Image Entertainment presents
Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways (2004)
"He said 'I'm Kim Fowley, producer. Do you sing or play an instrument?'"- Cherrie Curie
Stars: Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, Sandy West, Cherrie Curie
Other Stars: Joan Jett, Vicki Blue, Kari Krome, Kim Fowley, Toby Mamis, Suzi Quatro
Director: Victory Tischler-Blue
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:48m:32s
Release Date: 2005-04-05
DVD ReviewI was 16 in 1976 when the debut album by the practically pre-fab all-girl teenage rock band The Runaways was released, and without hesitation I took my meager grocery store bag boy income and bought it. What wasn't to like? Hard rocking teenage girls with guitars, looking a little on the loose side. apparently living a lifestyle every other teen just dreams about. I did the same a year or so later when the followup Queens of Noise came out, which was the last formal release to feature original members Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, Sandy West, Cherrie Curie, and Joan Jett, but by that time the fickle finger of musical tastes had begun to push me in other, more adventurous directions, and I just lost track of The Runaways.
But that's what happens in music. Tastes change. Fads fade. Rock is a veritable blob of mercury, often impossible to grasp and even more difficult to hold tightly for any length of time. If we've learned anything from those VH1 Behind the Music specials, it is that rock and roll is not always pretty, and Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways reinforces that adage in spades.
It comes from director Victory Tischler-Blue, who spent a stint in the band as replacement bassist after Jackie Fox left during the beginning of the end, just after the release of the Queens of Noise album. While on the surface Blue might seem a not-so-impartial choice to direct a "tell all" documentary about the band, it seems that she is apparently the only connecting thread between most of the other members (Joan Jett refused to participate at all, and only appears in archival footage), who apparently dislike one another immensely and have nothing but mostly awful memories of their time in the spotlight.
Formed by iconic record producer/songwriter Kim Fowley (Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss), The Runaways were certainly pre-fabricated, little more initially than a shrewdly calculated marketing product that seems practically obscene; jailbait rock with 16-year-old girls as rock whore fantasy. Blue pastes the band's history together with separate interviews with Ford, Fox, West, Curie and even Fowley, and it seems clear that Fowley was the string-pulling Svengali, ruling with a flood of verbal and mental abuse, though Curie hints at deeper, darker abuses that occurred on the road.
Watching Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways I was struck by the lack of friendship and camaraderie there was in the band then and apparently still today, and by how much animosity and bitterness there was, even as I was plunking down my dollars to buy an album by a group of hot rock chicks that in my teenage heart I knew were living the rock and roll high life. Man, I was so wrong it isn't even funny.
Rights issues and Jett's lack of involvement are the most glaring problem here. It's unfortunate for Blue that she was unable to use any original songs by The Runaways in her film, because unless you're familiar with them beforehand, it might be kind of difficult to appreciate the history of the anthemic Cherry Bomb without being able to actually hear it, and learning that Kim Fowley and Joan Jett wrote it in about 15 minutes for Cherrie Curie to sing at her audition is pointless unless the song is echoing around in your head like it was mine.
The only performances by the band in the film are a couple of cover songs, including live footage of them performing Lou Reed's Rock and Roll in Japan and a brief clip of their rendition of Wild Thing. Oddly enough, the best moments musically come from Suzi Quatro—Jett's onetime idol—who performs two different songs over both the opening and closing credits, and it is her Kids of Tragedy that closes the film as a perfect coda.
Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways does have what you would expect in a rock doc: stories about abuse, abortions, sex, drugs, alcohol, suicide attempts, in-fighting, and life on the road. But there is a real sadness in these remembrances—most of it concerning the abusive Fowley—and when Cherrie Curie wishes someone would have blown Fowley's head off with a gun, it's clear the so-called glory days were not so hot.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Image has issued Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways in a nice-looking nonanamorphic transfer that is roughly 2.35:1. The level of detail and image clarity on the interview segments is quite strong (check out the detail on the Curie closeups), though Blue employs some stylized effects here and there, going from black-and-white to color in a single segment. The archival footage of the group, on the other hand, is rather grainy and washed out.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Audio choices are either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 surround, and for a film about music that is actually fairly light on music the 5.1 track is still the better of the two, offering a deeper, more resonant presence to the few songs used. Interview segments are generally clear, though at one point in a Curie piece there is some noticeable crackle. This could have been a great mix to showcase original songs by The Runaways, but instead it's Suzi Quatro who gets to take advantage here.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Not much in the way of extras, except for the Behind-The-Scenes Video Gallery (06m:21s), which is pastiche of assorted images strung together with random bits of unused interview segments. There are, however, three promotional trailers, including one with Harry Shearer in Derek Smalls/Spinal Tap mode talking about his fictional remembrances of the band
The disc is cut into 21 chapters.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsThis may be of only marginal or little interest if you never heard of The Runaways, but as a painfully honest rock doc Edgeplay is one of the best I've seen, and I'll be honest that it surprised the hell out of me with its frankness.
Sure, it shatters a lot of the fantasy bubbles I had about the band but the revelations here are sadly quite eye-opening, making their history, in hindsight, seemed doomed from the outset.
I only wish that Joan Jett had participated. Recommended.
Rich Rosell 2005-04-07