Lunatic's Serenade

Super Duper Alice Cooper (2014)

Directed by Sam Dunn, Scott McFadden
and Reginald Harkema

You have to love Sam Dunn and his Banger Films cohorts. They have brought us some exhilarating docs on Iron Maiden and Rush, so now they turn their attention to the godfather of shock – the one and only Alice Cooper. Dubbed Super Duper Alice Cooper, this film was anything but super at times, considering the turbulent moments the singer went through battling drugs and alcohol throughout his career.

We start off getting the straight dope on his earliest moments growing up in Detroit; including how frail and sick he was as a child. The family doctor suggested they move him to a warmer climate, so the clan gets uprooted and heads to Phoenix, Arizona. From there we see how the seeds were planted after meeting future guitarist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neil Smith in high school. The first band they started was called the Earwigs and through archival footage you get to see how it all began and where it mutated into Alice Cooper further on down the line.

At the heart of the documentary is this intriguing notion on how Alice struggled with his persona and his real life image of being Vincent Furnier. Dunn and his crew cleverly insert clips from the classic silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into the movie to illustrate and drive the point home about the singer’s struggle with his identity. The images of actor John Barrymore turning into Mr. Hyde are creepy as hell, but also serve as effective window dressing to drive the narrative of the film.

One of the key points addressed in the doc is Alice’s connection to Toronto. It began with the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival show that took place on Sept 13, 1969 where Alice threw out a live chicken into the audience that got torn to shreds by the rabid fans. This incident didn’t do Alice any favors with the press, but it certainly helped to cultivate the dangerous mystique growing around the band. They returned to Toronto in 1971 to enlist the aid of Canadian music producer Bob Ezrin to help record their album Love it to Death. In doing so, Ezrin gave them instant credibility with their first hit single “I’m eighteen,” and it turned out to be a fruitful long-term partnership ever since. There was also a brief mention of the awful riot that took place at Exhibition Stadium on August 19, 1980 when Alice cancelled the show minutes before he was due to hit the stage. That was certainly a low point in the city’s history.

"I thoroughly enjoyed Super Duper Alice Cooper..."

For the most part, the documentary does a fabulous job of really getting into the mindspace of Alice Cooper. We get to fully understand what demons drove him as he matured as a performer and follow along as he split from the band and became a solo artist. I found many of those later moments fascinating, as we hear from both Dennis Dunaway and Neil Smith on how they viewed the break-up of the band and how they saw Alice going solo. We also got some revealing tidbits from his wife Cheryl and his longtime manager Shep Gordon to really help shape the character of Alice.

There’s definitely a ton of information here to devour over and through the use of archival footage we get a glimpse into how Alice’s onstage antics really helped influence a generation of musical acts to follow in his footsteps. He’s linked to the punk movement spawned in the 1970’s from acts like MC5, The Stooges and the Ramones. There’s even a brief segment from John Lydon of the Sex Pistols talking about how Alice inspired him onstage. Dee Snider from Twisted Sister even makes an appearance to talk briefly of how Alice inspired him as a kid growing up in the 70’s and to see that becoming fully realized as he donned the Twisted Sister identity in the 80’s metal scene.

Clearly Alice Cooper is a very influential performer to many generations and the legion of metal acts that came to prominence in the 1980’s. The doc does end off on that big return performance he gave at the Joe Louis arena in Detroit in 1986. The concert was filmed live and it was the initial show to start off his “Nightmare Returns” world tour. At this moment in time he had come to realize how metal and glam acts were being erected in his honour, combining stage theatrics and outrageous performances just like how it was done in Cooper’s formative years. We get to hear Alice explain how he had some reservations getting back on stage after a five year hiatus from being that character, so I found that really telling of what type of man he was.

I thoroughly enjoyed Super Duper Alice Cooper and was pleased how the folks at Banger films approached this doc from a unique perspective. Dubbed the first ever “doc opera” – the use of archival footage, blended seamlessly with animation and rock opera truly helps to make this fresh and innovative. I highly recommend this documentary to Alice Cooper fans and to anyone who enjoys the triumphs and tribulations of a working artist.

Kenneth Gallant, Editor HMS

Lunatic's Serenade Menu