STUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Andrew Horn
RELEASE DATE: Now Available! | PRICE: DVD $18.96, Blu-ray $21.73
BONUSES: five hours of interview footage
SPECS: NR | 134 min. | Documentary | 1.77:1 widescreen
Twisted Sister: a mid-80’s hair metal glam band with a couple of anthemic hit tunes that capitalized on the newly-formed medium of music video to gain the national spotlight for a couple of years before fading into obscurity.
Up until my viewing of Andrew Horn’s We Are Twisted F***ing Sister! that statement pretty much summed up everything I knew (and thought there was to know) about this makeup-laden metal band embraced by every 1980s teenager looking for a way to rebel. I couldn’t have been more wrong. WATFS! is the amazing true story most of us didn’t know; though its structure is quite plain (a collection of talking head interviews occasionally interrupted by footage from the 1970s), it’s such a fascinating, energizing and powerful tale, you’ll find yourself tracking down a used vinyl copy of Stay Hungry as soon as the film ends. At one hundred and thirty four minutes, you’d think this movie could use a little trimming—how much can you say about Twisted Sister, after all? As it turns out, so much that Music Box’s special Blu-Ray edition adds another five hours of interview footage, and it’s all worth watching. All of it.
Twisted Sister spent ten years building an audience within the 1970s Long Island and New Jersey club scenes, starting off as a hard rock cover band that existed purely as an excuse for club owners to sell beer to hordes of idle teens in a vibrant circuit that would be totally unsustainable in today’s overpriced market. But these musicians had talent and ambition, not to mention an incredibly tenacious need to do everything their way, and they ended up at the very top of this miniature world. Though they dressed in drag, Twisted Sister had nothing in common with Bowie or the New York Dolls (whose styles they aped), despite existing just a few miles away from these Manhattan-based scenesters.
The seven hours found on this disc are chock-full of fascinating—I mean fascinating–stories that will instantly transport you to a more innocent and freer America, one where drunk driving and unprotected sex were standard practice, where you really could live on just a few bucks a week. Just like Devo spoke for an entire subculture of nerds and geeks that had been marginalized by both the mainstream and the hip, so did Twisted Sister speak for a different ignored slice of American youth: suburban working class white kids with few prospects of success beyond high school, who nevertheless hungered to call something their own. Though WATFS is not a political film, part of its value lies in how it reveals a slice of American culture often ignored, one which is especially resonant on the heels of a presidential election partially won (and lost) because of this same working class.
Surprisingly, the film ends right as Twisted Sister breaks through into MTV and radio success- possibly because the filmmakers couldn’t afford the footage and music rights for their big hits, though it’s also a fitting way to end this story. Looking back, it’s clear the band’s real success wasn’t their brief fifteen minutes of media overexposure, but the enduring impact they had on their fans who, decades later, don’t regret any of the hundreds of hours they spent following Twisted Sister around. As one fan puts it: “You’re hanging out at the bar with your friends, and you’re watching Twisted Sister. Back then, you didn’t need much more than that.”
Buy or Rent We Are Twisted F***ing Sister!
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