featuring: Missi, Gidget Gein, Cory James
director: Chris Nicholas
110 minutes (18) 1999
Wienerworld NTSC DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Emma French
This misleadingly titled unauthorised biography, in which Manson himself is never interviewed, provides some insight into Manson’s path to celebrity and into the fan base that supports him, but is amateurish, very badly made and contains much space-filling irrelevance. The intrusive voiceover by Cory James is tedious and frequently inane. A chronic lack of material ensures that long parts of the film are about other parts of the Florida music scene that produced him, including a mystifying five minutes on an obscure female metal band called Jack Off Jill. Inexplicably, the film also ends chronologically in about 1997. There are plenty of third-rate rock journalists and club owners willing to reminisce about him, but they provide little of interest or insight. Jejune remarks, comparing Marilyn Manson’s image-focused, innovative approach to Madonna and David Bowie, or to radio shock jock Howard Stern fill much of this DVD. Three Florida tramps are also interviewed extensively, even though they are drunk, virtually incomprehensible and have no relation whatsoever with Manson. Nor were the filmmakers allowed to use Manson’s music, so there is a substandard soundtrack of second-rate, derivative death metal.
Christened Brian Warner and originally a rock journalist, Marilyn Manson surveyed the music scene for a gap in the market and formed Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids. He could see that Satanism would sell and he accordingly embraced it, part of a long tradition of cashing in on young people’s fascination with the dark side from Alice Cooper to Rob Zombie. Indeed, part of the appeal of the Osbornes resides in the extraordinary slippage between Ozzy Osborne the rat-chomping Black Sabbath front man and the broken patriarch who roams around his nouveau riche LA home picking up dog mess.
There is a depressing banality about Manson’s shock tactics. An interesting early home video shows him and his band raiding the home of some female friends and wreaking cruel schoolboy havoc. Initially content with childish activities such as going through the underwear drawer and inserting toothbrushes into their rectums, they graduate to sniffing glue and molesting a pet dog before the piece de resistance, feeding a live pet rabbit to a snake in a tank. The pitiful frequency with which animal cruelty is invoked by so-called satanic bands indicates no more than that out-there shock tactics are often bullying confined to the helpless and defenceless. Unsurprisingly, Manson has carefully eliminated band members, including the marvellously named Olivia-Newton Bundy, and close friends on his path to stardom. Much interview footage is given to Missi, his ex-girlfriend of six years standing. Nice but dim, she provides a few insights on his eccentric parents and his ‘softer side’ but little of real use. There is a weird post-end credits sequence interview with Gidget Gein, the bass player on Manson’s first studio album who was expelled from the band and erased from publicity for drug abuse, which also fails to deliver anything shocking or exciting.
Director Michael Moore’s interview with Marilyn Manson in his recent film Bowling For Columbine generated some useful publicity for both of them. It reverted to the same old doctrine of ‘don’t blame me, blame American society’ that Manson has deployed to rationalise his activity from the outset. Naturally, however, in the case of the Christian right and Middle America, Manson espouses precisely the opposite viewpoint: that they are wholly accountable for their own actions and can be mercilessly pilloried accordingly.
Manson’s most recent hit single in the UK was a cover of the 1980s’ Soft Cell hit ‘Tainted Love’. The ultimate sell-out, it is a fitting indication of both the low entertainment threshold of his fanbase and the cynicism of his enterprise. This film is nothing more than a lame PR vehicle for an already over-promoted public figure.