Written by: Ron Cotton on June 25th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: 1987
Director: John Fasano
Cast: Jon-Mikl Thor, Jesse D’Angelo, Dave Lane, Rusty Hamilton, Jillian Peri, Teresa Simpson, Frank Dietz, and Jim Cirile
DVD released:June 27th, 2006
Approximate running time: 89 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen
Rating: Rated R
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
DVD Release: Synapse Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Rock Operas are in its most elemental form made up of a concept album depicting a central protagonist who must fight an uphill battle against all odds. When these epics tales are infused into film, they have an intimate and shattering effect upon its viewers. Movies such as Pink Floyd The Wall and The Who’s Tommy are two such examples. Rock Opera’s are not to be confused with Rock Musicals such as Rocky Horror Picture Show which performs more like a theatrical production on Broadway.
First known as Archangel and later as The Edge of Hell, it’s been more aptly retitled as Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare. This film was originally presented as a challenge to Director John Fasano to create a 35mm film for less than a hundred-thousand dollars. Cost-restraints coincidentally forced Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare to be one of the few first feature films to have been edited digitally (with the exception being Coppola.) Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare central figure Jon-Mikl Thor, the man who also composed the musical score and produced this feature film is for all intensive purposes the real-life embodiment of the film. A muscle-bound protagonist forced to exact justice on overbearing evil that surrounds him. Thor’s roles in Recruits and Zombie Nightmare has given him the all acting experience needed to play this role.
For fear of loosing there advance, The Tritonz, in a bout of desperation isolate themselves to a recording studio on a farm to record some new music for an upcoming album. Lo and Behold, the farmstead has become an open gateway to hell. Demons possess and devour the souls of the Tritonz band members one by one. Can John Triton (Jon-Mikl Thor) stop this insurgence once and for all?
What makes Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare shine as a Rock Opera is its authentic and highly intense hair band rock score. “We Live to Rock” a crowd pleaser among fans of Thor and not chanting its refrain along with Thor is downright impossible. The corny lyrics found in “Energy” is what one comes to expect from 80’s songwriting. The Finale “We accept the Challenge” is filled with high-pitched fury and has quickly became my favorite. Videos for “Energy” and “We Live to Rock” are special features on the DVD. This is no substitute for the amazing soundtrack that can be found on La-La Land Records marking this the FIRST TIME EVER ON CD. This definitely should not be missed for the fans.
What can be said about the rest of the film? The acting of most characters is anywhere from marginal to piss poor. The story is linear with an unexpected twist – so unexpected in fact that you’ll wonder if your watching the same movie. The dialog is riddled with lifeless punchlines and corny comebacks. Almost always, the music isn’t intermixed with the film in any tangible form. Instead the score fills in the dead space and time between scenes of Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare. This is what you’d expect from a film that was made in only seven days. As a result, I wouldn’t recommend this film for the movie itself.
Although the print does have some specks, the actual wear is minimal and the transfer displays colors and scenes that are vivid. Extras such as “Creating the Child Wolf” and “Rock ‘N’ Shock Memories” were blurry because they were filmed with a consumer camcorder. Few night scenes become snowy with heavy grain coming to the forefront. All and all, this high definition transfer will knock the socks off of all the VHS copies out there. If your waiting for something better then the Synapse’s transfer, don’t hold your breath. It’ll be years if not decades before we see a sweeter transfer of Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare.
Now realized in Dolby Digital 5.1, Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare’s sound is amplified, cleaned up and spatially separated. Personally, this knocks the socks off of the original stereo score which sounds weak and lifeless by comparison however both are presented here to please purists. The final track is a commentary hosting John Fasano and Jon-Mikl Thor. The commentary was both informative and entertaining detailing background information of the budget, stinky actors, and the troubles of filming. During the credit rolls, John attempts to mention aspects of all the people he’s known before they rise off the screen. On the other hand, Jon-Mikl Thor informs his fans of his developing war hammer during his most memorable shower scene.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare’s insert has a full-color photo of Thor and his fictional band the Tritonz. Unfolding the inside of this unveils Ian Jane’s comprehensive liner notes titled: ‘All Hail the Mighty Thor!’ With intimate knowledge of Jon-Mikl Thor, Ian touches all bases on the core elements of Thor and his ever-pivotal role in Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare. Great notes for an even greater persona. Two other inserts inside advertise the official soundtrack and Thor’s new upcoming album.
Thank you, Synapse Films, for making a truly Special Edition of Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare. Containing over an hour of Special Features, expert commentary, superb liner notes, all under a high-definition wide screen transfer. Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare couldn’t have received a better presentation any other company and multiple audio tracks remaining faithful to the original. Although I found the movie to be marginal, the music and additional features have sold me. Also, the ending is a sight to seen at least once in a lifetime. There is nothing else like it, period.
Not to fret, Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare isn’t the the last we will hear or see from Jon-Mikl Thor. Two films are currently in pre-production: The Edge of Hell – All Hallow’s Eve and Intercessor. Also, a new album, Devastation of Musculation is expected late July. Respect the Thunder and Respect the Rock!