Super Duper Alice Cooper (2014)

Shock Rock Icon, Alice Cooper, Looks Back at the Dark Roller Coaster of His Life and Career in this Flashy and Sometimes Harrowing Rock Documentary!

Documentary filmmaker and “heavy metal scholar,” Sam Dunn, whose previous work includes “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” (2005) and the VH1 Classic series, “Metal Evolution,” presents this new feature length exploration of the life and horrific career of Vincent Damon Furnier, born the son of a preacher in Detroit who was transplanted to Phoenix, Arizona with his family as a child because of his asthmatic condition.

The film spends a great deal of time exploring Cooper’s early life including his happy, church oriented childhood and early influences. The Beatles and the British Invasion were a call to arms for 14 year old Furnier, who started his first band, The Earwigs, as a Beatles spoof. The Earwigs’ resounding popularity at Furnier’s high school led to the formation of The Spiders and soon enough to The Alice Cooper Band.

I consider myself somewhat of an Alice Cooper fanatic, and I’ve  seen Cooper in concert with various backing musicians no less than 10 times. I’ve seen pretty much everything ever released on Cooper and I’ve read his autobiography, “Golf Monster,” but there is a tremendous amount of footage from Cooper’s early life and career on display here that I’ve never seen before. Director Sam Dunn and his crew have done some amazing archival research and dug up a treasure trove of Rock n Roll gold here among some rather frightening skeletons in Cooper’s closet.

Interwoven into the film is footage from the 1920 silent version of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” starring John Barrymore, and the central theme of the documentary presents the epic battle between Furnier and the alter ego he creates over a number of years on the stage. Alice Cooper is a character that at times in his life would become so powerful that it would take complete control over its master. It would take Furnier decades to ultimately be able to “control the monster,” and he would ultimately end up on the very edge of both life and sanity twice in his life; once due to alcohol and the second time due to cocaine. These descents into madness are well chronicled in his music.

There is some footage of an interview with Tom Snyder on “The Tomorrow Show” that’s difficult to watch. Cooper is almost unrecognizable. He’s deathly gaunt, his hair is apparently falling out and it looks like his make-up was applied by a crack addicted clown. This may have been the lowest point in his career.

The stories told by Cooper and Dunn here aren’t recounted without a little mythologizing. The old story of how Alice Cooper got his name is told, but unlike in years past when Cooper has debunked some of the more fantastical legends surrounding that story, in “Super Duper Alice Cooper” we’re told the version of how the band was messing with a Ouja board and spoke to the spirit of a Salem witch who had been burned in the Salem Witch Trials, and who told them her name was Alice Cooper.

Questionable urban legends aside, the film is always a visual treat. There are no “talking heads” on screen. Cooper narrates most of the footage that includes family photos, animation and vintage concert footage, and bonus opinion is added by legends like Elton John, Johnny Rotten, Dee Snider and Iggy Pop.

The story of Alice Cooper is ultimately one of triumph and the film concludes with Alice’s return to glory and introduction to the heavy metal scene (where he was already the old master) during a live MTV concert broadcast on Halloween night in 1986.

As a rabid Cooper fan, I would have liked to have seen more. There’s another 30 years left of story to tell; Alice’s relationship to the 80’s horror boom (his theme for Jason Voorhees and his role as Freddy’s father in “Freddy’s Dead“), his Brutal Planet haunted house chain, his sequel to “Welcome to My Nightmare,” his induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, etc. It’s like ending the story of Elvis with the ’68 Comeback Special!

Unlike Elvis, however, Alice seems to have met and defeated his demons. He’s now a thirty year sober, re-born Christian, golf fanatic. I suppose that story isn’t nearly as compelling and dramatic as the one Dunn wants to tell about a man and his own created demon. That story ends with, “and he lived happily ever after,” following the Halloween MTV concert in 1986.

At a special screening at Carmike Stonybrook Theaters, which was beamed to select theaters across the country, Cooper taped both a special introduction and an exclusive Q & A where he answered questions submitted by fans after the film.

A great question from a fan in Indiana regarding his meeting with Colonel Sanders left the audience in stitches. The film recounts (with footage!) the infamous night when someone threw a chicken on stage and Alice threw the chicken back into the audience who proceeded to rip it to bloody pieces. For years, Cooper was on the PETA watch list and couldn’t  escape his reputation as a chicken killer.

“Here comes this nice old man in a white suit,” said Cooper. “Suddenly I realize that this is the Hannibal Lecter of chickens. I have the death of exactly one chicken on my hands, and this guy has a score of 10 billion. Yet everyone loves this guy, and hates me for being a chicken killer! The irony of the two of us being in the same room at the same time was not lost on either me or the Colonel.”

The Phantom of The Ville

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