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LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS (1982).

I first caught this prophetic girl-group pic over a decade ago, on USA's Night Flight. After all this time, I'm glad to finally snag an uncut copy of this fave (originally shot under the title ALL WASHED UP), which feels like a mix of DESPERATE TEENAGE LOVEDOLLS and THIS IS SPINAL TAP (of course, both of these classics were actually filmed after this was in the can). Directed by ROCKY HORROR-producer Lou Adler, this film sunk without a booking, had a nominal release years after it was made (i.e. a one-day-only gig at L.A.'s Summer Music Film Fest), and now seems like the antecedent of every modern riot grrl band... 16-year-old Diane Lane rips loose as Corrine "Third Degree" Burns, a pissed-off teen from a blue collar Pennsylvania cesspool who jumpstarts her own all-gal punk band called The Stains, with the help of her sis (Marin Kanter) and 15-year-old Laura Dern. On their trip to fame and misfortune, the trio meets Fee Waybill (of The Tubes), who's terrific as a washed-up rocker so dimwitted he makes David St. Hubbins look like Stephen Hawking. Since his once-successful band The Metal Corpses is now playing shitty clubs to a handful of bored locals, he hires the musically-challenged Stains (who barely know three chords) and Lane ditches bleach blonde aunt Christine Lahti in a blink. So there they are; three runaway, teenaged girls on the road in a 3rd rate tour bus. Best of all, the (easily excitable) openers are The Looters, a UK band consisting of Paul Cook and Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols, bassist Paul Simonon from The Clash, and Ray Winstone (the lead Rocker from QUADROPHENIA) on vocals. Things heat up on their first gig, when Lane steps on-stage with a see-thru top and a bleached "skunk" hairdo, and soon The Stains are a cult phenomenon, with femme mallrats soon emulating Lane's dye job, diaphanous attire and "I don't put out" motto. Though slowed by some vapid melodrama, this is tons of silly, proto-feminist fun, as they tour local malls, filled to capacity with legions of lemming-like girls. Happily, the movie also shows how fast fans can turn ugly when they realize they've been ripped off. Musically, the only halfway decent tune, "The Professionals" (by Cook and Jones) is played to death, while nothing from The Stains is remotely listenable outside of the context of this movie. This pic has authenticity to spare, especially when it comes to the shitty little towns bands are forced to play. I only wish Lane was a better actress, because although her shower scene with Winstone accomplishes its desired goal, her anti-social speeches are limp. Slick but surprisingly savvy, it knows the territory, pisses on it with a sharp sense of humor, and captures the period better than most studio pics of that era.

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.