[8 February 2010]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Other than the fact that it stars Adam Ant and features Debbie Harry in a small part, I cannot figure out exactly why 1995’s Drop Dead Rock is considered a comedy cult classic. I could understand it being a fan favorite, perhaps, but only if you’re a fan who really, really loves Adam Ant and has an embarrassing soft-spot for B movies and bad acting. Wait. Scratch that. I just described myself, and I still don’t get it.
Of course, everyone has their opinions and obviously everyone’s tastes are bound to be somewhat different, not to mention questionable, when it comes to what they’re willing to confer cult status upon, so here’s the movie in a nutshell, should you decide to take a crack at it. Spazz-O (Ian Maynard) is every tired, over-the-top, washed-up wanker of a rock star cliché. He’s at least 20 years past his prime, if he ever had a prime. He’s an arrogant alcoholic and he’s abusive to his die-hard fans as well as to his manipulative weasel of a manager (Ant, who, believe it or not, may be the most natural actor in the cast) and his former porn star wife (Chelsey Parks).
The missus and the manager hatch a plan to kill him for his insurance money, hiring an “independent extermination agent” to do the deed. The murder is foiled when never-will-be rock band Hindenburg kidnap Spazz-O in order to get a demo tape heard, and tie him up in the bassist’s parents’ garage. Outraged at the indignity, Spaz sprays them with spittle and insults, almost as if he’s unaware of his position in the situation.
He boastfully tells his bumbling captors not to hurt him because, among other things, he’s got “an Ejaculator 2000 guitar with Ball-Buster pick-ups, a velvet-covered Porsche and a sauna with air-conditioning”. These and many more jokes along the lines of absurd excess are meant to be ironic, but almost none of them actually work. It’s too much, even for a film intentionally trying to go overboard. What’s intended as farce simply falls flat, and, unfortunately, it over and over again until the credits roll.
Considering its high camp value and its complete willingness to push that beyond even the most kitschy of boundaries, there is sadly very little to enjoy in this film, unless you like viewing things in a state of permanent cringe. In fact, one of the best bits—maybe the only truly good one—might be a snippet of the recurring “Music Video Network” news segments, in which members of Slayer, Def Leppard and Cheap Trick give their reactions to Spazz-O’s abduction and Joey Ramone gets the definitive last word.
In the “making of” documentary feature, Writers Ric Menello and Alan Dubin (who also directed) explain that the idea they were originally going for was “A rock and roll Ransom of Red Chief”. While that’s a great starting point, it just doesn’t translate well here and really never follows through as a plot in Drop Dead Rock. For the idea to work, Spazz-O would have to do more than act like an obstinate nine-year-old in bondage gear with a histrionic John Lennon-meets-John Lydon accent. Then again, if you like that sort of thing…