Saturday, August 28, 2010

Population: 1 (1986, Rene Daalder)

The Screamers were one of the first LA punk bands of the late 70's.  Back before hardcore bands like Black Flag, The Circle Jerks and The Adolescents were cropping up, much like the late British punk movement of the same time, punk was more of an attitude than a defined sound.  You had bands like The Alleycats, The Eyes, X, The Dickies and The Weirdos who all had their own unique sound.  The Screamers should also be included, considering their unconventional drum/vocals/dual keyboard lineup - hardly what you'd expect from a punk band.  Their sound however was just as fast, aggressive and loud (or maybe more so) than many of their contemporaries.  Tomata Du Plenty, the singer for The Screamers, was simultaneously charismatic and fierce - making him the perfect lead for a movie like Population: 1.  This film also includes other members of The Screamers and several of their contemporaries, not to mention some teenager named Beck (seen playing an accordion for about 10 seconds).

Population: 1 has a fairly simple plot.  Tomata Du Plenty plays the last man on Earth living in some sort of bomb shelter/shack thing.  Tomata spends the film's 60 minute running time giving us a personal history lesson, replacing many of the historical figures and occurrences with himself.  He also tells us the story of his past love (Sheela Edwards).

Population: 1 is basically an arty, hour long music video made by people who knew they would never be on MTV (and probably never wanted to).  The film is silly, fun, very 80s, clever, weird and danceable!  Tomata is a hoot to watch, switching from acting to singing and dancing, not just crossing that fourth wall between actor and audience, but smashing it into a million pieces.  Now that I think of it, Population: 1 is more of an arty, hour long, post apocalyptic, punk musical than a music video.  Depending on your taste, you may find the film very dated or you may enjoy the nostalgic 80's feel (the visuals reminded me of The Cars' "You Might Think" music video).  Kudos to Cult Epics for preserving this neat little film (and for sending me a screener).  Their 2 disc DVD has a restored director's cut, concert footage of The Screamers, unreleased music tracks, still gallery, trailers, interviews, Tomato Du Plenty tribute and more!  A really great set for a fairly obscure film.

RATING:  7/10

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