Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on Cineplex.com looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil looks talks to the filmmakers behind Super Duper Alice Cooper.
In a “one night only” exclusive, Alice Cooper is once again welcoming fans into his nightmare.
Monday night cinemas across Canada will be rolling out Super Duper Alice
Cooper, a feature documentary on Cooper’s life and music complete with a satellite Q&A session.
The film gets pretty personal with the rock icon who has shown many different sides of the persona he’s come to embody over the last 40 years. The result is a deeply personal look at one of rock’s most recognizable faces, something the film’s Canadian directors Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen and Reginald Harkema have dubbed a “doc opera”.
It’s not just a bombastic promise to fans, as Dunn admits making the film changed his own perspective of Cooper.
“My perception of Alice Cooper was initially as an aging glam metal-er in the mid-80s,” Dunn said. “I was into Metallica and Slayer and Sepultura and he was this guy that just looked like an older version of Motley Crue.”
“Now, of course, I have a very different perspective knowing the impact that he had musically and visually in the 60s and 70s in pioneering what we now call ‘shock rock.’ The term didn’t exist until Alice Cooper came along.”
But before re-imagining Cooper, how about a formal introduction?
Alice Cooper originated as a band, the brainchild of lead singer Vincent Furnier, bassist Dennis Dunaway and guitarist Glen Buxton and evolved into one of L.A.’s top performance draws with the additions drummer Neal Smith and guitarist Michael Bruce.
The act hit another gear, though, one night in Toronto in 1969. As part of the Toronto Rock N’ Roll Revival headlined by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a live chicken was tossed on stage. Furnier tossed the chicken back into the crowd and it met a tragic end.
The Toronto show was a turning point according to Harkema. He spoke of the part Canada had to play in creating the Cooper myth.
“After that event, the media and the fans started to see the frontman – Vincent Furnier – as Alice Cooper and no longer as Alice Cooper, the group. It was a real pivotal turning point in the group’s career,” he said.
The incident along with newfound catchy songwriting and shrewd publicity stunts like dropping women’s underwear from a helicopter at the Hollywood Bowl made Cooper the subject of much pearl-clutching from the older generation in the early 1970s.
But Cooper was more than just an antagonist to the older generation and it was his ability to embody a darker side that Harkema pointed to as making him such a driving cultural force.
“You start to find out what kind of cultural influence he had as being one of the ones to put the stake through the heart of the love generation,” Harkema said. “He came into a scene that was all peace and love and hippies and flowers and taking the violent imagery of the time, be it Altamont or the Manson Family murders and re-contextualizing them for entertainment.”
Of course, it helped that he was able to strike the zeitgeist of ‘70s culture by writing an antagonistic and easily accessible rallying cry for a young generation, utilized perfectly 21 years after its release in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (which was conveniently set four years after the song’s release).
So, where does this leave Cooper today?
The film covers Furnier’s rise in popularity, his descent into alcoholism, rebirth as a solo artist (and formal adoption of the Alice Cooper name), relapse into drugs and final rebirth in the middle of the MTV generation.
The film painstakingly goes through the toll Cooper took on popular culture and, more importantly, the toll being Cooper took on Furnier. Perhaps it’s also a way to remember Cooper as a cult figure instead of what he’s become through commodifying his name everywhere from the late night circuit to “The Muppet Show” (Author’s note: The Cooper episode terrified me as a child).
The answer is probably somewhere in between a rock god and an aging Vaudevillian. Furnier has long been able to publicly separate himself from Alice, even if the personal connection nearly killed him. Still, the look back at his cultural impact will remind viewers just how far his reach stretches to this day.
And the film doesn’t even get into this:
Don’t miss the exclusive Hot Docs Live presentation of Super Duper Alice
Cooper at Cineplex theatres, for one night only on April 28, featuring a LIVE Q&A with Cooper