Super Duper Alice Cooper Directed by Reginald Harkema, Scot McFadyen, and Sam Dunn Eagle Rock, 127 mins, $14.98 DVD/$19.98 Blu-Ray
Vincent Furnier was a shy, churchgoing, high-school track star and the son and grandson of preachers who had never even touched alcohol, much less illegal drugs.
Alice Cooper is a depraved sicko who likes to whip women, chop off the limbs of baby dolls, inadvertently kills chickens, sneers at the people who pay to see him, and ultimately ends up getting guillotined for his behavior. And he liked to imbibe massive amounts of Budweiser and cocaine. Massive.
That they two men are the same person has long been one of rock history's more fascinating stories, a real-life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde -- albeit one dressed in leather and wearing snakes. In fact, footage from an old silent-film adaptation of the R.L. Stevenson story is strewn throughout Super Duper Alice Cooper to constantly drive the point home, as does the constant third-person discussion by Alice of Alice.
But this is not a documentary about the musical career of Alice Cooper. While songs, albums and tours get mentioned -- like the scene from an old black and white movie that inspired "School's Out" -- the heart of Super Duper Alice Cooper is about the singer's insanely wild ride to superstardom and personal story and struggles with abuse of various substances before finding redemption, literally.
He discussed his journey when Rocks Off spoke with him back in 2008.
In the beginning, "Alice Cooper" was the collective name of a five-man band, not just its singer. The film deals honestly with the group's dissatisfaction with the attention and spotlight going to the vocalist, which led to their dissolution before Cooper launched a hugely successful solo career.
It's not delved into as much as maybe it should have been. Two of those members get some say, and guitarist Michael Bruce's name isn't even mentioned. And it's clear that manager Shep Gordon (the subject of the recent Mike Myers-helmed documentary Supermensch) always had his eye on the prize. Anybody could play drums, guitar and bass. But there's only one Alice Cooper.
Inevitably, part of that more mainstream career trajectory turned Alice from a truly dangerous character parents could froth at to a kind of safe, eccentric character whom even housewives could love. The Cooper who showed up to sing on The Muppet Show would not think of showering the audience with women's panties, as he and Gordon had concocted for a show at the Hollywood Bowl years earlier.
But those old performers and Alice (he legally changed his name) knew that "Alice Cooper" was a character type as old as showbiz itself: the charismatic but inherently evil villain.
"I was the biggest rock star in the world," Cooper says today. "But this Alice Cooper character nearly killed me."
Indeed, when the line between man and character began to blur, things went downhill for Cooper's personal and professional life. By the time he appeared on Tom Snyder's TV show in the early '80s, his already slim frame now downright gaunt, and with slurred speech, smeared makeup and and odd hairstyle that made seem more like a deranged elderly aunt that the King of Shock Rock, it was time to get better.
Story continues on the next page.
A second stint in rehab (the first, years earlier, inspired songs and a stage show) and a reconnection with God and golf brought him back. So when he returned in 1986 amid a new climate of pop-metal bands who took a thing or two from his playbook (Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, W.A.S.P.), Cooper could take on the role of a sort of elder statesman while making his own new music.
The filmmakers take an unusual approach to the documentary, in that everyone who is interviewed for the film -- from Cooper and former bandmates and collaborators to admirers like Elton John, Dee Snider and Iggy Pop, and even Cooper's wife and elderly mother -- are never shown talking. It's all voiceovers, and the technique works to the benefit by not breaking up the visual narrative.
It also has as treasure trove of rare photos and live footage fans will appreciate, including the collaboration between Cooper and surrealist Salvador Dali, who created a hologram of the singer. Bonus footage includes deleted scenes, more rare footage, and selections of Cooper's interview from the Metal Evolution television series.
Super Duper Alice Cooper tells a great story, even for those unfamiliar with the lyrics and solos from "Billion Dollar Babies" or "The Ballad of Dwight Fry." And for fans, it's a must-have, right up there with snake food and eyeliner.
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