The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)

R | 91 mins | Documentary, Performance | 3 June 1988

Full page view
HISTORY

The film begins with the following title cards: “Filmed August 1987--February 1988,” and, “Los Angeles, California.”
       According to an article by director Penelope Spheeris in the Jun 1988 issue of Premiere, the project began in Apr 1987, when she was contacted by the music label International Record Syndicate, Inc. (I.R.S.). The company had recently ventured into film and television production with the establishment of I.R.S. World Media, and was particularly interested in producing music-related pictures. Spheeris was solicited for content due to the surprise success of her 1981 feature film debut, The Decline of Western Civilization (see entry), a documentary that explored the punk-rock scene in Los Angeles, CA.
       Upon meeting I.R.S.’s co-founder, Miles Copeland III, and his partner, Paul Colichman, Spheeris pitched her idea for a sequel, which she had been conceptualizing since the beginning of 1987. At that time, film franchises were becoming more ubiquitous and profitable, and Spheeris surmised: “If Police Academy could do five, I could do two.” Copeland and Colichman agreed to executive produce The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years due to the rise in popularity of “heavy metal” rock ‘n’ roll bands. The genre had become highly lucrative, and the executives believed there would be a viable audience in their niche market.
       However, the project remained in limbo for several months, and Spheeris believed the sequel had been abandoned. Spheeris noted that it would be nearly impossible to find another company that would produce a documentary about heavy metal, and was disappointed by World Media’s $1 million commitment. After ... More Less

The film begins with the following title cards: “Filmed August 1987--February 1988,” and, “Los Angeles, California.”
       According to an article by director Penelope Spheeris in the Jun 1988 issue of Premiere, the project began in Apr 1987, when she was contacted by the music label International Record Syndicate, Inc. (I.R.S.). The company had recently ventured into film and television production with the establishment of I.R.S. World Media, and was particularly interested in producing music-related pictures. Spheeris was solicited for content due to the surprise success of her 1981 feature film debut, The Decline of Western Civilization (see entry), a documentary that explored the punk-rock scene in Los Angeles, CA.
       Upon meeting I.R.S.’s co-founder, Miles Copeland III, and his partner, Paul Colichman, Spheeris pitched her idea for a sequel, which she had been conceptualizing since the beginning of 1987. At that time, film franchises were becoming more ubiquitous and profitable, and Spheeris surmised: “If Police Academy could do five, I could do two.” Copeland and Colichman agreed to executive produce The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years due to the rise in popularity of “heavy metal” rock ‘n’ roll bands. The genre had become highly lucrative, and the executives believed there would be a viable audience in their niche market.
       However, the project remained in limbo for several months, and Spheeris believed the sequel had been abandoned. Spheeris noted that it would be nearly impossible to find another company that would produce a documentary about heavy metal, and was disappointed by World Media’s $1 million commitment. After The Decline of Western Civilization, Spheeris had grown accustomed to working on films with much higher budgets. In mid-summer 1987, I.R.S. World Media resumed plans to produce The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years after securing a distribution deal with New Line Cinema. As noted in a 25 Jun 1988 Billboard column, Spheeris’s sequel documentary marked the first feature film produced by I.R.S. World Media.
       Spheeris prepared for the production by reading magazines geared toward heavy metal enthusiasts, and going to as many clubs as possible to watch performers. Producers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris helped the director recruit young men from concert venues, private parties, and the sidewalks of Los Angeles. Heavy metal fans were corralled into Spheeris’s office, where she interviewed them one-on-one, asking “painfully personal questions” about drugs, sex, love, and money. According to a 9 Sep 1987 Var production chart, principal photography began in Los Angeles on 5 Sep 1987. However, the film’s title cards state that shooting began one month earlier, in Aug 1987.
       In her Premiere article, Spheeris reflected that the young interviewees were unabashed in front of the camera, as they were all hoping to become celebrities. She noted that their “relentless optimism and blind faith” seemed misplaced in the music industry, since she knew from experience that there were few chances to become a success in show business.
