Can’t Stop the Music
November 3, 2006

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.

Can't Stop the Music cover
Can’t Stop the Music
Buy this DVD

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.

12 Responses  
Barney writes:  

You forgot to mention the really strange, out of nowhere rendition of Danny Boy.

Johanna writes:  

During the audition? I like “Flaming James” during that scene, the guy with the batons on fire… There are so many strange things to talk about with that movie, that we’ll be here all day!

Lyle writes:  

I rented this one expecting to enjoy it, considering the plot and the way the movie frequently gets paired with Xanadu on bad movie lists. I found it failing to deliver on many different levels, it wasn’t very campy, the bad acting wasn’t bad enough to become enjoyable and the musical numbers lacked energy. Xanadu had some forward thinking in how it mixed the movie musical with music video style effects and angles (before music videos really got their style down, IIRC).

Whenever I hear about Can’t Stop the Music, I remember that Baskin-Robins had a tie-in with the movie with one-color fliers (that just showed silhouettes of singers and the title) and a flavor-of-the-month (IIRC it was “Can’t Stop the Nuts” which, in retrospect, hello). I was at that age when I tried to read everything I could so I read those fliers and kept asking to go see Can’t Stop The Music when it came to theatres. (My parents never had to deal with that request since it never made it to Honolulu — and I would have known since I had an obsession with the page of the paper where movies were advertised.) Looking back on that, I was really surprised by that partnership.

Chris Galdieri writes:  

I remember this was on at 2:30 in the morning the night I graduated from college. I was trying to pack my stuff up after much celebration with friends and family and whenever I couldn’t pack any more I’d sit down, watch some of the movie, and then decide packing wasn’t so bad after all…

Johanna writes:  

Lyle, you’re right, it’s not as enjoyable as some other guilty pleasures, and Xanadu is still one of my favorites.

Allan Carr was apparently some kind of promotional genius, and in addition to the BR tie-in there was a TV special and other deals.

Michael G writes:  

I remember when this one came out (no pun intended). I have never made the effort to watch it on DVD, nor have I sought out Xanadu. How does it compare to the Bee Gees/Peter Frampton version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”?

I might be the only person in the US who sought out a copy of the Marvel Comics Super Special adaptation of Xanadu, though, because Bill Sienkiewicz did some of the artwork.

Evan Waters writes:  

There was a comics adaptation of XANADU?!

I’ll have to look for that.

Johanna writes:  

I like Sgt. Pepper’s better, because I find the performers a lot more appealing and the music is, of course, much better.

I’ve wanted to see the Xanadu adaptation for all the backmatter, about the stores and licensing and such. But I’m weird that way.

Michael G writes:  

Yep, here’s the cover to Marvel Comics Super Special #17. The art team reads like a mishmash of anyone who was in the office at the time: J. M. DeMatteis (Script), Rich Buckler (layouts), Jimmy Janes (layouts), Mike Nasser (finished pencils), Brent Anderson (finished pencils), Joe Brozowski (finished pencils), Al Milgrom (finished pencils), Bill Sienkiewicz (finished pencils). It doesn’t list the inker(s). Then they had articles on the making of the movie, stars biographies, special effects, costumes, and more.

That series also adapted a lot of movies, including Empire Strkes Back, Conan, Blade Runner, Annie, Octopussy, Dune, Howard the Duck, Muppets, and Buckaroo Banzai, plus the Beatles and Kiss.

Nat Gertler writes:  

And relevant to this discussion, a Marvel Super Special of Sgt. Peppers was written and drawn but not released. (I happen to own a page of the art, by Perez and Mooney.) And there is something odd about a comics adaptation of a musical.
BTW, Super Special pages seemed to be in the cheapest original art piles for a while, which is how I got Severin Dragonlance, Simonson Close Encounters, and Colan-Palmer Jaws 2 pages. The Sgt Pepper page was $5 at auction. Bargains!

cptn. howdy writes:  

that pic of glenn is my favorite piture in the whole world, and i can’t find and i want it to be where i can see it without using the dvd player

Valerie Perrine « Cosmically Chic writes:  

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