Before co-workers passed viral videos e-mail to e-mail, before e-mail and the Internet itself before the best place to find home-grown camcorder crack-ups was America s Funniest Home Videos there was the legend of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. I should add this was also before The Ring I add that because at some point in high school I had a cheap VHS copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and so did many of my friends, and none of us knew where this strange, funny video came from.
From the ether, apparently.
It was taped, dubbed, taped, passed around, dubbed again. Its biggest exposure was via Nirvana, which got a copy and talked it up at every chance in a truly loving way.
What did it show? Kids doing nothing. Hanging out in a parking lot before a concert. Screaming Party! Drinking and falling down. Suggesting the legalization of pot.
One young man in a blond feathered blow-dry cut says he is here to rock and that after rocking, in 10 days, he ll be in the Air Force. They are having the times of their lives, they insist, and what we see is this big parking lot and kids simply shuffling.
Burnouts. Junk cars. Party.
It didn t kill us the videotape in those Ring flicks had no ambition. Instead, it mesmerized and humbled us it threw us back at ourselves and was embarrassing, but since my best friends thought music couldn t possibly get better than Black Sabbath and no human being was cooler than Judas Priest s Rob Halford, Heavy Metal Parking Lot became our Woodstock.
Turns out, we weren t alone.
Heavy Metal Parking Lot: The 20th Anniversary DVD ($19.95) is the DVD premiere of what was an odd VHS phenomenon in the late 80s and early 90s, a hilarious 16-minute public access-produced visit to the parking lot of a 1986 Judas Priest concert in Maryland, complete with stoned metal heads and cheetah-print headbands.
There s more about those 16 minutes on this DVD than you ll ever want to know, and the filmmakers get a little self-aggrandizing, but the film itself, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, is an unintentional masterpiece.
For instance, Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, the guys who shot it, could be called filmmakers only in the most generous sense. They borrowed a camera from a local public-access station and let their curiosity lead them but sometimes that s all you need. A group of kids open up about their dead friend Timmy who wanted to be here. Krulik notices a bruise on a girl s leg and asks if her boyfriend did it, and she casually says yeah, he did. Mostly, though, they just capture the befuddlement of stoned teenagers that and horrible all-Spandex 86 fashions I still see around Ohio from time to time.
To the limited extent it can, Heavy Metal Parking Lot does what great movies about teenagers and rock and roll have always done: It provides a capsule, a yearbook of a very specific time and place. Because you sense smarter people behind the camera than before it, however, the film also predates the baffled, irony-rich interviewing battles of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report by a couple of decades.
Which might be why it seemed so fresh in 1989. It s reality TV.
(Quick caveat: the new Heavy Metal Parking Lot DVD is not widely available at retail stores. Your best bet is an online retailer, such as www.filmbaby.com.)
YE OLDE CURIOSITY SHOP: You know that sinking feeling? I felt it earlier in the year when, for a week or two, Dr. Dolittle 3 ($26.98, available Tuesday) appeared suddenly on Paramount s theatrical slate. Visions of Daddy Day Care linger still. (The horror!) Turns out, no Eddie Murphy; his daughter in the series (Kyla Pratt) can talk to the animals, too. No theatrical smash-and-grab either, which is only fair: Dr. Dolittle 3 is more or less another excuse to showcase the kind of digitally tended talking animals that haunt your dreams and play better in commercials.
Speaking of stuff we d like to leave in our past, the next time you re in a video store, find the new DVD release of Yes: 9012 Live (Image, $19.98). Flip it over, and read the credits. Yes, that s the same Steven Soderbergh, directing a Yes concert, circa 1986. While buddy George Clooney was getting an occasional paycheck on The Facts of Life, Soderbergh was making his directorial debut with this quick straight-to-video release, intended to cash in on the (fleeting) revival of those progressive rock dinosaurs. So how d he do? Not so terrific: Soderbergh, 22 years old when he shot this, threw in lots of colorized-black-and-white visual flourishes that come off as laughably tortured now as Yes psychedelic sci-fi album covers were in 1986.
BETTE DAVIS EYES: It s always nice to see a bargain. What Universal s new Glamour Collections ($26.98 each) lack in extras they make up for in volume.
The Mae West edition includes five of her best star vehicles, including charmer Go West, Young Man (1938) and the W.C. Fields classic My Little Chickadee (1940).
The Carole Lombard collection ups the ante to six films over two discs, the best of which is the William Powell romance Man of the World (1931), while the rest is a decent collection of minor turns by major leading men, like Bing Crosby (We re Not Dressing) and Fred MacMurray (True Confession).
The third Glamour Collection is the best, five pictures with Marlene Dietrich. There s no Blue Angel but three of her collaborations with director Josef Von Sternberg, who virtually created her mystique, are included: Blonde Venus, The Devil is a Woman, and 1930 s Morocco.
CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST: Headed to Europe this summer? Awesome! Let me suggest a brief excursion, if only from your couch, sitting in your underwear, and starting with Breakfast on Pluto (Sony, $24.96), Neil Jordan s underrated mini-epic about three decades in the life of an Irish transvestite (Cillian Murphy). The pubs of Belfast are exquisite this time of year.
Next, hop a British Rail down to London for Judi Dench and her nude revue in Mrs. Henderson Presents (Weinstein, $28.98). Leave the kids in the hotel room.
In fact, leave yourself in the hotel; Dench has officially jumped the fish and chips. Oh, and stay away from eastern Europe. If Hostel (Sony, $28.95) can be trusted, it s full of lunatics with rusty drills who prey on dim fraternity guys.
Bet Fodor s didn t tell you that.
Contact Christopher Borrelli at: email@example.com or 419-724-6117.