As a rule of thumb, actors make terrible musicians, and musicians make terrible actors. Terrible musicians make even more terrible actors, which brings us to Canadian born body-builder/rocker Jon-Mikl Thor comes in. What Thor lacks in talent, he makes up for in ability to maintain a straight face whilst sporting a studded codpiece, and, for a pioneer of “Viking Metal”, that's all that really matters. He also seems to be a master of self-promotion, somehow parlaying a “stupid human tricks” performance on The Merv Griffin Show (in which he sang a song in wrestling gear before laying on his back and popping a hot water bottle with the air in his lungs) into a career that has spanned the better part of three decades, whether anyone has noticed or not. This “big in Saskatchewan” clout gave Thor the chance to not only release a few records, but also make a few Z-grade films, including 1987's Rock n' Roll Nightmare, which has been lovingly (and some would say, undeservingly) rescued from obscurity by the twisted folks at Synapse films.
Thor plays John Triton, leader of a popular metal band called…well…Triton. We know they're popular because every radio in the film seems to be playing one of their songs.
The band has descended upon a remote recording studio to make a new record, and also prepare for their next world tour, which they do by lip-syncing to, what seems like, one song a day, before going off to their separate rooms and having clumsy, simulated sex with their girlfriends.
When the band's manager vanishes after venturing off to find a drumstick, John gets worried. We know this, because he looks up and puts on the same sort of worried face they used to use in silent movies, but, here, the camera lingers on him even longer to let us know just how worried he is. Pretty soon, most of John's band disappears, leaving him to face an evil army of rubber hand-puppets and a statue of something that looks like an ant.
Rock n' Roll Nightmare would have made the greatest episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ever. I mean, this is a film that is ripe for gathering your funniest friends, an assortment of intoxicants, and just letting the witticisms fly. And just you wait until you see this ending. It's like some sort of crazed He-Man meets Rocky Horror thing as filmed by twelve year olds with a video camera and the contents of their toy box. It's so crap that its genius and I found myself watching this scene over and over again, howling louder with every viewing.
Synapse presents this little gem of ineptitude with a gorgeous transfer (and I do mean gorgeous. Don May and friends did a hell of a job with this one), a booming 5.1 soundtrack that rocks the house, and a bunch of extra goodies, including a mini-documentary about Jon-Mikl, himself, chronicling his history in music and movies. The guy seems like a really nice fella, and he's still out there rockin' the masses (well, at least the fourteen people in the audience shown here) and dreaming up more movies. Sure, he may be delusional, but I like him anyway.
The disc also features a commentary by Thor and director Fasano, who seems completely distanced and unimpressed by this project (and, really, who can blame him?). Still, Thor's enthusiasm is infectious, and you can't help but see just what it is that got this guy the minor successes he's had in his life.
Make no mistake about it, Rock n' Roll Nightmare is an absolute abomination in terms of…well…just about everything that defines a proper film. However, I still had a blast watching this car-wreck of a movie, and I think my fellow cinema sadists will get just as much of a kick out of it as I did.