Some weeks ago, a television magazine show highlighted one Corinne Burns (Diane Lane), a Pennsylvanian teenage girl who rebelled against her miserable life by telling her boss where to shove his fast food job. The show received thousands of letters wondering whatever happened to Corinne, so tonight they are catching up with her. She is interviewed in her home, and despite not having a job, a father who disappeared when she was little and a mother who has recently died of lung cancer, she remains defiant, even smoking in spite of her mother's fate. The only thing Corinne has to hold onto, the only thing that keeps her going, is the band she has formed with her sister and cousin: ladies and gentlemen, the fabulous Stains...
The director of this film was Lou Adler, the producer of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and all hopes were for a cinematic experience that cult audiences would return to many times in a similar fashion. However, it was a resounding flop, and picked up but a minor following when shown on television. With a script by Jonathan Demme and Nancy Dowd (writer of Slap Shot), one might have high hopes for a raunchy and intelligent look at the music industry, but they had their names taken off the credits when they didn't appreciate what happened to their work.
What much of the film is concerned with is Corinne's rise to fame, but what you take away from it is how awful touring with a band across America can be - indeed, the story all takes place on what might be the world's worst ever tour. However, the film is of interest to punk fans because the band that the Stains manage to bluff their way to supporting is comprised of Ray Winstone on vocals, the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones and Paul Cook on guitar and drums, and the Clash's Paul Simonon on bass. Not only that, but the songs of the band, named the Looters, are written by Jones and Cook so they at least sound some way to being authentic.
The Looters are a support band themselves to an over the hill headliner act called the Metal Corpses, led by Fee Waybill of the Tubes, who are coasting on past glories. Or they are until one of the group ends up dead of a drugs overdose and the Looters take over the top spot, with the Stains attracting interest thanks to T.V. coverage of this teen group whose lead singer wears a see-through blouse and has the motto "We don't put out". That's Corinne finding her place as spokeswoman for dissaffected teen girls across the United States, but fatally for the supposed rebellious attitude, she never says anything especially incendiary, largely relying on a pout and dyed hair to put across her controversy.
It's strange to see a film try to ride the wave of genuine punk rock after it was all over, and this film must have felt dated even to those few who saw it when it was first released. To add to that, Adler's flat direction sabotages any energy that should have been worked up, making the footage look like a guide to a selection of drab Middle American towns. And then there's the Stains' music, of which we hear two whole songs - they sound painfully amateurish and don't even have a drummer (tapping a tambourine against your leg doesn't count, Corinne). That said, there is one great scene near the end which doesn't involve the girl group: the Looters trying and failing to perform against the hostile response of an army of teenage girls dressed alike, chanting "We want the Stains!" and giving them the finger. The clichéd disillusionment that follows is to be expected, but the obviously tagged on happy ending where the Stains apparently become the Go-Go's is the true false note.