TV Party - Films
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, JOHNNY THUNDERS is a bit of a hero to me in this Punk Rock world where heroes are looked upon with disdain. Fact is, his guitar style is out of this world, he was a stunning songwriter and, when he wasn’t strung out, looked fantastic. He also had demons - multiple in fact - but mainly addiction and all the nasty attributes that brings with it. So, this film about his death (around which there is more speculation than just about any other in Rock history), made mandatory viewing.
THUNDERS arrived in New Orleans on 22 April 1991. He would be dead the next day. This film, directed by the Cordero Brothers, draws out those final hours to rather harrowing effect, more akin to a horror movie and, in particular The Shining with some of the multiple hotel corridor scenes.
Thunders is played by Leo Ramsey, and as rumour suggests, is deathly pale and looks more like a fusion of NICK CAVE and STIV BATORS. He gets Thunders’ contrasting moods of arrogance and fragility well. He also makes the Thunders drug addiction and need for Methadone brutally anguished. Unfortunately, many other characters in the film just fail to connect.
After arriving in New Orleans, Thunders appears to have a bag full of money - which an elderly female in the room opposite observes. This duly gets robbed sending Thunders into turmoil.
He talks of reforming the NEW YORK DOLLS without David Johansen and claims the root of his drug addiction can be found in the death of former DOLLS drummer, the late Billy Murcia, whose ghost appears in the film. He loses focus during a recording session, smashes a guitar and descends into a bizarre and genuinely horrific world where guns are pointed at and by him, psychiatric inmates chase him, dealers want to destroy him while over-pitching on shots of Methadone.
The film concludes that his death, and the maddening noise that allegedly came from his hotel room, was down to a drink being spiked with LSD - a drug that Thunders never favoured.
Ultimately, while watching, the need to continually remind yourself that this is a movie that speculates about Thunders’ final days and is laden with artistic representation and appropriation must remain constant. It is not a documentary. If you are after a documentary... Good luck given the paucity of facts around the last hours of Thunders’ life.
Running for approx 100 minutes, credit has to be given to the visuals and sets - they look fantastic if fatalistic throughout.
The package includes both a DVD and Blu-Ray disc, along with a CD of the soundtrack which includes a rare live version of ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ that is pretty damn terrific.
Interestingly, I found this much better on second viewing. The first time I saw it, I was appalled, considered it disrespectful and was kinda bored. The second viewing was taken for what it is - a horror movie that has its basis in a very vague set of facts about the death of an icon. And that worked - maybe just as John might have liked it. (31.10.20)