on the impetus for this project.

—Doug Simpson

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