Filmed in 1981, released in 1982, but almost impossible to see ever since, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains caught the tail-end of the punk boom with an unusual degree of gritty authenticity.
A cult favourite (of course), it even co-stars Clash bassist Paul Simonon alongside Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook as The Looters, a foul-mouthed Britpunk band, fronted by a lean young Ray Winstone in Brando leathers.
15-year-old Diane Lane plays the stroppy orphaned small-town Pennsylvania wannabe whose sullen mantra “We don’t put out” becomes a rallying cry for armies of look-alike grrrl-punks in scanty clothes and New Wave makeup.
Lane and her fellow Stains – played by 13-year-old Laura Dern and Marin Kanter – strike it big by piggybacking a miserable Midwest tour with Winstone’s urchin gang and a bunch of washed-up acid casualties.
Inevitably, fame sees The Stains evolve from spiky sensations to jaded sell-outs, exploited and spat out by the system they once despised. Bizarrely, all this happens in the space of a few weeks, with no hint of a record contract or single release.
For all its naturalistic grit, The Fabulous Stains is more Breaking Glass (1980) than Slade In Flame (1975). It feels like a clunky exploitation movie in places, despite being made with serious talent and major studio money.
Screenwriter Nancy Dowd had previously scripted Hal Ashby’s Coming Home (1978), while director Lou Adler was an established music industry tycoon. Punk scene-maker, political activist and Clash collaborator Caroline Coon gets a ‘special consultant’ credit.
The cult interest around this film is largely due to word-of-mouth mystique. Paramount shelved it following poor test screenings, then grudgingly granted a limited art house release in the mid 1980s.
A disgruntled Dowd removed her writing credit after an incongruous upbeat ending was grafted on later.
But the film’s reputation grew in the wake of grunge and Riot Grrrl in the early 90s, with Courtney Love and Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna crediting its influence.
THE METAL CORPSES
Lou Corpse (Vocals)
Jerry Jervey (Guitar)