Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains is the kind of glam-punk 80s movie that should probably have an exclamation point in the title (and who knows, maybe if I did a little research on Google I’d even confirm this theory). The film is infused with oddly competing styles; on one hand, it feels like it may have been made with young girls in mind as the audience (an adolescent children’s movie even with a moral and everything); on the other hand, it’s got all the makings of a truly edgy film for the punk audience (wait, isn’t that an oxymoron?). The film wants to be gritty and raw, and at times it gets close (the young Diane Lane is at her best about 3/4 of the way through when she’s on the road touring and nearing breakdown point).
The film has since (and obviously) taken on a cult cinema status and has even been credited by some to have been an underlying inspiration to the Riot Grrrl cultural movement. With an (always) awesome (and young) Ray Winstone, straight off of his work with Alan Clarke in the UK, the film also has a young Laura Dern who holds her own with the aspiring acting chops of Diane and Ray. At times, it feels like the director Lou Adler is not sure if he wants to make a French New Wave film (or would that be New Waver?), with some scenes taking on a very “freeing” view of the female leads. The detail and attention paid to how they create their looks is, for a punk rock movie, something of a delicacy for the filmmaker. Contrast it with another 80s punk film like Smithereens and you’ll notice far less attention paid to how the image is formed, as to how it used and what it represents.
Lane’s character (at the time of the film’s release, probably coolly) recalls greatly the appearance and demeanor of a young Siouxsie Sioux (now, distractingly). In fact, the whole way through the film I kept thinking is this supposed to be an inspiration or a mockery? Structurally, the film is a standard dramatic narrative, lightly infused with a sort of Border Radio reminiscent documentary interview scene or two thrown in to bookend the narrative. The story has been expanded upon over the years in much deeper and more complicated ways – think Almost Famous. There’s a moral and a couple cool 80s moments, but for real punk 80s experience, go watch Downtown 81 or Blank Generation or something and listen to the “Left of the Dial” boxset.
Editor’s Note: Here’s a two-part, really concise and interesting background story to how and why this film came to be, what kind of antics happened on set, and much more. It appears to be a portion of a larger “making of” doc on the film, which just recently found it’s way to DVD and VOD. Enjoy!