       After filming heavy metal fans and rock idol hopefuls, Spheeris went on to interview the “real stars… who had actually beaten the odds” to become famous. The men who helped define the heavy metal genre, including Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, and Steve Tyler, were subjected to the same kind of intimate questioning as their fans. Spheeris reported that she put the entertainers at ease before turning on cameras, reassuring them she was making an R-rated documentary, not a censored television show. The men were pleased to have the opportunity to express themselves without restriction.
       Following intermittent shooting over a five-month period, the personal interviews were partnered with live performance footage of heavy metal bands including Faster Pussycat, Seduce, Odin, London, and Megadeth. All sound was recorded live. According to the 25 Jun 1988 Billboard, production was completed in Feb 1988 at a cost of nearly $1 million. In a Jul 1989 20/20 (London) article, Spheeris reported that bands were paid to appear in the picture, with Megadeth earning the highest rate of $10,000. The band Guns N’ Roses, which was a seminal part of the Los Angeles heavy metal scene and became an international success, was on the cusp of fame when the documentary was produced. However, Gun N’ Roses demanded a $60,000 fee and did not appear in the film. Spheeris noted that she would have paid the price, but the producers could not be convinced that the band would soon outshine its predecessors, bringing heavy metal into the mainstream.
       General release dates for The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years were announced in the 25 Jun 1988 Billboard. Distribution was handled through a partnership between I.R.S. World Media, New Line Cinema, and Capitol Records, which issued the film’s soundtrack album of previously unreleased tracks in late May 1988.
       Although I.R.S. was a record label, its executives decided against putting out the soundtrack because most of the heavy metal bands were already signed to Capitol, and I.R.S. did not specialize in that genre. Other labels associated with the documentary were Chrysalis (Armored Saint), Metal Blade (Lizzy Borden), MCA (Alice Cooper), GWR (Motörhead), and Elektra (Faster Pussycat).
       As stated in Billboard, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years was included in New Line Cinema’s recently established four-picture distribution deal with I.R.S. In 1988, New Line Cinema acquired international rights to the film in “all media” except the U.S. videocassette release, which was overseen by RCA/Columbia House Home Video. The documentary, which premiered on 3 Jun 1988 at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, was scheduled to open in thirty U.S. markets throughout summer 1988.
       The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years was followed by a third film in the series, The Decline of Western Civilization Part III (1998, see entry), which focused on homeless “gutter punk” teenagers. A 23 Aug 2015 Guardian (London) article noted that Spheeris had became known over the years for her mainstream blockbusters, including Wayne’s World (1992, see entry) and The Beverly Hillbillies (1993, see entry), but felt most proud of her documentaries. Despite the historical significance and cult following of the Decline series, Spheeris spent the ensuing years rejecting offers from distributors to purchase video and DVD rights to the trilogy, and postponed releasing the documentaries, herself. However, Spheeris’s adult daughter, Anna Fox, eventually convinced her mother that the reissue was not “selling out.” After finding a distributor, Spheeris and Fox spent three years sorting through the filmmaker’s archives in Hollywood, CA, resurrecting footage from the three Decline documentaries. According to the Guardian, much of the footage was stored on outdated formats, including VHS tapes with wheels that would not turn. Fox collaborated with editors to select outtakes of interviews and performance in her mother’s house, calling out to Spheeris every once in a while to identify people or explain a sequence. Spheeris reported that her main role was to make breakfast for the crew. She also noted that she was considering the addition of a fourth film to the Decline series.
       The Blu-ray box set of the three documentaries was released on 30 Jun 2015.
