Director / Producer / Screenwriter / Editor / Composer (Music
Additional music scoring:
Barton Sterling Astor
Joel T. Smith
P. Arden Brotman
April 5, 2005
was an album with a gatefold that resembled the latest issue of Playboy
when you opened it. Singer Cherie Currie with a blue button down shirt,
buttoned way down; tough as nails guitarist Lita Ford in her tight black
v-neck; and rhythm guitarist Joan Jett looking as casual and confident
as ever. It was every young boy's fantasy a sexy all-girl rock
band that were actually kids themselves (all of them 16, except Jett who
was 17). It's that debut album from The Runaways that I still find myself
dazzled by to this day. Since its release in 1976 I have had an obsession
of sorts with this band. Now, when I say obsession it sounds so, ...um,
...sexually perverse. Well, maybe back in '76 it was a sexually driven
obsession, but today it's an obsession with a rock band. A revolutionary
rock band that silenced the cynics that had, for so long, believed that
women had no place in the male dominated world of hard, driving rock 'n'
roll. This film is their story, from the band's beginning to its' sad
This is a film that deals from the artist's point of view. We hear from
everyone but the most successful Runaway, Joan Jett. Jett has not stated
publicly exactly why she did not agree to participate in the making of
the film, but my guess is she did not want to rehash the past and be any
part of a "tell all" type of production. Let me say that I admire
that line of thought, if in fact that is the reason for Jett's absence;
but let me also say, ...Goddamn it Joan, it would have been so incredible
with your input. Is the absence of Jett felt while watching the film?
Of course. Absolutely. With Jett writing or co-writing just about every
song The Runaways ever did, the soundtrack has virtually no Runaways songs
on it because of Jett's complete opposition. Is it still an interesting
account of the band without her? Absolutely. The film is produced, directed,
and edited by ex-Runaway Vicki Blue, who now goes by the name of Victory-Tischler
Blue. All through the film she takes a backseat to all of the original
members of the band (except Jett, of course) when they vividly reminisce
of their time with the band. Going into this, I was afraid I would hear
too much about the later years that Blue was a part of, and not enough
about the beginnings of the band. I was pleasantly surprised to find that
the film dealt with the entire history of the band from start to finish.
Blue does a wonderful job of walking us through almost every notable occurrence
in the band's history.
the film's title and cast are introduced in the opening scene, it is befitting
to hear a killer track from Suzi Quatro playing in the background. Joan
Jett was obsessed with Quatro, and the band was based around the same
"tough rocker chick" sound that Quatro was popularizing for
fans in Europe at the time. Cherie Currie was actually told to learn any
Suzi Quatro song for her audition. When she chose Quatro's lame cover
of "Fever", the girls were busy looking down on her, while Jett
and manager Kim Fowley penned a little tune called "Cherry Bomb"
on the spot. Currie ended up singing the tune for her audition, and the
rest as they say is history. We also learn here that bassist Jackie Fox
auditioned with the Kiss classic, "Strutter". Fox later in the
film explains that each member had a particular musician that they emulated.
Currie was David Bowie, Jett was Quatro, Ford was Ritchie Blackmore, drummer
Sandy West was "probably somebody from Queen", and Fox was Kiss
crazy man Gene Simmons. You can't help but get the feeling that these
girls were doing what all young music fans do, just on a huge, realistic
scale. We are constantly reminded that these girls were only 16 or 17
years old when they were touring the world with their eccentric manager
We hear tidbits from Fowley here also. A guy that nobody liked, but everybody
depended on. Horror stories are told of Fowley's harsh, abusive language
along with tales of consistent drug use. Currie still hopes somebody blows
his brains out, as she says, "If anyone deserves it, that man does."
Is this a film filled with each member trash talking the other? You bet.
It's done with a classy vibe though. We get a complete history to accompany
the verbal assaults, which makes this a bit more than a tabloid-type film.
What exactly do we learn that we didn't already know? Quite a bit actually.
We hear about Kim Fowley kicking Jackie Fox out of the studio while recording
the classic debut, and hiring Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison to play on
the record instead. A fact that I, a rabid fan, was unaware of. We hear
about singer Cherie Currie's sexual escapades with both Jett and Sandy
West. We also hear of her getting pregnant by another band manager, and
later getting an abortion. We hear about Jackie Fox trying to kill herself,
and her call to Randy Rhoads, who was a good friend, for support. We hear
of Sandy West's rough days of drug running and jail time after the breakup
of the group. We also hear of Blue's battle with epilepsy while she was
in the band. Yes, folks, this was dysfunction at its horrible best.
If you are a big fan of this band, you'll love to just watch these women
reminisce. Seeing how they look now, and hearing them get into personal
issues with a good friend (Blue) manning the camera was exciting. I do
think this is a film for the hardcore Runaways fan though. If you are
someone who never decided to check out the band, this isn't the outlet
you want to start with. There are a couple of concert clips here, and
some vintage footage of the girls early on, but for the most part this
is simply the band members and people connected with the group talking
to the camera. The excitement level for the casual fan is pretty low.
But, for the hardcore, Runaways obsessed fan that still refuses to grow
up, this is a wonderful trip.