And the Thunder Rolls

My favorite schlocky movie is called Thunder Alley. I watched it again over Easter weekend and enjoyed every minute. This movie is so schlocky, it isn’t even out on DVD and I have a nearly worn out VHS copy.

In a time before Behind the Music explained how every band gets started and is torn apart by drugs, we get the story of Richie and Donnie. Donnie (Scott McGinnis, who never quite made it as a Tom Cruise-lookalike) has started a band named, of all things Magic, and wants his friend Richie (Roger Wilson of Porky’s fame… I guess) to join, but the lead singer, Skip (Leif Garrett in full curly blonde hair, pre-Behind the Music special and odd white boy dance moves mode) isn’t too keen on having the hick join his rocking band.

Richie ends up having to sit in with the band while Magic’s current flashy and talentless guitar player makes nice with the bathroom floor. Soon he’s in the band and they are on their way to local stardom playing clubs all across Nevada and Arizona. Meanwhile, their sleazy manager has been getting Donnie hooked on drugs, and when an overdose kills him, Richie is devastated. He learns who supplied Donnie the drugs, takes a sledgehammer to the sleazy manager’s expensive car and decides to pack in the rocking life. The manager tears up Magic’s contract and kicks the band off the bill of a huge festival where all the record company execs will be waiting to sign the next big thing.

Enter Pre-Highlander Clancy Brown.

Before old Donnie boy loses his battle with cocaine and speedballs, the band goes on a club tour with their road manager, Wessel (pronounced “Weasel”), played to perfection by Clancy Brown. He takes a shine to the boys in Magic and thinks there’s something special in their music.

For no apparent reason other than they are both blonde, the sleazy manager thinks he can drop the current lead singer of the Judas Priest rip-off band, Surgical Steel, add Leif Garrett and make a million bucks. This is akin to asking David Lee Roth to be the new frontman in Iron Maiden.

Wessel thinks this is stupid (as does most of the audience) and tries to convince Richie to join the bass player and drummer (Butch and Wolf, for those scoring at home) on stage after the Surgical Steel set at the big festival where all the record company execs will be waiting to sign the next big thing. Richie says no. The audience says noooooo!

Richie’s girlfriend, played by second rate scream queen of the 80s and general hottie Jill Schoelen, tries to convince him to play. Richie can’t do it. The audience says noooooo!

At the festival, Leif is watching Surgical Steel play. Wessel keeps the amps hot. The lights go down and Butch and Wolf take the stage. The lights come up and they start to play, but without Donnie, Richie or Skip, they got nothing.

They start to get depressed and stop playing. All of a sudden, a screaming guitar can be heard. Richie is at the show and he brought his Les Paul! The festival crowd goes nuts. The members of Magic go nuts. The audience watching the movie goes, “duh… of course he’s gonna show up. It’s a movie!”

The band plays a song for dearly departed Donnie and the festival crowd is in tears. They go into their up tempo number, “Can’t Look Back,” and Richie asks Skip to join them on stage. The band is back together! Leif dances with his hands in the pockets of his jacket. He is sooooo cool. Clancy Brown smiles and the movie ends.

I love everything about this movie from the cheesy songs, to the sleazy manager doing his best Boss Hogg imitation to the gratuitous nudity (but not from Jill Schoelen dammit), to the ridculous names (Skip, Butch, Wolf) and to Clancy Brown playing the good guy for once.

It is sorta like Rock Star mixed with Almost Famous and every Behind the Music episode you saw except for the Weird Al Yankovic one. I think I’d pay big money for a DVD copy with the soundtrack.

Anyway, that’s my schlocky movie. What’s yours?