IN A PERFECT WORLD, teenage Diane Lane, her hair in a two-tone skunk ‘do and her eyes lidded with bright-red bands of makeup, would be a rock icon.
Finding an intuitive balance between righteously pissed off and achingly vulnerable, she sneers, screams and sobs her way through “Ladies and Gentlemen … The Fabulous Stains” as Corinne “Third Degree” Byrnes, a teenage orphan who uses punk as a means of escape from her dead-end Pennsylvania town and becomes a sellout in the process.
Rhino’s new DVD edition of the 1981 movie is a long time coming, but the commentary track from Lane (as well as from director Lou Adler and co-star Laura Dern) more than compensates for the wait. Listening to the actress describe doing a nude scene — at 15 years old! — is squirm-inducing, but she reminisces casually and hilariously, mostly surprised at her younger self.
“The Fabulous Stains” didn’t make Lane a star. It’s a cult movie that was never released theatrically, ended Lou Adler’s directing career, and languished on late-night cable or cheap VHS tapes for nearly 30 years. And not without good cause: Arriving a few years after punk died its inglorious death, the movie is far from fabulous, with a slow, confusing prologue and no consistent tone. It’s condescending when it should be sympathetic to its characters, forgiving when it should be maliciously satirical.
However, “The Fabulous Stains” had a Velvet Underground effect. Not very many people saw it, but everyone who did started a band. The movie has inspired a generation of fans-turned-musicians, including Courtney Love and Bikini Kill‘s Kathleen Hanna, although none lend testimonials on this DVD.
It’s easy to see why musicians would gravitate to the movie. For starters, it casts members of the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Tubes in prominent roles, which alone makes it a must for punk fans.
And for all its flaws, it nicely evokes all the unglamorous aspects of rock music: the long hours between sparsely attended shows, the inattentive audiences who cheer one minute and boo the next, and all the compromises any artist makes just to keep making art.
Written by Express contributor Stephen M. Deusner