Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains

Yes, it is a weird title, but then it’s a weird movie. Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains – there may be a comma in there – is a 1980 film which has been sitting on some shelf since its completion. Its recent revival – including a midnight screening at the Ninth Seattle International Film Festival – may be due to the success of the pseudo-rock-documentary This Is Spinal Tap.

Stains isn’t as funny as Spinal Tap. For starters, it doesn’t hew to the same documentary parody form. It’s more straightforward; all about the rise and fall of a punk-rock band of teenage girls, who dub themselves The Stains, led by Diane Lane (of Rumble Fish and Streets of Fire), and of the brief hysteria they create.

Scrappy stuff, but rock cliches are sometimes trounced with accuracy, particularly the life on the road. There’s also a hilarious supporting role for Fee Waybill, in real life the lead singer of The Tubes. He plays the leader of the creaking 1960s heavy metal band, The Metal Corpses. Waybill oozes flower-child platitudes and packs on the Kiss-style makeup. It’s a dead-on cameo.

The music, with Lane snarling the band’s heavy-duty lyrics while wearing see-through shirts and fire-red eye makeup (inspiring a fad that lasts at least a week), tends toward the intentionally screechy. The band musicians include members of The Clash and the late, lamented Sex Pistols.

You can see why the movie sat around for a few years before anybody saw it. Then again, there are many movies released without anything near this movie’s sometimes-engaging strangeness. The right crowd in the right mood should like it.

First published in The Herald, October 1982

Just guessing about the publishing date. The cast included Laura Dern as a band member, plus Christine Lahti, Ray Winstone, and Brent Spiner. Paul Simonon and Steve Jones act in it. It has a reputation now and it’s almost certainly better than this review suggests. It was written by Nancy Dowd, and directed by music mogul Lou Adler, whose only other film as director was Up in Smoke.

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