Just got home with another guilty pleasure favorite I picked up for cheap: Can’t Stop the Music, the film debut of the Village People, the Spice Girls of their time.
This fictionalized version (you know it’s fake because no one’s explicitly gay, although there are plenty of suspicious glances and insinuations if you watch for them, and the men are all very good friends with their mothers) of the group’s formation served as one of the biggest tombstones in the disco graveyard. It stars Bruce Jenner (in his first film, where his first scene has him mugged by an old lady), Valerie Perrine (as Samantha, the “biggest model of the 70s”), and a young Steve Guttenberg. It was directed by Nancy Walker (Rosie the Paper Towel lady) as her first and only movie helming gig. Notice a trend? Lots of first-timers here.
Guttenberg plays a songwriter, Jack Morell, based on the man who originally formed the Village People, Jacques Morali. The film opens with him rollerskating through New York City after quitting his record store job. (Conveniently, he wears his skates to work.)
Samantha, his roommate, has just quit being a glamorous model. Their neighbor is Felipe, who hangs around the apartment in denim shorts, leather vest, and full feathered Indian war bonnet.
Samantha’s former agent is trying to lure her out of retirement in order to do an ad for the Dairy Association, but she’s trying to get Jack discovered. His songs are great, but he can’t sing, so they put together a band!
Everyone overplays everything. There’s too much makeup, too much volume, movement everywhere, lots of talking too fast. Nothing can ever be still or quiet. And everything’s white: suits, dresses, Jack’s overalls, milk. I haven’t even mentioned the disturbing fantasy sequence musical number in which the construction worker envisions bunches of female models in ugly red gowns throwing themselves at him to a ditty called “I Love You to Death”.
Then there’s Jenner in a half-size belly shirt and cutoff shorts; the extended YMCA number, with tons of half-naked men working out at the gym (including a soapy shower scene); and the world’s most inappropriately sexy milk commercial as a Vegas-style number. (That’s after the introduction, featuring tiny tyke versions of the Village People.)
I mustn’t forget the extras. The trailer bills the movie as Allan Carr’s (the producer of Grease who was once memorably described as looking like a beachball in a muumuu) attempt to make a huge disco musical to kick off the 80s. There’s also a series of on-screen text pages that explain the background of the movie. (The text and many of the photos from the gallery were provided by Andy Mangels, who’s a noted comic commentator.)
Then the photo gallery proceeds as follows:
* picture 1: group shot from album cover
* picture 2: some of the members tugging at each other’s clothes
* picture 3: almost-nude of the biker covering his genitals with his hand (although he’s still got the vest, boots, and chest chains on)
That was a bit surprising. After a couple more underwear shots, the gallery returns to posed glamor shots of the characters, album cover art, and most of a trading card set. This thing was meant to be a blockbuster, and now it’s a cut-out bin DVD with the oh-so-accurate cover quote “Like nothing you’ve ever seen before!” And likely never will again.
Now if they’d only bring out Americathon on DVD.