Reviewed by: JimmyO
Tomata du Plenty
What's it about
A punk rocker is left to his own devices after the entire population of America is wiped out. He dreams about a past love and rambles on about many a memory that he made up. A musical that is sometimes brilliant and sometimes just plain wacky.
Is it good movie?
Population: 1 is bizarre, eccentric and utterly incomprehensible. And all of that is meant as a compliment. It is a look back at the punk movement from the early Eighties that recalls a time when punk rock was experimental and raw. But don’t expect a series of punk songs as you go along for the ride, the musical styling’s range from jazz, pop, blues and all sorts of sounds that make for one helluva inexplicable musical trip. It brings the world of music, theatrics and showmanship to the confines of a rock and roll musical. The story revolves around one man who has survived a massive attack on America. He is the only survivor aside for one strange dude that appears in the beginning and the end of the film. This survivor finds himself reliving his past through music while alone in a bunker. His stories revolve around a lost love and a world gone made through nuclear bombs, the Great Depression and the “me generation”. It is nonsensical, f*cked up and actually pretty brilliant.
It stars Tomata du Plenty of the punk band “The Screamers”. He had a pretty incredible stage presence as a punk rocker, and he is able to exude the same power, although on a different level, in the film. His lost love seems to haunt his memory, and she is played by the equally enigmatic Sheela Edwards who is just awesome to watch. While very little seems to make sense, it is very theatrical in a Laurie Anderson sort of way. Director Rene Daalder directs what is basically a one-man show offering several guest stars, with a fascinating energy. While I prefer the music of The Screamers and would have enjoyed a more “punk rock” sound, the entire film screams of punk while it travels under many other styles and sounds.
Now the single problem with the film is that it feels incredibly dated, you can’t avoid that with a movie like this. And those of you who are looking for a punk rock opera will be sadly disappointed. But if you are a fan of punk from that era, and especially if you are a fan of Mr. du Plenty and his band, you will savor every moment. With it’s cheap, early Eighties music video feel, it becomes a train wreck that threatens to find itself in pretentious waters. But I didn’t mind that punk art feel, because it is refreshing to see a band such as this expand upon a singular style. This is a piece of rock and roll art that has faded with time, but it nevertheless hasn’t lost any of it’s chaotic and strange beauty.
Video / Audio
Video: This is probably as good as you are going to get, and it ain’t that bad. It is a newly restored full screen directors cut for your enjoyment.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Sound is pretty good, considering the age of the film and the budget. They did a nice job of restoring this here cult classic.
For a cult classic that came out of nowhere, they sure gave this one helluva good treatment. First off, this is a loaded 2-disc set in which we are offered the Original Trailer and the New Trailer for the film.
Next up you get to see what The Screamers were like live with their performance of “Vertigo”. I dug the song and I dig them live.
With Scenes From Mensch (5:45) we are offered many an odd moment, including Tommy violating Penelope through dance. If that sounds strange, don’t worry, it is. We also get a moment of Penelope in control as she sings a pretty funky song. I dug it in a messed up way. And a lovely bit of music involving the oddity, “If My Heart Could Speak, It Would Hit All The Right Notes”. A very bizarre collection of song and dance. All of this is a part of the “Lost” prequel to Population: 1. And Penelope was hot.
The Palace of Variety Trailer (3:03) is a trailer for the bands shows… I think. Strange little three minutes there.
There is also an extra feature where you can listen to Tomata & Sheela Rare Tracks including “Way of the World”, “America”, “Armies of the Night” and of course my favorite, “Jazz Vampire”. I f*cking love that song. Finally, disc one finishes off with a Gallery of Stills. Now on to disc 2.
In many ways I liked Disc 2 better than the feature itself. The reason why? It’s the live performances baby. But we begin with Je Maintiendrai in Hollywood (26:00) which is a fascinating faux documentary about the making of the film. It is incredibly entertaining. This is far more interesting than most “making of” features and it is pretty funny too..
It’s The Screamers live as they perform “Why the World”, “Nervous”, “Mench”, “She Frightens”, “I Wanna Hurt”, “Vertigo”, “Punish or be Damned”, “Give the Future a Break” and “Encore”. Live, they have a pretty incredible presence that reminds my why I love punk rock from that time.
In this interview with Rene Daalder (35:28), we find out why he loves punk rock and talks about how he became part of Russ Meyer’s “team”. He also talked about directing Massacre at Central High which I really dug. In fact, this interview in a very detailed look at Rene and his involvement with The Screamers and this unique and oddly beautiful film.
In the Tomata du Plenty Tribute (7:04), an older and wiser(?) Tomata introduces himself while standing in his underwear. He tells us that he is going to paint the old punk rockers. We get a snippet of a live performances inter cut with his paintings. What can I say? I liked this little moment.
The Al Hansen: Documentary Preview (9:47) offers a man wrapping his head in tape. It is also another look at the odd man who was one of the most curious artists of that time. I loved the way this film was shot, it is a fascinating look at an artist. And for more on another cult icon, there is Vampira: Documentary Outtakes (6:02) who you will certainly recognize if you are a fan of Ed Wood. This is a series of excerpts from an in-depth interview with the star at 82 years old. Both of these features are pretty f*cking awesome.
Remember I mentioned how much I enjoyed Penelope singing? Well here is Penelope Houston Music Video: Girls (3:29) reminds me that I really and truly do. This is a silly, ridiculous video, but I enjoyed it. For some reason, I find this chick really hot.
If you remember The Screamers and enjoy punk rock from the Seventies and early Eighties, I highly recommend Population: 1. This is an utterly unusual piece of cinema that happens to be packaged together with an extremely entertaining 2-disc DVD set. The music is wild and weird and so is the film itself. I actually prefer the second disc full of extras, but this is definitely a must own DVD for those who appreciate the uniquely curious musing of a punk rock star. Plus, you get to see a twelve-year old Beck playing an accordion… how cool is that? Pretty damn cool in my book.