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Super Duper Alice Cooper
Directed by Sam Dunn, Reginald Harkema, and Scott McFadyen Super Duper Alice Cooper charts the career of the man born Vincent Furnier, the son of a preacher who, during the sixties, started a band with some friends named Dennis Dunnaway and Glenn Buxton while living in Phoenix, Arizona. Michael Bruce and Neal Smith would join the band shortly thereafter. Like almost everyone else at that time these guys were heavily influenced by The Beatles but would soon start taking things in their own direction. A few years later the group named The Spiders would change their name to Alice Cooper and head out on the road, their lanky lead singer becoming increasingly more dramatic with his onstage persona. Incorporating makeup and strange fashion into their stage show and then far more theatrical elements pulling from horror movies and science fiction shows, the band found success with some help from Frank Zappa. Albums like Love It To Death, School's Out and Billion Dollar Babies did well but soon Alice Cooper the band became Alice Cooper the man as Fernier basically went solo. He took the band's name and released Welcome To My Nightmare but his fast paced lifestyle was catching up with him.
Controversy followed Fernier as his stage shows become more and more elaborate and insane. His penchant for drugs and alcohol took a massive toll on his psyche but, as most fans know, he'd eventually clean up, find God and become a pretty good golfer all while continuing to perform and record having come to term with the character he plays and finding balance in his personal life.
Dunn's documentary covers pretty much all of the major events in Cooper's career and does a great job of incorporating a lot of cool archival photographs from the early days alongside vintage film and video clips of interviews and live performances to create a good overview of the man and his work. Sticking to the feature length movie format, however, the piece doesn't really go as in-depth as those familiar with the Alice Cooper legacy may want. There's not a whole lot of information in here that hasn't been covered in the past and while interview snippets from the likes of John Lydon (or Johnny Rotten if you prefer), Dee Snider, Iggy Pop and even Elton John help to speak to Alice's influence they don't add a whole lot more than that.
The visual style is nice. There really isn't any ‘new' footage in here, the visuals are pretty much entirely comprised of the aforementioned archival stuff. Dunn and his team breathe some life into much of the still photography by creating movement within the frame, be it by having the characters in the foreground move over the background items or some other similar technique. Where the film falls short, and this is an important point, is that while it gives us a nice overview of the backstory it fails to really let us get to know Fernier the man. As such, when he falls inside a bottle and winds up locked away for a while, it's hard to feel the connection we need for this to resonate the way that it should have. It's great that the movie looks as good as it does here but without a whole lot of involvement from those who worked with Fernier it has to feel at least partially incomplete. Neal Smith and Dennis Dunnaway have some input here as does producer Bob Ezra but it doesn't do as much as it could have to really flesh out the picture. For whatever reason, Michael Bruce is nowhere to be found and with Glenn Buxton having passed away obviously he's not onboard.
Alice Cooper, both as a band and a solo act, has a ridiculous amount of importance in the evolution of rock, hard rock and heavy metal. The influence is undeniable and the musicianship and songwriting, particularly as made evident in the earlier material, is exceptional but the film in many ways simply preaches to the choir in this regard. This plays out like an episode of A&E's biography, and for many that will be enough, but we don't get into any real detail about ‘the band' or Furnier's personal life. Lots of style, yeah, but not quite enough substance.The Blu-ray:
Super Duper Alice Cooper arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer and it looks great. Keeping in mind that the entire visual side of things is made up of (sometimes subtly animated) photographs from the decades Alice has been doing his thing as well as archival clips of varying degrees of quality, the clarity is quite good. Of course the older clips and photos can sometimes be in rougher shape than some of the other material but in the context of how this story unfolds, it completely fits. The disc is well encoded and shows no issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues. Colors look good, black levels are strong. This is a fine presentation.Sound:
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is a really strong one. The music that is used constantly throughout the movie sounds crystal clear and frequently comes at you from all sides of the mix in interesting ways. Bass is strong without burying things in the mix while the narration is always easy to follow. There was some obvious thought and care put into the sound design here and it shines through nicely in lossless audio. English, French, German and Spanish subtitles are included as is an English language LPCM 2.0 Stereo track.Extras:
Extras start off with twenty minutes of Deleted Scenes: "Dennis Dunaway & Vincent Furnier On Running Track", "Vince & Dennis On Band Practice", "Joey Greenberg, Cindy Smith, Shep Gordon, Dennis & Alice On Meeting The Managers", "Alice, Shep & Neal Smith On Peace, Love And Detroit", "Bob Ezrin, Dennis & Alice On The Pontiac Farm Rehearsal", "Bob & Neal On I'm Eighteen", "Alice On The Gay Liberation Front", "Joey On School's Out, Meeting Salvador Dali And Alice Lost In Character", "Alice On Visiting Family", "Shep & Alice On Billion Dollar Babies' Success", "Alice On Taking Up Golf", "Alice On Vincent Price", "Alice And Sheryl On Courtship & Marriage", "Alice & Bernie Taupin On Drinking With The Hollywood Vampires", "Alice, Shep & Sheryl On Alice's Alcoholism", "Alice & Dick Wagner On Songwriting", and last but not least "Shep, Kane Roberts & Alice On Alice's Comeback." A lot of this material actually helps to fill in some of the blanks and flesh out the story more effectively. It would seem this material was cut to keep the running time down but when you're going for in-depth and definitive, maybe leaving this material in would have helped.
The disc also includes Alice Cooper Interviews From Metal Evolution, one of Sam Dunn's earlier projects. There's twelve minutes of material here and Alice talks about the early days of theatrical rock, living in Detroit and meeting Iggy Pop, Rosalie Tremblay and CKLW, the more threatening image he used in the early seventies, surviving the character he's become so famous for playing, seventies radio, and more. There's also some input from Dennis on Fernier playing the Alice Cooper character, the infamous chicken incident and some additional input from Neal on the Alice Cooper Group in the seventies. Rounding out the disc is a selection of Additional rare footage. Here you'll find the ‘celery interview' that the feature pulls snippets from, Alice being interviewed by R. Couri Hay, and some footage of the ‘Department Of Youth Clean Up.' There's also some amusing footage of ‘snake auditions' in here. Menus and chapter selection are also included and inside the Blu-ray case is a full color insert booklet containing an essay on the film and a bunch of nice color photographs.Final Thoughts:
Super Duper Alice Cooper should have been the definitive look back at the life and times of one of hard rock's most iconic frontmen and it never quite goes deep enough into its subject to get there. The documentary is entertaining enough and as such worth seeing but it relies too much on the visuals (which are quite impressive) and never really gets past the surface level of its subject. If you're new to Cooper's work and want a basic biography, this fits the bill and it is a fun watch but those looking to learn more than the basics may be disappointed. The Blu-ray has a few decent extras on it and it looks and sounds great, but the documentary itself feels incomplete. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.