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Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Runaways & Edgeplay: 2 Movies About One Band

Two very different movies about the same band. The Hollywood version, starring Dakota Fanning & Kristen Stewart and released in 2010 mainly spotlights the relationship between Currie & Jett, yet gives little kudos to Lita Ford or the brilliant Sandy West. Also no mention is given to bassist Jackie Fox and her departure from the band when the band were in Japan. Whilst the movie is okay (has a good soundtrack and performances by The Runaways) it does fall far short of a definitive treatment of the band and their influence. The movie is based on Cherie Currie's book 'Neon Angel' and both Currie & Joan Jett gave the movie their blessing. But so much seems to be missing in the film from the 'real' story of the band.

You Can Watch Parts of The Movie Here.

Edgeplay, is a different beast altogether. Made by former Runaways bassist Victory Tischler-Blue and released in 2005. Vicki manages to get interviews with all The Runaways except Joan Jett. The final cut of Edgeplay is actually very different to the movie that Blue created. This is what she had to say about her movie and the struggles to get it released and on the new movie. This is taken from The Sydney Morning Herald (July 9th 2010):

''It was ugly,'' Tischler-Blue says. ''Blackheart [Jett's management company] have been very ugly about it. There have been a lot of lawsuits going back and forth.

They made the release of my film very, very difficult. They destroyed the first version, which is all about the music, the performances, the songs, by putting a claim against the film. I lost the rights to the Runaways' music, so I had to go back and re-edit to make a completely different film.''

As a latecomer to The Runaways after their initial rush of '75 to '77, the muso-turned-filmmaker was in a unique position to document a truly historic, if creatively meagre, rock'n'roll phenomenon.

The band she joined was already damaged: a disparate alliance of
17 and 18-year-old Los Angeles girls facilitated by glam-rock impresario Kim Fowley (see Kiss, Alice Cooper) and thrown to the wolves from San Fernando to Tokyo.

Currie, the band's bombshell front chick, was only months away from quitting the group. As the band's junior focal point, she hadn't coped with the fame, drugs and other abuses that greeted a pretty blonde minor wearing corset and suspenders on the '70s rock stage.

''Jailbait rock'' was a media catchphrase encouraged by Fowley. He's portrayed as a deranged comic-book villain in The Runaways but cuts a more disturbing figure in Edgeplay's interview footage.

''Kim and I are friends, always have been,'' Tischler-Blue says. ''My take on Kim will probably surprise you but he gave me great gifts as a kid, tremendous tools and self-belief. I'm very grateful I had him as a mentor, as weird as he is; as twisted and inappropriate as he is - and he is.''

Currie and lead guitarist Lita Ford give vent to much less charitable views of Fowley in Edgeplay. Their scathing recollections of his verbal violence and Machiavellian style come across as the tip of an iceberg of abuses by parties unnamed.

''I have to be very careful what I say, for legal reasons,'' Tischler-Blue responds. ''There are stories that I can only half-tell in the film for a variety of reasons, legal as well as moral. I could only go so far.''

What's clear from the often uncomfortable interviews in Edgeplay is a tangled web of abiding hostilities between various band members - and the lasting anger and emotional torment of several of their parents.

Drummer Sandy West, a co-founder of the band who died from lung cancer four years ago, cuts an especially tragic figure.

None of this appears in the Hollywood version, which is re-imagined by rock-video director-screenwriter Floria Sigismondi as a redemptive buddy drama between feisty brunette Jett (played by Kristen Stewart) and blonde ingenue Currie (Dakota Fanning).

''I have issues with it,'' Tischler-Blue says. "I've been contacted by a few of the actresses in the movie. They told me they loved Edgeplay, they watched it religiously to get a feel for the girls and their nuances, what their characters were about. That made me feel good.

But with the movie, the slant is the Joan-Cherie relationship. I feel like they could have honoured Sandy's memory a little better.''

The worst casualty of both films, however, is the music. In The Runaways, we cop Fanning's dud karaoke version of their sole hit, Cherry Bomb. In the documentary, thanks to Jett's legal embargo, it's replaced by Ford's solo noodling and a couple of tracks gifted by elder stateschick Suzi Quatro.

"And that, unfortunately, is not my call," Tischler-Blue sighs. ''The first version of my film [the one with all the performance footage] may someday be released as a bootleg. Who knows? Maybe I should just put it out there, create a viral video.

''It's a shame. I'll never understand it. Nor will my bandmates. I suspect it's more Joan's management than Joan. But I don't know. I really don't know.''

Ultimately, as with all stories, what we're left with after each film is only a version of whatever the truth might be. The Hollywood construct naturally comes with a neat and tidy subtext: girls can do anything together. Asked about the moral of Edgeplay, Tischler-Blue is less upbeat.

"Oh god. Be careful what you wish for."

My own take on both movies is that I prefer Edgeplay because it is the story as told by the actual band. The only blot on it of course is the absence of Joan Jett and the music of the band (a few tracks do appear but not their most famous songs due to Jett's legal challenge to the movie). The newest movie could have been so nuch better if time was given to develop the other characters instead of just focusing on Jett & Currie.

One good thing that does come out of it all is that people discover afresh the music of The Runaways. They made a number of great albums and opened the door for more female only bands to break into the business.
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