Alice Cooper - SUPER DUPER ALICE COOPER: A "Killer" Rock Doc!
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Usually rock docs done with the consent of the subject--or in this case, upon prompting of Alice Cooper's decades-long manager Shep Gordon--tend to gloss over obstacles musicians faced in their rise (and sometimes fall) from glory. Super Duper Alice Cooper is so wonderful because it's a “warts, snakes and all” portrait of the former self-proclaimed "nerd and outcast" Vincent Furnier of Phoenix via Detroit. The movie starts out on this born again Christian's relationship with the church (his father was a preacher) and not surprisingly, ends with his return to the church--but at no point is the film preachy or forcing Cooper's religious views down anyone's throats. On much of the early footage, there are cool "3D" effects used to make Alice's personal scrapbook pics pop out at the view (ah, the wonders of modern day computer apps), and the director Sam Dunn goes out of his way to find general stock footage of kids from the 60s who resemble Alice. (I could be wrong and this might have been unintentional, but I found at least six instances of "industrial" footage where there were childhood and teenage Vince Furnier clones, LOL!)
The strongest points of Super Duper Alice Cooper is that their is much early material on the early days going way back to Coop's high school band The Spiders. Once this band started playing a prestigious locally hot club and even having a local Top Five singles, the girls started coming out of the woodwork and Alice's image changed to the coolest guy in his Phoenix high school. Like many rockers his age, The Coop credits The Beatles with getting him interested in being a performer in the first place--although his bands sounds more like The Stones. The Spiders sounded very raw and garage-ish, with heavy fuzz tone base and distorted guitars.
The early days focus on the strong friendship between Alice and Dennis Dunaway since they were school pals, but the most colorful footage comes when they move to LA to make it and get signed by Frank Zappa basically because he is introduced to the band by the GTOS and just doesn't "get their sound. The name Alice Cooper actually comes during a Ouija board session--and Zappa gives them only a couple of days to record an album, resulting in muddled production and the lack of strong single. There is colorful commentary provided by the eternally youthful “Miss Pamela” Des Barres in this segment of the film, including remarks about how The GTO’s helped the boys developed their “ravaged glam” look by digging through thrift shops.
The group spends a good while in Hollywood finds themselves going nowhere so they take to the road and wander aimlessly, taking any gig that comes their way. Their success starts to take hold once the clever Shep Gordon becomes their manager and gets them booked in a big Chicago festival where the famous "chicken killing" story takes place." Alice claims to this day that he saw a chicken at the back of the stage, thought it could fly because it was a "bird with wings"--and threw it out to an audience who quickly dismembered it. That got enough press for the band to get a deal with Warner Bros, and eventually they went on to be the kings of shock rock until their partying ways got the best of them. Of course, there were record company politics and Alice's own moves into the mainstream American public's conscience via hanging out with Hollywood celebs and doing TV talk shows that probably made Alice feel like he was important enough to not need the rest of the gang anymore. In this film, he never comes across as egotistical though. Most of the time at the band's height, he seems to be alone in the corner of a dressing room, drinking Budweiser and watching TV. He admits that some people were so in awe of his image that they were happy to just be in the same room, watching him staring blankly at the boob tube!
Super Duper Alice Cooper seems to be credit the band's breakup to ongoing excesses (although Glen Buxton's debilitating heroin problem is not addressed) and the desire of everyone wanting to do solo albums. I know there is much more to the story, including the fact that Alice really didn't want to be part of a democracy anymore and that record company execs were pushing him to go solo.
After showing the breakup of the original Alice Cooper band, the movie seems to focus on Cooper's personal life, especially marriage and fatherhood, but naturally his reemergence with the heavy metal heyday of the late 80s and early 90s is addressed. Wife Sheryl talks about his cocaine problem and how she had to practice tough love by separating from him and letting him dry out for a while in an upstate New York institution. Of course, the film ends on a happy note. Alice emerges victorious--he golfs, gets commercial deals, tours and is still able to keep his original fan base.
The film really ends after the credits role with several minutes of Alice answering fans sometime clever and sometimes banal questions including "Do you want to play with Jeff Beck?" (Does anyone think he would say no to that?) It gives the viewer a chance to see that the real Alice is as perky as his famed Staples back to school commercial from a few years ago.
I personally "elect" Super Duper Alice Cooper as best rock doc of 2014--well, so far. The only way it could have been better is if we saw more of the rest of the band in the present day (especially Michael Bruce, who seems totally left out) and if Alice revealed how some of his classic onstage shtick was performed. I can figure out how the guillotine works but want to know more about the other torture and execution devices, LOL! (OK, call me sick--but it's ok because I am nuts in the same way Alice is!)
For more information on this film, go to superduperalicecooper.com. You can buy tickets for worldwide showings, as well as tickets for Alice's international tour dates--and see the ultra-clever trailer for the film.
By Anne M. Raso
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