       End credits include “Special thanks” to: Larrey Anderson; Audible Systems; Jacky Baral; Kevin Benson; Bill Berrol; Ruben Blue; Jay Boberg; Peter Buckle; Douglas M. Campbell; Cathouse; Al Cella; Chuck Landis’ County Club; Scott Codispodi “Chopper”; Tim Collins; Byron Delear; Tim Devine; Warren Entner; Larry Estes; Ron Felicia; Michael A. Fell; Thom Ferro; Joe Fineman; Neil Freidman; Keith Garde; Gazzari’s; Ed Gerrard; Steven Glendenning; Cary Goldberg; Mitch Goldman; Shep Gordon; Mike Gormley, Guitar Center; Vicky Hamilton; Laura Harding; Michael Harpster; Jonathan Hartmann; Hollywood Center Studios; Bert Holman; Scott Hurowitz; Lise Jakobsen; John Kelly; Richard Kimball; Brian Kniaz; David Krebs; Bennett Kurtze; Ron Laffitte; Toby Mamis; Rachel Matthews; Marilyn Mikos; Tom Mohler; Ingrid Olson; Sharon Osbourne; Osko’s Disco; Sara Owens; Norm Pattis; Perkins Palace; Peter Philbin; Pro-Rock, Inc. Dane Tucker; Ron Rainey; Keith Rawls; Sara Risher; Kevin Scott; Roger Shepard; Lance Singer; Rod Smallwood; Dave Smith; The Music Grinder; Dennis Thomas; Lee Waddell; Ken Waagner; Ron Wanless; Westwood One; Tom Whalley; White Tie Limousine Service; David White; Gina Zapparelli.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
20/20 (London)
Jul 1989.
---
Billboard
25 Jun 1988.
---
Daily Variety
25 May 1988
p. 3, 20.
Guardian (London)
23 Aug 2015.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1988
p. 20, 24.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jun 1988
p. 8.
New York Times
17 Jun 1988
p. 14.
Premiere
Jun 1988
p. 112.
Variety
9 Sep 1987.
---
Variety
1 Jun 1988
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Performances by:
and
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
New Line Cinema presents
An I.R.S. World Media production
A film by Penelope Sheeris
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Addl cam
Addl cam
Addl cam
Addl cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Unit photog
Spec photog
Still photog of Faster Pussycat by
Still photog of Chris Holmes by
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Negative cutter
MUSIC
Mus supv
Addl mus score
Mus supv
SOUND
Loc sd
24 track recordings
24 track recordings
24 track recordings
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
A.D.R., Foley, and re-rec by
A.D.R., Foley, and re-rec by, B & B Studios
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Ultra Stereo® consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Asst to the prods
Unit mgr
Scr supv
Prod asst
Prod asst
Public relations
Public relations, Clein + Feldman
Public relations, Clein + Feldman
Public relations, Clein + Feldman
I.R.S. World Media legal affairs
I.R.S. World Media legal affairs
I.R.S. World Media legal affairs
I.R.S. World Media prod controller
I.R.S. World Media prod controller
I.R.S World Media accountant
I.R.S World Media accountant
I.R.S. World Media staff
I.R.S. World Media staff
I.R.S. World Media staff
I.R.S. World Media staff
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Under My Wheels,” by M. Bruce, D. Dunaway, B. Ezrin, performed by Alice Cooper and Axl, Slash, and Izzy of Guns N’ Roses, produced by Jim Faraci, mixed by Eric (E. T.) Thorngren, Alice Cooper courtesy of M.C.A. Records, Axl, Slash, and Izzy courtesy of Geffen Records
“In My Darkest Hour,” by Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson, performed by Megadeth, produced by Dave Mustaine and Paul Lani, mixed by Michael Wagener for Double Trouble Productions, courtesy of Capitol Records
“Gazzarri Shuffle,” and “Grand Slam,” by Simon Steele, produced by Simon Steele
+
SONGS
“Under My Wheels,” by M. Bruce, D. Dunaway, B. Ezrin, performed by Alice Cooper and Axl, Slash, and Izzy of Guns N’ Roses, produced by Jim Faraci, mixed by Eric (E. T.) Thorngren, Alice Cooper courtesy of M.C.A. Records, Axl, Slash, and Izzy courtesy of Geffen Records
“In My Darkest Hour,” by Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson, performed by Megadeth, produced by Dave Mustaine and Paul Lani, mixed by Michael Wagener for Double Trouble Productions, courtesy of Capitol Records
“Gazzarri Shuffle,” and “Grand Slam,” by Simon Steele, produced by Simon Steele
