Betty Blowtorch and Her Amazing True Life Adventures reviewed by Norene Cashen
Dec 21, 2007, 18:48
BETTY BLOWTORCH AND HER AMAZING TRUE LIFE ADVENTURES directed by Anthony Scarpa; 2003, Food for TwelveÂ
It was six years ago this month that singer/ bassist, Bianca “Butthole” Halstead, was killed in a car crash near New Orleans. Her band, Betty Blowtorch, was on tour with Nashville Pussy. A fan offered her a ride home after a show. His speeding red corvette spun out of control into oncoming traffic, and Halstead was killed instantly.
This documentary couldn't have created a more tragic or final ending for itself. Friend and filmmaker, Anthony Scarpa, who also shot the video for the Betty Blowtorch song, “Love/Hate,” spent about three years following the band with his camera.
He told an interviewer for efilmcritic.com that he personally shot about 200 hours then acquired another 200 from fans and bootleggers. That was a hell of a lot of punk rock, pyrotechnics, nudity, pranks, and interviews to wade through. But Scarpa did a fine job of selecting and splicing it all into a story worth watching.
Viewers may never be able to separate this film's value as an historical record of one of the most notorious and unique all-female bands to come out of the LA punk scene of the 1990s from its other role as a kind of memorial to Halstead. Watching the opening, a video shoot for “Hell On Wheels,” knowing that this growling, glamorous, heavily inked woman is already dead creates a kind of baffling juxtaposition.
There's no question that Scarpa chose a worthy subject. Halstead was a quintessential rocker with an arresting smile, a sexy swagger, and a fashion sense that made “biker chick” seem a lot cooler than it really is. She performed and wrote her music with a disturbing level of honesty. When she screamed, “I can hear you coming down the hallway / I can feel your breath on my neck / Mom, help me / Dad he's raping me” on the song, “Get off,” she didn't have to tell the audience she was singing from experience. But she did anyway.
The cameras followed the band to the stage, back to the van, and into the recording studio where they had Vanilla Ice rapping on the song, “Size Queen” for their 2001 album, Are You Man Enough? The film also chronicles Halstead's previous stint with Butt Trumpet, a band with a little more penis but a lot less balls than Betty Blowtorch.
The DVD includes good footage of live shows, lots more video shoots, and bonus features. It all seems essential for a band that was so visual. Things get sobering and serious during the interviews with the other members of Betty Blowtorch, Dez Cadena of Black Flag, Jennifer Finch of L7, Duff McKagan of Guns â€˜n' Roses, various rock journalists, and independent label types.
It's not exactly the zany 70s throwback rock â€˜n' roll movie Scarpa set out to make. But this documentary seems to have found its own place and purpose.
Buy it now at AMAZON