• Decline Of Western Civilization, The - Part II: The Metal Years

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: March 4th, 2016.
    Director: Penelope Spheeris
    Cast: Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Holmes, Brett Michaels, Lemmy
    Year: 1988
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    The Movie:

    Made roughly a decade after the first film, The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is exactly what it sounds like: a look at the heavy metal and hair/glam metal scene of Los Angeles in the late eighties. Clubs had stopped booking punk shows as often and metal's popularity was absolutely on the rise. MTV was playing it, it was on the radio and it was fast becoming an important part of the world's musical culture.

    With crew and camera in tow, Spheeris once again ventured out into the Los Angeles music scene to document what was happening and who it was happening to. Appearing on camera here are some interesting interviewees: Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith (who talks about how much money he spent on dope), Ozzy Osbourne (who, like Darby Crash before him, cooks breakfast on camera in a scene that Spheeris has admitted was staged to make Ozzy look like he had the shakes), Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, Paul Stanley of Kiss (lying in bed with groupies all over him), Lemmy from Motorhead, lesser known/undiscovered bands like London, Odin and Seduce and then more interviews with signed bands like those conducted with Brett Michaels of Poison and members of Tuff, Vixen, Faster Pussycat and W.A.S.P.. It's that W.A.S.P. part that's best remembered… as Chris Holmes is interviewed while floating around in a pool while downing vodka as his aging mother looks on. Staged or not, it's a sight to see.

    Again, live shows play a part in the movie. Look for Lizzy Borden doing Born To Be Wild, Faster Pussycat doing Cathouse and Bathroom Wall, Seduce doing Crash Landing and Colleen, London doing Breakout and Russian Winter, Odin doing Little Gypsy and 12 O'Clock High and Megadeth doing In My Darkest Hour.

    There's a lot of emphasis in the interviews on the party hard lifestyle associated with heavy metal of this ere. Lots of talk of drug and alcohol abuse, playing around with groupies and what not but we also hear from some of these guys, Odin in particular, about just how bad they want to make it. In Odin's case they never did get all that big at all but by listening to the interviews here you'd be pretty convinced that they were determined to do whatever it takes. A lot of people will watch this one to laugh at the ridiculousness of the hair and the clothing and the dated eighties period ‘stuff' that's all over the film but there's more to this than that. Quite a bit of the music featured holds up well and the interviews, if never as earnest as what we see in the first or third movie, are interesting enough and sometimes pretty revealing.

    Press materials for this release state that The Decline Of Western Civilization II features a new 2K high-definition scan of the film, supervised by Spheeris. In keeping with the spirit of the rebellious times in which the footage was shot, the vintage aspects have been respected, and the film retains its original feel. That sums it up quite well, actually. The film is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in 1.78.1 widescreen, which seems correct. Given that this never had a legitimate DVD release anywhere in the world the point of reference is going to be either old VHS tapes or bootleg DVD-Rs made from grey market sources and not surprisingly, the transfer here comes out on top in a big, big way. Detail is quite strong in the film though thankfully it doesn't look like any tinkering has been done to the grainy, gritty aesthetic that has been employed. Minor print damage shows up in the form of some small specks but never to the point of distraction. Colors are reproduced quite nicely and contrast looks good (you’ll really notice in this in the way that the different outfits the various interviewees wear pop!). There weren't any obvious compression issues noted nor were there any problems with edge enhancement or noise reduction - the movie looks great here.

    Audio options are provided in DTS-HD Mono and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio with removable subtitles offered in English only. There's a bit of hiss and static in some scenes and it's been left there as that's just sort of how these movie sounds. As to the surround mix, they spread out the music and occasionally the crowd reaction in some scenes but purists will no doubt prefer the original mixes that are included here instead. Both tracks for the film sound good enough though. Dialogue is always crisp and clean and clear and the levels are nicely balanced throughout.

    Extras for The Decline Of Western Civilization Part III start off with an audio commentary from director Penelope Spheeris and Nadir D'Priest (of London). Like Spheeris' track on the first disc, it's a scene specific talk so she talks about things as they play out in front of us, including the mooning in the lineup featured in the early part of the movie. She talks about interviewing the different people that appear on camera, dealing with Gene Simmons when he wanted to ‘do something classy,' who was and wasn't drinking on camera, why Poison's interview really is funny, how Lemmy was the coolest guy in the movie and of course the fashions and trends that started in this period that have come back again. She notes how sex keeps coming up again and again during the interviews, when drugs are and aren't emphasized in the film, what was shot on a soundstage and what wasn't, trying (and failing) to get Guns ‘N Roses, and of course, the infamous scenes with Ozzy (who she describes as ‘clean and on top of things' and yes, the truth about the pouring of the orange juice) and Holmes (she talks about how much of the vodka was and wasn't real, how wasted he really was, and her thoughts on this infamous scene in general). Again, this is a solid track and quite an informative listen.

    This disc also includes a selection of Extended Interviews (taken from B-roll footage, the only existing elements left) with Aerosmith (they talk about when they formed, playing smaller clubs and then large venues and their rise to success, 19:06), Alice Cooper (he talks about how metal has changed over the years, what makes metal special, his stage show and more, 18:41), Chris Holmes (what it's like to play in W.A.S.P., groupies, his mom making him take piano lessons, why he got all of his tattoos and more, 15:02), Gene Simmons (just hanging out being smug in a lingerie store, how he helped set the trend for the look of metal, what it was like in the early days of metal, the influence of metal on bored people, his thoughts on having a good time and his thoughts on drug use, 20:25), Lemmy (not caring what the media says and just playing Motorhead music, his thoughts on the band's fans, what he likes about the lifestyle, girls, the merging of genres in hard music, 14:42), Ozzy Osbourne (more breakfast cooking, his thoughts on substance abuse, how he became a living legend, the evil side of the business of music, the dangers of burning out, the greatest musician he's ever known, and what to bring to a performance, 21:44) and Paul Stanley (the theatrics in the early days of Kiss, why perspiration is the best inspiration, his thoughts on bands that were clearly influenced by his work, positives and negatives of the rock star life, 16:18). Rounding out the extras on for the second film are its original theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    If you don’t already have the boxed set and just want the second film in the run, once again this is the disc for you. The movie works not only as a documentary but as a time capsule of a ridiculously excessive time in music history. Yeah, some of the footage isn’t ‘real life’ but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining and both the presentation and the extras included on this release make it a must own for fans of eighties metal.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!