“Little Gypsy,” by Randy O. and C. Savage, and “12 O’Clock High,” by J. Duncan and Randy O., performed by Odin, recorded live at Gazzarri’s, West Hollywood, CA, Nov. 1, 1987, by Biff Dawes (Westwood One Mobile Recordings), mixed by Tim Bomba
“Life’s A Beach,” and “Love Masheen,” by S. Steele and M. Squires, performed by Trikk Toyzz, produced by Simon Steele and Michael Squires
“The Prophecy,” by DeGarmo, performed by Queensryche, produced by Neil Kernon, courtesy of EMI-Manhattan Records
“Russian Winter,” by L. Grey and N. D’Priest, and “Breakout,” by B. West, N. D’Priest, L. Grey, performed by London, recorded live at Gazzarri’s, West Hollywood, CA, Nov. 1, 1987, by Biff Dawes (Westwood One Mobile Recorder), mixed by Mike Carver, Lizzie Grey, & Nadir D’Priest
“Colleen,” and “Crash Landing,” by Andrews, Black and Burns, performed by Seduce, recorded live at The Cave, Hollywood, CA, October 17, 1987, by Tim Pinch Mobile Recording, mixed by Tim Bomba, performs courtesy of I.R.S. Records
“Cathouse,” and “Bathroom Wall,” by T. Downe, performed by Faster Pussycat, recorded live at The Cathouse, Hollywood, CA, Oct. 13, 1987, by Tim Pinch Mobile Recording, produced by Ric Browde, mixed by Tim Bomba, performs courtesy of Elektra Records
“You Can Run But You Can’t Hide,” written and performed by Armored Saint, produced by Armored Saint and Brian Foraker, performs courtesy of Chrysalis Records
“Born To Be Wild,” by Mars Bonfire, performed by Lizzie Borden, recorded live at Perkin’s Palace, Pasadena, CA, Oct. 31, 1987, by Mike Carver (Westwood One Mobile Recorder), mixed by Tim Bomba, performs courtesy of Metal Blade Records
“The Brave,” by K. Vanderhoff, performed by Metal Church, courtesy of Elektra Records
“Cradle To The Grave,” by Kilmister, Burston, Campbell and Taylor, performed by Motorhead, produced by Guy Bidmead and Motorhead, courtesy of G.W.R. Records.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
3 June 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 3 June 1988
New York opening: 17 June 1988
Production Date:
August 1987--February 1988 in Los Angeles, CA
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Ultra-Stereo
Color
Duration(in mins):
91
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29099
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the late-1980s, Los Angeles, California, is fertile ground for “heavy metal” rock ‘n’ roll bands and their fans, who adorn themselves with makeup, long hair, and flamboyant, androgynous clothing. Heavy metal entertainers, including Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons, believe their music has supplanted “punk rock” to become the new voice for social misfits. Since punk has become mainstream, heavy metal exists to “save rock ‘n’ roll” from commercialization. While some players believe in the integrity of their music, others confess that they join bands to attract young women, and to have unlimited access to sex and drugs. Fans wish to emulate their favorite rock stars and are often referred to as “head bangers” because they thrash their heads to pounding rhythms. In an effort to attract followers, bands outwit each other with outrageous “glam” outfits, debaucherous lifestyles, and wanton displays of moral depravity. Loud, intricate, and long-winded guitar solos are the trademarks of heavy metal, along with lyrics about rebellion, death, and devil idolatry. Outside clubs along the Sunset Strip, heavy metal enthusiasts distribute flyers to promote their bands and to meet women. Most aspiring musicians are high school dropouts, or have recently graduated, but they are generally unable to get jobs due to their unconventional appearance. Many men take on the visage of women, and are often mistaken for the opposite sex. However, they deny being transvestites. Heavy metal musicians Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith regret spending their riches on alcohol and cocaine. After eleven months of sobriety, the men admit their lecherous lifestyle was unfulfilling. They hope other musicians and fans do ... +


