A six-pack of (mostly intentionally) funny rock movies
By Robert Newton
PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974)
It beat The Rocky Horror Picture Show to the screen by a year, and Brian DePalma’s gloriously Faustian rock opera is nearly as fun. A disfigured musician and composer, played by DePalma staple William Finley, sells his soul to the Devil (see Trick Or Treat, below) for revenge and the love of a woman (Jessica Harper, who went on to star in Richard O’Brien’s shaky Rocky Horror sequel, Shock Treatment, in 1981). Paul Williams, who went on to write music for Alan Parker’s kinda-creepy all-kid gangster epic Bugsy Malone (1976) and for The Muppet Movie (1979), penned the soundtrack. A remake is in development.
KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (1978)
It takes a devout KISS fan to sit through this riotously bad NBC TV movie, and an even more tenacious video detective to track it down. Signifying that the rock titans had peaked was the fact that the movie, about an evil scientist who creates evil robot KISS members (spoofed in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991) underneath an amusement park, was a primetime Halloween special…and was also produced by Hanna-Barbera, makers of Scooby-Doo and Josie and the Pussycats. However, rival network CBS topped the awfulness three weeks later with their Star Wars Holiday Special, which some claim violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.
THE RUTLES (1978)
Scripted by Monty Python alum Eric Idle, this tight and snarky Beatles parody features most of the first cast of “Saturday Night Live” (which first aired sketches from the movie), and boasts the music of ex-Bonzo Dog Band mastermind Neil Innes, who mimics the style of the entire Beatles catalog so note-perfectly. The soundtrack had a fab follow-up in 1996 with Archaeology, when the Beatles’ Anthology sets were charting, and the movie had a drab sequel in 2002, Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch.
Husky ‘70s rock icon (and Rocky Horror star) Meat Loaf stars in this oddball comedy about the world’s greatest roadie, a behind-the-scenes MacGyver-like superhero of sorts who can power a band’s gear…with nothing but manure. Synchronicity is in full force here, with performances by Alice Cooper and Blondie and a Hank Williams Jr./Roy Orbison duet.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984)
It may seem a too-obvious and lazy choice, but with lines like “There’s a fine line between sexy and stupid,” “You can’t dust for vomit,” and “These go to 11,” Rob Reiner’s brilliant (and largely improvised) mockumentary about England’s loudest metal band (not Motörhead) is required viewing for all comedy fans ~ as well as all musicians who take themselves too seriously. A sequel, The Return of Spinal Tap, was produced for television in 1992 to promote that year’s release of the odiferous Tap album Break Like the Wind.
TRICK OR TREAT (1986)
With just enough tongue-in-cheek humor to make it a mild curiosity, this horror flick is about a loser named Eddie Weinbauer (Marc “Skippy from ‘Family Ties’” Price) who becomes the instrument of his late rock idol’s revenge from beyond the grave. KISS bassist Gene Simmons plays a DJ named Nuke, and Ozzy Osbourne plays a fundamentalist, anti-rock preacher. The solid soundtrack is by ‘80s British new wave heavy metal band Fastway.
Note: All movies listed are available on DVD with the exception of Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.
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