You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll: WE ARE TWISTED F*CKING SISTER Film Review

By at May 31, 2016 | 10:03 pm | Print

4 / 5 stars

We Are Twisted F*cking Sister Movie PosterIf you’re a regular Netflix viewer, no doubt you’ve noticed how well the streaming service is building out their catalog of music documentaries – hell, one film with their name on it, What Happened, Miss Simone?, was even nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar this year. Beyond the award-worthy, there are some surprising treasures in the Netflix chest, such as the infectiously entertaining and aptly titled We Are Twisted F*cking Sister! Skeptical? Typical. By the time Twisted Sister made it to MTV in the early 1980s, their over-the-top masculine-edged glam-rock shtick was often mocked.

But the story of this legendary little workhorse club band from Long Island defies the skeptics as much as the band themselves once did. The tale of the misunderstood underdog is always a favorite, and writer-director Andrew Horn is well aware of this affection.

Twisted Sister had a specific dynamic between its two leaders, which Horn plays out on-camera just as it appears to have existed in real life during the raucous 1970s. A lead guitarist by the name of Jay Jay French is the Twisted Sister mouthpiece, a tenacious businessman who quietly demanded stardom and focused the outcast band on making it big. His foil is Dee (Danny) Snider, possibly the only other New York rocker who worked harder than French. Lucky for both, they played in the same band.

Their story appears to be a common one. A band plays out and plays hard. They win over a loyal following of fans, and occasionally get an opportunity to break through.

According to the documentary, that tale hits some uncommon extremes in the lore of Twisted Sister and their fan club (known by the uncreative moniker “the sick MF’ing fans of Twisted Sister”). This band didn’t just play hard, they played a schedule like you’ve heard the Beatles played in lunchtime pubs – hundreds and hundred of shows, in this case, roughly five nights a week for about six years. And the TS fan club was more of a fanatic club, showing up a couple thousand at a time to some of the larger rock venues in their area. The band called for fans to destroy decaying clubs, ridiculed any attendees not having fun, and played and played without hitting it big. They were generally known as the best kept secret in New York rock-and-roll.

We Are Twisted F*cking Sister Featured Image

Aside from the unique curiosity of their story – these guys had more false starts than an amateur swim meet – We Are Twisted F*cking Sister works because of the narrative balance (or imbalance, if you prefer) between French and Snider. In the film’s interviews, Snider is the silver lining and French is the dark cloud. With pulled-back hair and plenty of jewelry, Snider looks ready to jump on stage tomorrow night; French looks like he’d reluctantly be managing that show, and maybe even taking tickets at the door. Snider is energetic in sharing his memories; French seems to give a huge sigh before much of his commentary, as if to say, “You have no idea what we’ve seen.”

But we find out, and it involves tales of record label embezzlement, friendly British rock journalists and a bizarrely wonderful relationship with the band Motorhead. Horn is lucky enough to have a killer collection of video from Twisted Sister performances to back up the stories, including some early stuff that shows the band’s evolution from a loud cover act to heavy rockers in heavy makeup. Horn’s chronicle of Twisted Sister’s now-infamous first appearance on British television is impressive – he practically gives a minute-by-minute account of the event, with Snider providing most of the color commentary.

Maybe the best recommendation I can give this raucous two hours-plus documentary is that it ends before the hit TS anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is even a kernel of an idea. Stardom is interesting, but the long road that leads there is often fascinating.

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