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The El Duce Tapes (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
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February 8, 2021
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|Contributor||El Duce, Ryan Sexton, Gwar, David Lawrence, Rodney Ascher|
|Runtime||1 hour and 44 minutes|
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In the early 90s, aspiring filmmaker (and General Hospital co-star) Ryan Sexton lugged a giant camcorder into some of the seediest clubs and the filthiest apartments in Hollywood. There he filmed hour upon hour of VHS footage of the jaw-droppingly offensive Shock Rock band The Mentors, focusing on their infamous lead singer, “El Duce.”30 years later, the team behind The Nightmare and Room 237 and the editor of Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist uncover this dusty stockpile of long forgotten – and unseen – footage. They begin to piece together a picture of the man under the black executioner’s hood and what his wilfully offensive act and controversial views might tell us about 21st century America.
An incendiary, tragicomic documentary (midway between The Decline of Western Civilization and Crumb) which has been hailed as “Essential Viewing” by CineVue and called “Dark and Irresistible” by director John Carpenter, The El Duce Tapes will chew you up, spit you out, and leave you floored.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
- Brand new audio commentary with The El Duce Tapes crew
- The Ryan Sexton Tapes – 34-minute illustrated audio conversation between Ryan Sexton and producer Tim Kirk about the shooting of the original VHS footage
- The Nilbog Tapes – Video of the band recording the original score for the film
- More El Duce Tapes – A free-standing alternate assembly of unused material, sort of a sideways sequel
- Tape 2: Hollywood Reservoir – A piece of raw tape providing a peek behind the scenes of the process of shooting the footage and a candid document of El Duce and Ryan’s rapport
- El Duce Stories – A humorous cut-up of a few of El Duce’s famously long aimless stories into one completely incomprehensible and endless word salad
- Return to Rape Rock Mountain – A brand new interview with Steve Broy, aka Dr. Heathen Scum of The Mentors
- Reality Check presents the all-female El Duce tribute band The Womentors
- Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by John Pearson and reverse art by Benjamin Marra
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Manish Agarwal
- Product Dimensions : 0.7 x 7.5 x 5.4 inches; 3.53 Ounces
- Director : David Lawrence, Ryan Sexton, Rodney Ascher
- Media Format : NTSC
- Run time : 1 hour and 44 minutes
- Release date : February 9, 2021
- Actors : El Duce, Gwar
- Studio : Arrow Video
- ASIN : B08P5RH84R
- Country of Origin : USA
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #56,939 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- #263 in Special Interests (Movies & TV)
- #339 in Documentary (Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
Reviewed in the United States on April 7, 2021
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How did so much footage of The Mentors end up. Ryan Sexton was an actor in the ’90s who was making his way doing commercials and ended up on General Hospital - and a role in The Toxic Avenger. One day he found El Duce passed out near his apartment. This wasn’t that odd of a sight in the ’90s. But instead of merely walking by Sexton ended up grabbing his camcorder and filming the band around 1990 and 1991. He got in the pit. He hung out at the band’s parties. He wanted to go deep on a band that seemed rather superficial with their shocking persona and songs. Their guitarist was Sickie Wifebeater. But before Sexton could make a mid-’90s masterpiece, the dozens of VHS tapes went untouched. And then Rodney Ascher and David Lawrence came on board to edit Sexton’s work into what’s a compelling portrait of a repealing person.
This is not a feel good movie about rock in the early ’90s. Even with their controversial PMRC fame, The Mentors weren’t nearly as big as GWAR. You don’t hear the Mentors on the radio. Even after the film, you might not be tempted to run out and buy their albums like recent documentaries about Big Star and Sparks. But we get a sense of the mayhem and ragged nature of the band’s music.
While El Duce comes off as out of control, he discusses his brutal relationship with his father. His old man worked in the military industrial complex designing bombs. It’s strange to think that Al Gore wanted to stop El Duce from ruining innocent children (adolescents, actually) when there’s no clue how many children were killed or injured when El Duce’s dad’s bombs were dropped on various countries. Who was a bigger threat to society?
While much of the film is Sexton’s footage, there’s plenty of news footage from the time and recent history that put The Mentors into context and creates a sense of their impact. There’s a clip of when George H.W. Bush claimed he wanted to make American families more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons. But then they jump forward in time to show how during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing that he had used a phrase that The Mentors were attacked for singing earlier. We see how the things that were so disgusting in the late ’80s are now commonplace. El Duce goes on a rant about building a wall on the Mexican border to keep immigrants out. El Duce could have been president if he hadn’t died in a gruesome way. He’s not as shocking as politicians now. Despite the previous bit, the filmmakers don't make the mistake of presenting El Duce as a prescient, Transgressive Genius.
The strength of this film is that it seldom editorializes or attempts to re-write history.
The El Duce Tapes is an unrelenting documentary that makes you feel the self-destruction of a singer.
The video is 1.37:1 full frame. This keeps the VHS tape from being cropped. The picture has the roughness of analogue videotape. There’s a bit of fun with blue screens and tracking issues. You don’t want the story of El Duce being told cleanly. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA although most of the mix is focused on the front from the original recording of El Duce’s words. The new score is what takes up most of the speakers. The movie is subtitled in English.
Audio Commentary with The El Duce Tapes crew goes into how they went from a pile of VHS to a well-rounded production.
The Ryan Sexton Tapes (34:37) is a conversation between Ryan Sexton and producer Tim Kirk about how they discovered the Mentors and began videotaping the band in VHS. While the conversation is only audio, there’s plenty of photos illustrating their tales.
The El Duce Sessions (4:17) has Nilbog recording the original score for the film. It’s an interesting approach to creating the music for a musical documentary. They used destroyed VCRs to get unique sounds.
More El Duce Tapes (12:54) is more footage edited together.
Tape 2: Hollywood Reservoir (16:45) is more outtakes including a walk through the nature of Los Angeles.
El Duce Stories (3:45) has El Duce’s rambling tales edited together into one strange story.
Return to Rape Rock Mountain (29:04) is a brand new interview with Steve Broy, aka Dr. Heathen Scum of The Mentors. He gives a tour of the old place.
Reality Check (6:17) presents the all-female El Duce tribute band The Womentors. There’s a warning that this isn’t for kids. These ladies go all out in channeling the Mentors.
You like edgy stuff this is for you.
Mentors fans ,gwar, GG fans will all love it.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 7, 2021
For a quarter of a century, these tapes went unused. But now, David Lawrence (the editor of Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist) and Rodney Ascher (Room 237) have taken the footage and recombined it to tell the story of who El Duce was and how The Mentors were prophets or a shocking culture that they themselves would have both fit right into and railed against.
This is by no means an easy watch, but I have no idea why you’d be here if you weren’t already a fan of the days when rock and roll could be stupid, dangerous and both in equal measure.
You can come out of this thinking El Duce was a complete moron. Or perhaps he was a tortured soul who never really had a chance, who took fighting authority figures in high school to the next logical degree. Perhaps he was a victim of abuse who at times was so drunk that he couldn’t articulate how that made him feel, but would rather go for the shock of casual racism or German salutes. Was he in on the joke until he became the joke? Or was that the joke?
The Mentors: Kings of Sleaze Rockumentary came out a year before this and while that may tell a more complete picture, this is the more polished and ultimately heartbreaking movie. There’s a moment where Jerry Springer asks El Duce to take his hood off and then immediately asks him to put it back on. But I kind of think that the mask that he was compelled to wear was way more than just an executioner hood.