Lou Adler | 1981 | 87 min. | US
The Fabulous Stains starts so jarringly that you get the feeling you've missed a scene. Maybe even an entire reel. Unfortunately, that feeling never lets up. As the film bounces from scene to scene you are repeatedly faced with nagging sense that it keeps forgetting to show you key moments. Maybe its possessive. Maybe its senile. Whatever the excuse, the tagline for The Fabulous Stains should be, "Hold on. . . why is she. . . what?"
To be fair, The Fabulous Stains had its work cut out for it. The film was faced with a very difficult task in 1981: simultaneously trying to cash in on and critique the commercial success of punk and new wave. The Stains are a trio of teenage girls headed by a fresh-faced Diane Lane in her debut role as magnetic Corinne "Third Degree" Burns. When the girls have the chance to join an upstart punk band on tour they jump at the opportunity. Soon after hitting the road a chance interview with Burns appears on the national news. She instantly inspires a (suburban teen) cult of personality who begin showing up to the bands increasingly large shows in full hero worshiping costume. But will Corinne handle the sudden success with aplomb? Will she stay true to her friends as the spotlight focuses on her? Will her awful, awful music stay pure? Important issues, to be sure.
In addition to Diane Lane, the film includes the very young faces of Ray Winstone and Laura Dern, as well. All three are charming, even if they can't come close to approaching the desperation and urgency we are supposed to feel from their characters. Rounding out Winstone's band, The Looters, are Paul Cook and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and Paul Simonon of the Clash. Cred alert!
The problem with Stains is that the Corinne and her band come off as such myopic opportunists that you could not care less what happens to them. More than that, the success or failure of teenagers who have been playing lousy music for about a month carries little gravity. The film only satisfies as an artefact of the early eighties which, of course, is not very satisfying at all.
Director Lou Adler has only made two films: Up In Smoke, the massively successful Cheech and Chong vehicle, and Stains. So basically this is the movie that murdered his career. He wasn't able to sustain the momentum of a one-joke dope comedy. That's how unimpressive this is. File this one under, "Answers to Trivia Questions."