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Music Video Distributors presents
Badsville (2001)

"Logically, it doesn't make any sense that I'm still doing this."
- Ricky Vodka (Guitarist for Motochrist)

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: May 12, 2002

Stars: The Superbees, The Hangmen, Motochrist
Other Stars: Throwrag, Bubble, Lo-Ball, Dragbeat
Director: P.J. Wolff

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, sexuality, drug references)
Run Time: 01h:23m:21s
Release Date: May 14, 2002
UPC: 794061700923
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C C+B+B B+

DVD Review

Rock and roll is dead. At least, most starving musicians would say so. What was once all about artistry and freedom of expression has now been chewed up and spat out by corporate America, turned into an emotionless industry run by power hungry brokers wearing million-dollar suits. Nowadays, any struggling band not willing to play by their rules of creating watered down radio friendly hits had better have a cult following or quite a gimmick, otherwise they will be doomed to a life of obscurity. Filmmaker P.J. Wolff candidly shows this obscure side of rock and roll in Badsville, a film that focuses on 13 unlucky Los Angeles bands cursed to forever shoot for the stars, yet remain in the gutter.

When I read the brief synopsis of Badsville, I feared that it would simply glamorize a lifestyle that is anything but glamorous. However, Badsville appropriately digs deep into the grit of the music industry, where drug addiction and shattered dreams are as commonplace as breathing. Live performances intertwine with startling dialogue from wannabe rockers, several of whom have enjoyed moderate success and lost it, while others are over the hill. These contributors discuss their motivations to be rock stars, ranging from a simple and admirable love of the music to the silly idea that musicians always get laid.

Filmed on multiple camcorders, the style of Badsville captures the L.A. club scene admirably, yet none of the bands profiled are anything one might hear about outside of this film. All of them play an aggressive yet monotonous style of punk rock, and while many of them display tremendous energy, none of them prove to be distinguishable from the next act. The Superbees and The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs are both impressive with their in-your-face style of speed playing, but their three chord punk quickly gets old. Texas Terri & The Stiff Ones, on the other hand, have nothing going for them but a screaming female lead and a drummer who sounds as if he has not changed his drum heads in ten years. On the quirky side, The Newlydeads features an old and overweight singer trying his best to be Marilyn Manson, while the lead singer for Throwrag wears an orange polyester suit and mumbles off what sounds like a strange sort of voodoo punk. The bands are mildly amusing at best, yet they lack the necessary talent to keep viewers engrossed in Badsville for its 90-minute running time. The most powerful moment of the film is rough footage of a tragic concert by Dogs D'amour, where the lead singer sliced himself on stage and eventually passed out from the pain. Even as he was carried off, the band continued to play until the drummer destroyed his drum kit in a genuine fit of rage rather than false showmanship.

As honorably as Badsville covers certain portions of the Los Angeles music scene, there are countless missed opportunities. The film does not document what it is truly like to be a struggling musician, which I will admit, would have been quite a task. The style of the film becomes quite repetitive in the way it simply moves from interviews to performances and back again. There is no deep focus on the inner band pressures, the grueling concert setups, the incredibly late nights and dreads of the working day afterward (for those who might have day jobs). To truly encompass this lifestyle, there needed to be a wider variety of footage. Completely absent are musicians' backstage interactions, the arduous task of pooling money together for demos, and most laborious, dealing with the club promoters who scarcely give a new band the time of day. These facets are briefly discussed during the interview segments, but never shown, which might have allowed the viewer a chance to fully comprehend what happens during a day in the life of a stressed out artist.

The most irritating of Badsville's flaws is P.J.Wolff's focus on one style of music. His intention to create a film about rock and roll bands is clear, but with all the different styles of rock and roll, his strict devotion to punk rock is completely one-sided. Badsville has its shining moments, and many of the trials and tribulations of the music industry are displayed admirably. However, Wolff's lack of attention to the big picture and narrow concentration on his favorite bands makes Badsville feel like nothing more than the work of a fan rather than a filmmaker.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For a documentary film shot on an expensive camcorder, the 1.33:1 image transfer is quite good. The overall picture is smooth and blemish free, with vibrant colors and bold blacks. Grain and motion artifacts are minimal, and the few instances where they are evident are not bothersome. While the picture exhibits a low budget appearance, the gritty nature of the L.A. club scene is effectively captured.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is monaural for the interview segments, and opens up slightly for the musical numbers. The live music exhibits a raw quality that genuinely preserves the feeling of being in a tightly-packed club. Vocals are unsurprisingly muffled and indistinct, which is no fault of the recording, but rather the fact that the many singers involved do not know how to properly hold a microphone. There is an expected lack of bass, given the small microphones used for recording and minimal post-production involved. Thankfully, the music has been recorded with multiple microphones from the audience rather than directly from the soundboard, which often dulls the live characteristic of the recording. For a low budget mix, distortion is minimal, and the soundtrack naturally captures the tones of the Los Angeles club scene.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 8 cues
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:05m:56s

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
Extras Review: While not necessarily top-of-the-line extra material, the inclusion of these special features is more than I expected from this obscure release. Particularly commendable is the full-length audio CD featuring a single song from the majority of the bands portrayed in Badsville. Personally, I think every track is nothing but below average demo material, but the CD is a perfect companion piece for Badsville and one that can be enjoyed outside the confines of a home theater.

One of the flaws with the DVD is that the navigation is cumbersome. Pressing "menu" while watching the extras or main feature will not access the menu screen. Another frustration is the lack of subtitles. The manufacturers felt compelled to burn in subtitles for one song by the Hangmen, but it would have been nice to have a choice to access subtitles for all songs, especially considering the indistinguishable lyrics.

A section titled Extras is a collection of extra footage shot for the film and features additional live performances from each of the bands. This is an admirable and lengthy section of live music that will certainly be enjoyed by fans of the music in Badsville.

The outtakes section features deleted scenes, some of which should have been used in the film and others that had me puzzled by their absurdity. Overall, this is another extensive collection of additional footage and an honorable special feature.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

While I do not recommend the film, the Badsville DVD is a fine effort over the usual lackluster attention given to obscure releases. Featuring a nice collection of special features and a full-length audio CD, Badsville is a worthwhile package for die-hard fans of punk rock.


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