Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains
- Diane Lane as Corinne Burns
- Ray Winstone as Billy
- Marin Kanter as Tracy Burns
- Laura Dern as Jessica McNeil
- Steve Jones as Steve
- Paul Cook as Danny
- Paul Simonon as Johnny
- Fee Waybill as Lou Corpse
A film that has developed into something of a cult hit, after being shelved back in the 80’s and gaining exposure later on television, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains is a gritty, backstage look at the rise of a punk band and the inevitable challenges of angst a d fall that follows. It’s not the best movie ever as passages don’t hold up as well as they might have once done, but it’s worthy of attention for its music and lead performance from Diane Lane.
Corinne Burns is an angry, aggressive and bored teenager, whose mother died of cancer a few months prior. She has no real direction in life and holds disdain for almost everything, which is witnessed we she is interviewed by local radio and accosts them. Yet when she sees up and coming punk band The Looters performing live as opening act for has been rockers The Metal Corpses, she is swept away by their attitude and observes them as a way out of her boring life. You see Corinne already has a band of sorts consisting of her sister Tracy and cousin Jessica(despite the fact that none of them have any real talent or practice in performing). With the two bands always at each other’s throats, The Stains are surprisingly signed to be another opening act and the girls set out on tour. On their first performance, their lack of experience shows and the audience lets them know it. But Corinne, now decked out in sheer red blouse, bikini briefs and hair resembling a skunk, lets her fury be heard to the audience. This could have been a disaster for them, yet Corinne’s tirade is picked up by many people as a rallying cry for young girls, thanks to news reporting and a shocked audience. Soon enough, The Stains are gaining major exposure, with young girls copying the look of the band, adopting a fierce rebellious streak and spouting the phrase ‘We don’t put out’. Yet times can chance very quickly in the business and audiences can become fickle, as well as the price of Corinne’s obnoxious ambition which starts to get the better of her and become very noticeable.
Lou Adler adds airs of authenticity to the film, stemming from his background as a music producer. He shoots scenes, particularly the performance segments with a good eye for the kinetic stage presence of the bands. Where The Fabulous Stains really scores is the depiction of influence on others, mainly fandom and the media’s portrayal of the band. The way it is explored is still as timely as today and shows how pernicious it can be and how you can be built up so high, that it’s a given that you will stumble. As an audience, people latch on to things and then drop them quickly, which is shown very well in this movie. On the flawed side, The Fabulous Stains can often veer from one scene to the next, without giving much thought for what came before it. However once the pace settles, things pick up and really take flight in the performance scenes as well as the media coverage parts that poses a double-edged sword for the band. It must also be noted that character development among the supporting part is a bit stilted, with no one particularly standing out. Then again, Corinne and her band are that memorable it more than makes sense and whenever they’re on screen, The Fabulous Stains is very accomplished and memorable. Those are the only real flaws to be found in this flick as the rest of it is pretty well mounted and deserving of the cult status it has attained.
Bringing ferocious bite and lashings of attitude is young Diane Lane in the lead role of front woman Corinne. Lane never softens the character to be overly sympathetic and this goes a long way to showing us how dissatisfied and angry the character is. Topped off with a memorable look, Diane Lane makes a hell of an impression as a wounded youth with one lacerating glare. A young Ray Winstone has the required mercurial tendencies for his part of the up and coming punk, whose band is overtaken by The Stains. The roles of the other members of The Stains are less well-defined, but still acted with assurance by Marin Kanter and Laura Dern. Adding another dimension to the picture is the casting of members of punk and rock staple bands The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Tubes. The parts don’t require much acting, but their presence as performers is felt and appreciated when the performances roll around.
Dated though some of it is, The Fabulous Stains is a genuinely intriguing and at times very relevant look at the fickle nature of fame and the dissatisfaction of youth. Bolstered by some killer music and good work from Diane Lane, it’s good to see a movie like this getting more attention again.