Outrage! Controversy! El Duce knows about such things and the mainstream by shouting “BAN THIS SICK FILTH!” made him a far bigger star than he was before Tipper Gore and Jerry Springer brought him into everyone’s living rooms.
The Mentors are El Duce’s band, but tbh, their music is much less impressive than the story. In the same way that we have all laughed at Gwar but very rarely put them on the stereo, The Mentors are all about the raw power and ‘controversy’. It is rare that a music documentary does not send you immediately to check out the back catalogue of the band featured, but I’m sure I can live without The Mentors sonically, which is not to say I did not enjoy this look at their act.
Duce would wear an executioner’s hood (bringing with it remembrances of The Zodiac and of course the KKK) and quite often very little else which he sang his songs of grabbing the girls and doing whatever he pleased. The only thing that made me a little queasy was someone referring to their act as Rape Rock, but as you go deeper into the story, you see that this is just controversy for controversy’s sake, in fact there were many girls in their audience and there is even a female Mentors tribute band who feature in the film too. His salutes to Hitler also leave a bad taste, but that seemed to be the whole point of this on stage character. And he was a character, the film talks to all of his friends and his sister and there are frank interviews with the man himself where he seems astounded that an Aryan Rally would think he would be interested in playing for them.
Much of the film comes from rough home footage shot during the late eighties and early nineties and so it is truly access all areas, for good or bad – we see everything that El Duce does on stage, the whole rock star thing of drinking and signing girls flesh, but then we also see him puking on himself at a party and collapsing on the floor, half naked, exposing that ‘little guy’ that his songs have mentioned. It’s the mixture of laughter and melancholy that makes the film work, this is a guy saying “I don’t care what you think of me!” whilst also constantly talking about how his father beat him and it is obviously the approval he was looking for when he took to the stage. The worst alcoholic excesses are ironically the most sobering moments.
Perhaps the film does outstay its welcome, there are only so many times you can watch an obviously emotionally disturbed individual chugging a 40 to get the applause of teenagers, but then this is also driving the point home in the same unsubtle way that his art did, so overall it is an interesting look at El Duce, right up to his typically un rock n roll death.
(I watched The El Duce Tapes on the Arrow Player, but there is also a deluxe blu-ray version which includes exclusive interviews and a commentary and also a completely different edit made up of unused footage, essentially a sequel in all but name, so guess that would be a four star collection)