Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains DVD Review
PictureThe Stains receive a pretty reasonable SD transfer that is colourful and well-detailed. Its 1.85:1 source has some elements of spotty damage, but this are easily ignored. Colours are not washed-out and, in some cases, can be surprisingly vibrant. The primaries have had an electrical-prod shoved up them and reds can pop out with extravagance as any scene with Corinne in full get-up, or especially when legions of copycat-attired fans fill the screen.
Blacks aren't the best in the business, but the interiors and the club scenes shouldn't trouble anyone too much with their lack of defined shadows. Contrast can be a little jacked-up too, but once again, not enough to cause any serious problems. Grain is present throughout, but there are certain shots and scenes that seem to generate more of it. It is never overly swamped with grain, however, and the transfer shows no signs of any overt noise removal. But there is a degree of edge enhancement that can rear its ugly head when objects - people, equipment, buildings - are seen against lighter backgrounds. A couple of times I found this distracting, to be honest.
Detail is fine on close-ups - Corinne applying her makeup, Lou's Gene Simmons-style clown-paint and the gelled flicks of Billy's barnet, for instance. Exterior shots of dreary towns and rain-sodden fields have moments of clarity but the film tends to look its best when it is up close and personal. To be fair, this looks a lot better than I thought it would and its rough-round-the-edges appearance actually enhances the mood and the style of the film.
SoundWe get two options with this release. There is a 2.0 stereo mix which is the basis for the film's original sound mix, and a newly designed DD 5.1 alternative that doesn't really do much in the way of all-round surround, but does come alive when the music begins.
Dialogue is tinny and overpowered all too easily. I didn't have a problem hearing any of it, but it is definitely recessed in the mix - both mixes in fact. This is compensated for with the presentation of the songs. The guitars are vibrant, the drumming wild and punishing and the singing is forceful and arresting. The hubbub of the various clubs isn't so hot, though and doesn't convince. Whenever we are witnessing one of the bands play, there is little effort being made to have us believe that we are actually in with a crowd of other people.
The stereo spread across the front isn't consistent with either mix. Sometimes there is a little bit of directionality - doors, voices, etc - but at other times, there is nothing but dead space. In this respect the film often comes across as very limited and close-in as opposed to opened-out and steered about. When intended support band, The Metros (a type of B52 mass act) suddenly come on, the fierce drumming does make a big impression, though, making you realise that the transfer - either in 2.0 or 5.1 - could have been so much better if it had managed to be consistent.
With no hiss or age-related distortion that bothered me with either track, I would have to say that I plumped for the 5.1 mix for the simple reason that it possesses more power and gives the performances a bit more oomph. But whatever your opinion of the mixes here, both have to sound an awful lot better than any of those poor quality bootlegs that have been floating about for years.
ExtrasOf the two commentary tracks, the one with Diane Lane and Laura Dern is definitely the best. The two have a great rapport and clearly relish the chance to reminisce about their time in Vancouver and Philadelphia making The Stains. Both have keen memories and provide lots of trivia and anecdotes about the cast and crew, and each other, and a terrific sense of humour and self-deprecation which pays dividends in getting their opinions across. Much fun is had at the expense of Ray Winstone's cockney accent - which they seem to have had trouble deciphering ... and still do. There are tales about The Exorcist, believe it or not and about the various bands that sprang up around the time. And the love scene between Corinne and Billy is given some discussion. But what they don't draw attention to - and nor does director Lou Adler in his solo commentary - is the fact that Diane Lane was actually only fifteen at the time. Hmmmm ... dodgy stuff whichever side of the Pond you are on, whether or not anything took place or not. Anyway, the girls' chat-track is fast and fun and the giggly pair have an infectious enthusiasm that Adler definitely does not. His commentary is flat and sparse and his memory is not as good as theirs.
We also get a 68-image Stills Gallery which is pretty superfluous, and some inserts in the package which provide the backstory, legend and legacy of the film.
There is a documentary chronicling the making of the film and the legendary myths and tales that have grown up around it - underage drinking, drugs and sex on the bus amongst other spurious accounts of production hassle - but this has not made it onto the disc due to licensing rights. This is a shame as the story behind the story would have proved fascinating.
VerdictA long-awaited release then for a film that, whilst not the great dissection of the music business it is so endlessly touted as being, is fine old entertainment from start to tacked-on finish, just the same. It is hugely clichéd and, apart from the swearing, is actually incredibly soft and smothered with low-budget cheese. But as terrific early performances go, you get two of the best here. Lane is incredibly believable as the sassy, unpredictable teen-rebel and Winstone proves that even at this fledgling stage in his career he was, indeed, the Guv'nor. Adler's movie rocked the boat, but it is hard to understand just how big a wave it could have created. It is great to see rock legends chewing the fat, though, and, of course, to hear good old Brits gobbing-off to bewildered Yanks, who can't make head nor tail of what's being said.
The disc is complemented by two commentary tracks, but only the one from Lane and Dern is worth listening to. The transfer is certainly passable for supposedly suppressed film and it is impossible to think that the legions of fans for The Stains will be disappointed with this release after years of inflated-priced bootlegs off Ebay.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.37