Super Duper Alice Cooper premiered on the west coast last night at The Grammy Museum at LA Live. The event was only its second screening after having recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. Film makers Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn managed to avoid the formulaic rock doc of live footage interspersed with talking heads to offer a very human portrayal of this rock icon. Lauded for their previous documentaries “Iron Maiden: Flight 66”, and “Rush, Beyond the Lighted Stage,” McFadyen and Dunn trace the rise of a Detroit preacher’s son from obscurity to legend.
The vehicle moved to drive the “plot” is a running parallel between the Vincent Furnier/Alice Cooper dichotomy and that of Jeckyl and Hyde. An old film of “Jeckyl and Hyde” as well as some comical teen angst films from the appropriate eras were interspersed with some extremely rare footage that Alice himself confessed to having never seen before. Even the photographs were fresh and original. Many of the stills featured a fascinating 3D effect and some of them were outright collages. Songs were often featured as they related to the storyline instead of in a strictly chronological order, providing an actual soundtrack. All of this added up an extremely cinematic effect missing from most documentaries.
There was never a lull, as the storyline was fast-paced, even while turning a microscope to the details of interpersonal relationships within the original Alice Cooper Band. Narratives were treated as voice-overs to the constant visual orchestra of film and images, which also served to keep the film from slowing down. Alice Cooper is such an amusing ranconteur, and many people’s recollections were humorous, so the audience was kept laughing. The film was well-edited to enhance this effect. For example, when Alice Cooper says, “The room went dead silent” the film-makers cut the sound completely. I wonder if they debated adding the sound of crickets.
But life is not all fun and games. The film also offers an unflinching look at Alice’s battles with alcohol and cocaine. Although his battle with drink is well-known, never before has there been such an indepth look at the freebasing. It is genuinely difficult watch a gaunt, corpselike and crudely made-up Alice Cooper being interviewed by Tom Snyder.
The rest of the film fast-forwards through time, touching on the threat of punk rock, the singer’s insecurities over being able to channel the Alice character sober, and his triumphant return with the advent of hair bands like Guns and Roses. The focus is strictly on the music and the man. Alice Cooper’s “side projects” as a golf legend, restaurateur, DJ and philanthropist don’t come into play.
This movie is obviously a must-see for fans of Alice Cooper. But any viewer will be able to enjoy the study of band dynamics, the hilarious and shocking stage antics and the history of rock as represented by a career that has spanned nearly 50 years. Still, the heart of the story is one man’s battle with addiction. Alice Cooper may be rock’s greatest villain, but to us, he will always be a hero. It is hard not to cheer as a triumphant Alice symbolically holds a crutch over his head in victory.