Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains is the very definition of a cult classic — released in 1982, earning only $25,000 at the time, and discovering a renaissance among a small but passionate audience at boutique theatres and festivals. (However, its initial failure did little to dampen the career of young stars Diane Lane and Laura Dern). It’s easy to see why Stains, now available on Blu-ray for the first time from Imprint, is still popular more than 40 years later.
Lane plays Corinne Burns, a 17-year-old small-town American girl orphaned after her mother succumbs to lung cancer. When interviewed by a local TV station, Corinne’s angry, almost nihilistic straight talk about how she sees her life costs her a fast-food job but gives her celebrity among teenagers who identify with her concern and her reaction.
Corinne parlays her 15 minutes of fame into the Stains, a garage-punk band that includes her sister, Tracy (Marin Kanter), and cousin Jessica (Dern). They have no true musical ability, but Corinne uses the stage to vent frustrations with patriarchy, society, sexism and the world at large. Garnering enough response to join a Z-tier tour, the Stains gradually improve, media attention grows, and Corinne’s outspoken attitude brings in crowds. Things come to a head as the Stains approach mainstream crossover and face the possibility of selling out — which may be out of their control.
It’s clear to see why the Stains’ message would resonate, as many of their concerns are sadly still relevant. The band’s potentially doomed trajectory reflects all young outcasts eager to critique society but who find the allure of popular acclaim hard to resist. The compromised ending reflects a behind-the-scenes clash between original screenwriter Nancy Dowd and director Lou Adler (after which Dowd took the pseudonymous credit of “Rob Morton”). But you can still feel the extreme punk energy despite the changes. For teens, punks and young women, Stains is likely to remain potent.
Fittingly, Imprint has loaded its release with extras sure to please hardcore fans. It includes three audio commentaries — including a new one from film critic / author Lee Gambin and musician / journalist Allison Wolfe, as well as a legacy commentary from Lane and Dern. There are also two new video essays on the film, which comes with a great 1080p presentation and excellent sound mix. Throw in a handsome slipcase with great 1980s vibes, and it’s a must for fans that know they want it.