Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Welcome to my nightmare: Super Duper Alice Cooper

Most people of my generation know Alice Cooper as the goth rockstar who looks like a zombiefied old lady and sings about being eighteen and finishing school. Personally, I knew that Alice Cooper started out as a band before becoming a solo artist, but little more.

In a brief, slightly awkward introduction to the new, all access documentary Super Duper Alice Cooper, the great man promises a “schock-umentary- the story of how Jekyll became Hyde.” What follow is a fairly straightforward, very entertaining rock-documentary with very few surprises or shocks. The story is told, in chronological order, by Alice Cooper himself and his former band members, his manager and his wife through voice over narration. Some big name collaborators and admirers (Elton John, Iggy Pop) also chip in on occasion.

There are of course some great anecdotes. Here is after all a band, which got its name from an Ouija board and broke through after throwing a live chicken into the audience while opening for John Lennon. The chicken did not survive.  This was a band which was mental enough to be invited by Salvador DalĂ­ for an art project. These stories, together with the music, make the documentary an entertaining enough watch for newcomers and a trip down memory lane for fans.

As a documentary, Super Duper Alice Cooper fails however. The darker periods of Cooper’s life (alcoholism followed by a cocaine addiction) and his status as a cultural icone are only skimmed over. The filmmakers repeatedly compare the transformation of Vincent Furnier, the preacher’s son, into Alice Cooper, rock and roll legend, by returning to clips from a silent version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The metaphor wears thin after about 5 minutes and there is no reason to reiterate it time and time again.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the film and learning about this intriguing character, but I doubt it will stay in my mind very long. It probably should be on TV (as long as it has good speakers) rather than in the cinema. The screening was followed by a fun but trivial Q&A session, which had been recorded previously. This feels like a tacked on DVD extra and I’m not quite sure why it was shown in the cinema.

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