In the late-1980s, Los Angeles, California, is fertile ground for “heavy metal” rock ‘n’ roll bands and their fans, who adorn themselves with makeup, long hair, and flamboyant, androgynous clothing. Heavy metal entertainers, including Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons, believe their music has supplanted “punk rock” to become the new voice for social misfits. Since punk has become mainstream, heavy metal exists to “save rock ‘n’ roll” from commercialization. While some players believe in the integrity of their music, others confess that they join bands to attract young women, and to have unlimited access to sex and drugs. Fans wish to emulate their favorite rock stars and are often referred to as “head bangers” because they thrash their heads to pounding rhythms. In an effort to attract followers, bands outwit each other with outrageous “glam” outfits, debaucherous lifestyles, and wanton displays of moral depravity. Loud, intricate, and long-winded guitar solos are the trademarks of heavy metal, along with lyrics about rebellion, death, and devil idolatry. Outside clubs along the Sunset Strip, heavy metal enthusiasts distribute flyers to promote their bands and to meet women. Most aspiring musicians are high school dropouts, or have recently graduated, but they are generally unable to get jobs due to their unconventional appearance. Many men take on the visage of women, and are often mistaken for the opposite sex. However, they deny being transvestites. Heavy metal musicians Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith regret spending their riches on alcohol and cocaine. After eleven months of sobriety, the men admit their lecherous lifestyle was unfulfilling. They hope other musicians and fans do not follow suit. Still, bands flock to Los Angeles in the unwavering belief that they will land a deal with a major record label and become celebrities. Young women in the heavy metal scene are generally perceived as “groupies,” who service their male counterparts without consideration for their own needs. Girls are usually scantily clad in lingerie, hoping they will catch the eye of a musician who will take them backstage for a one-night stand. Heavy metal misogyny is also expressed financially, since men expect their groupies to buy them clothes and groceries. Heavy metal is considered controversial to conservative outsiders, and is formally opposed by “Back in Control,” an organization with the mission of helping parents regain control of their children’s behavior through “de-metaling.” The program involves taking away youths’ t-shirts, studded accessories, and record albums. Its leader, a probation officer, is convinced that heavy metal promotes Satanism. Regardless of religious affiliation, up and coming musicians, such as the lead singer of Odin, believe suicide is the only option if he does not become a star. Other back-up plans include homelessness and dependence on families or girl friends. W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes is rich and famous, but spends his time lounging in a swimming pool float, drinking bottles of vodka and hoping for an early death. When he proclaims he is a “full blown alcoholic,” his mother, who is supervising Holmes’s intoxicated swim, adds, “Just when he’s awake.” While some heavy metal enthusiasts personify the stereotype of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll,” Ozzy Osbourne, an early pioneer of heavy metal, notes that addiction inevitably leads to disaster. However, he is still unable to remain sober. Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine comments on the pretentiousness of musicians who believe success and drugs will make them happy. Although Mustaine has become famous, he warns that it is dangerous to be egocentric “because there’s always someone better.” At Gazzari’s nightclub on Sunset Strip, heavy metal musicians judge a dancing contest in which young women undress and present themselves as sex objects. Gazzari, an older man with several eighteen-year-old girl friends, objects to the striptease and claims he wants his club to be wholesome. His panel of judges groan in disapproval. When their decisions are handed down, Gazzari is baffled when the first runner-up dance contestant does not appear to accept her title. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.