By Less Lee Moore
“Kelly Osbourne! She wasn’t even born yet. But her look was.”
—Redd Kross’ Jeff McDonald in the commentary to Lovedolls Superstar
To appreciate the genius of filmmaker David Markey is to understand that his films were born out of the DIY ethic of the punk and hardcore scenes of the 1970s and 1980s. These were not low budget movies; these were no budget movies. They were not made for money, either. And although the affect of commercialism on their aesthetic is undeniable, they were not made for commercial appeal.
Lovedolls Superstar is a sequel to Markey’s 1984 movie Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, which depicted the rise and fall of fictional all-girl rock band The Lovedolls. It’s a tribute to exploitation films, after school specials, The Runaways, Russ Meyer, Switchblade Sisters, and even Foxes. It’s trash cinema and I mean that in the best possible sense.
For generations of kids raised on Bruckheimer and Bay, Markey’s films may seem almost unwatchable. Yet they provide a fascinating glimpse into a time when camera phones and YouTube did not exist. Lovedolls Superstar was shot and recorded entirely on Super 8 film, a medium that has been largely replaced by digital video. Markey and digital editor Kevin Church have painstakingly and successfully provided a fantastic film transfer and Dolby stereo mix for this DVD.
Also reflective of the time period is the soundtrack to the movie, with great tracks by icons like Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, and The Lovedolls themselves. The original soundtrack contained instrumental pieces by Gone, Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn’ s side project. However, when the DVD was initially released, Ginn apparently flipped out over the unlicensed use of his music and contacted the distributor to have 3,000 DVDs recalled. The story becomes ironic when one considers that Ginn’s label, SST, was actually sued by bands who appear on the soundtrack (Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth) for rights to their own back catalogues.
As Markey notes in one of the bonus features of the DVD (“Tribute to Dave Markey at the American Cinematheque”), the permission for use of the music was provided by a handshake, further evidence that the DIY ethic was the impetus behind this movie and its soundtrack. The people who created the movie did it because they wanted to make a movie with their friends and without the endorsement or funding of a corporation.
Certainly no major American studio of the time would have touched upon such diverse and controversial topics as matricide, revenge killing, religious cults, drug addiction, prostitution, LSD, Jonestown, murderous stalkers, and the depravity of celebrity, all within the same movie. And certainly no mainstream actors would have starred in such a movie.
As a result, almost all of the performances are by Markey’s musician friends and members of the 1980s So Cal punk scene. Jennifer Schwartz, Janet Housden, and Kim Pilkington play the The Lovedolls to perfection, while Redd Kross members (and brothers) Jeff and Steve McDonald give bizarre and memorable performances as Carl Celery and Rainbow Tremaine.
Markey, Schwartz, and the McDonald brothers wrote the screenplay so it’s only fitting that they provide the DVD commentary, which is not only worth the price of the DVD, but also what every DVD commentary should aspire to be: a gossipy, hilarious, stream-of-consciousness dialogue about what went on behind the scenes. Besides the anecdotes about Courtney Love and Michael Jackson, there are some terrific (and startlingly true) insights about just groundbreaking Lovedolls Superstar truly was.
When the creators of this movie describe themselves as the “so ahead of our time gang,” its not because they’re bragging; it’s because they were. They didn’t skew rock and roll and celebrity culture because everyone else was doing it. There was no Perez Hilton in 1986; hell, PARIS Hilton was only five years old. Lovedolls Superstar was made as an homage to its influences, both cinematic and musical, regardless of whether the mainstream approved or cared. It was a labor of love—subversive, obnoxious, and raunchy—but love all the same.
For more information on David Markey’s films, including his latest project, The Reinactors, please visit the We Got Power Films website.
Just Getting It Out There: An Interview with Filmmaker David Markey, Popshifter March/April 2008 issue