Super Duper Alice Cooper

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Currently showing in theaters, Super Duper Alice Cooper chronicles the band and the man over about a 20-year period, from early-'60s beginnings to a fresh start in the '80s. The story begins with Vincent Furnier and Dennis Dunaway meeting in high school in Phoenix, becoming fast friends and fronting a few different (mostly cover) bands before inspiration from the worlds of art and music, specifically Salvador Dali and the Beatles, caused them to change styles, start writing their own music and on the advice of a Ouija board, call the band Alice Cooper.

The band's first album, recorded under the watchful eye of Frank Zappa, was widely panned and the group was more or less run out of Los Angeles by the ridicule they received for their live performances. A show in Detroit changed all that; the audience there loved the feral Alice Cooper stage show although it lacked the theatricality the band would soon deliver.

Here then is the meat of the story: from this point on the band's popularity rises rapidly, they have hits like "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out," Furnier immerses himself in the Alice character and booze and that eventually causes resentment with the other band members who feel they're not getting enough credit for the group's success.

Alice Cooper the band ceases to exist as Alice Cooper the man, his own Vince Furnier persona now long gone, is committed to a sanitarium. Cooper exits the looney bin sober, begins a solo career with the successful Welcome to My Nightmare, but then gets caught up in cocaine use.

After his wife leaves him and takes their young child with her, Cooper continues to poison himself by smoking coke until one day he "flushes a rock the size of a baseball" and starts the long climb back to sobriety.

Five years go by and music styles change; when Cooper ponders a comeback he wonders if he can compete with the punk scene that's all the rage at the time. Turns out he could, and in 1986 he makes his much-anticipated return to live performance with a concert in Detroit put on in conjunction with MTV.

This is basically the end of the story as the film presents it; the rest of Cooper's career to the present is just a footnote here, understandable since he's been clean and sober since the '80s.

There's no dirt that needs to be dug into now and this film is essentially about one man's triumph over adversity. The filmmakers use a technique throughout that really ties everything together nicely; presented in a noir style in Black & White and with sly visual comparisons of the Vince/Alice dual personality to that of Jekyll and Hyde, the visuals really pop and the film is always riveting. Lots of archival footage is included but with fast edits, and the commentary, coming from Cooper, his band members and luminaries like John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), Iggy Pop and Bernie Taupin is all done through voice-over so there are no annoying cuts to talking heads.

A DVD/Blu-ray release date for Super Duper Alice Cooper has yet to be announced.

There is a special theatric event across North American on the day this review was published (April 28th) Find details here.

Super Duper Alice Cooper

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