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Teenage Tupelo (Guerilla Monster Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Teenage Tupelo (Guerilla Monster Films) Blu-ray Review

    Click image for larger version  Name:	cover.jpg Views:	1 Size:	38.7 KB ID:	427289

    Released by: Gueilla Monster Films
    Released on: November 28th, 2023.
    Director: John Michael McCarthy
    Cast: D’Lana Tunnell, Kristen Hobbs, Sophie Couch, Dawn Ashcraft
    Year: 1995
    Purchase From Super Tupelo or by email at jmm.memphis@gmail.com!

    Teenage Tupelo – Movie Review:

    At the time of its release, Mike McCarthy’s 1995 film, Teenage Tupelo, was the only modern film released (on VHS no less) by Something Weird Video. Produced by none other than the late, great David Friedman, the film was shot on Super 8mm film on a budget of $12,000.00. Fans of sleazy guitar twangs, high heels and nylon stockings, curvaceous beauties and Elvis-lore take note, this movie is for you – and it’s even shot in “Tunnell-Vision!”.

    The movie is set in the Tupelo of 1962, the movie revolves around D'Lana Fargo (played by D'Lana Tunnell, the dream girl of many a fan of The Oblivians), a gorgeous young woman who works as a waitress and who dates a rockabilly musician named Johnny Tu-Note (Hugh Brooks), whose career has certainly seen better days and who is, to be blunt, a bit of a loser. D’Lana lives with her mother, Wanda Fargo (Wanda Wilson), and her young son, Pookie Fargo (Phillip Tubb). D’Lana’s world gets more than a little rocked when she learns that she’s pregnant.

    When two people show up at D'Lana's door wanting her to sign a petition they're organizing to ban a burlesque dancer/actress named Topsy Turvy from performing in town, she splits and heads to work for the day. On her way there, she runs into a group of tough girls working on a car who tell her that she likes like the aforementioned burlesque dancer.

    When Johnny, who hits on another waitress named Cindy (Cindy Blair), finds out that D’Lana is great with child he tells her it can't be his. One thing leads to another and before you know it, D'Lana has lost her job and attacked Cindy. Not quite sure what foul play her mother is up to, D'Lana hits the streets only to later by accosted by Johnny who is worried she may try and blackmail him. Thankfully for D'Lana, the tough girls she met earlier - who learn are named Franky (Kristen Hobbs), Ruthy (Sophie Couch) and Joey (Dawn Ashcroft) - show up in time to stop Johnny from pulling any nonsense.

    It turns out these tough girls are a gang of manhating lesbians and it isn't long before D'Lana is part of the crew and off to try and find Topsy Turvey (played by Tunnell in a wig), who has recently come into possession of a bomb!

    Some background information provided by McCarthy himself notes that the movie was created in a sense as a way to find his biological father (he was adopted and at the time the movie was made had never met his biological parents and clearly D’Lana is an avatar of sorts for his mother), which makes the film more personal in many ways than some of his other efforts like Sore Losers and Damselvis. For the most part, the movie works really well, so long as you’re able to get on the same wavelength as the filmmaker. It’s campy in all the right ways and definitely has a quirky sense of humor to it. The whole thing is set to a pretty killer soundtrack from Memphis’ The Impalas, and it moves at a pretty nice pace as well.

    Not one to shy away from exploitation movie influences, the film features plenty of nudity and some light BDSM in a great scene involving D’Lana and the girl gang members as well as some really solid photography, almost all of which captures Tunnell looking stunning in pretty much every frame.

    The end result is an effortlessly cool movie that’s feels partly like a travelogue of Tupelo, partly like a fetish film, partly like a throwback to vintage exploitation movies and that mixes up equal parts kink, camp, humor and human drama to result in a wholly unique effort well worth seeking out.

    Teenage Tupelo – Blu-ray Review:

    Guerilla Monster Films brings Teenage Tupelo to region free Blu-ray (technically a 50GB BD-R) taken from a new 2k transfer from original Super 8mm elements. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and presented in its proper 1.33.1 aspect ratio, this looks pretty solid given the fact that it was shot on Super 8mm. Detail can get a little soft here and there and, not surprisingly, the grain is heavy but the transfer feels like proper film and there isn’t much to note in the way of serious damage even if some minor compression artifacts pop up here and there. The colors in the color sequences look pretty solid and while in the black and white sequences some of the darker scenes do show some minor crush. Overall this looks fine given the movie’s origins.

    Teenage Tupelo gets an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, with optional subtitles provided in English, French, German, Japanese, and Portuguese. Audio quality is on par with the video quality in that it’s limited by the source materials but perfectly acceptable given the film’s low-fi roots. Sometimes the dialogue is a bit muffled but the score sounds really good.

    There are a lot of extras on the disc, starting with a commentary track from Mike McCarthy that goes over how the movie came to be released by Something Weird Video and produced by David Friedman, D'Lana Tunnell's affiliation with The Oblivians, casting the movie, where he and his half-brother had to appear in the film, using connections from earlier projects to get the movie made, locations that were used for the shoot, using the tropes of an exploitation movie to tell a story about Tupelo and it's connection to Elvis Presley and the mythology of his twin and how it ties into his mother, the influence of the French New Wave, creating a religion about Elvis and Jesse Presley in the movie, tying in different facts from Elvis' life into the movie and how his own life and background ties into the story, working a Scopitone film into the movie, putting the soundtrack together, interactions with the Tupelo Film Commission, McCarthy's own memories of growing up in Tupelo, the use of nudity in the movie, working in an homage to American Graffiti, the influence of alternative comics from the eighties on the film and the differences between working in the two mediums, where the inserts used in the movie came from, where scenes in the movie go on longer than the VHS cut of the film, shooting much of the movie without permits or permission, the significance of the film's ending a lot more.

    The 16mm Test Footage section includes, well, test footage shot on 16mm film, which was McCarthy's originally intended format for the project. There's fourteen minutes of silent black and white footage included here, taken from an archival tape source, and it's cool to see it included here. This section also contains a section called Zanone Zanude which is three minutes of black and white footage set to music from the film's score showing off just how lovely the actress looks rolling around in bed without her top on. Last up in this section is a Making Of segment that runs six minutes and shows off some of the 16mm test footage being shot. Sourced from a VHS recording that documents the event, it provides a look at what it was like on the set and the vibe that was going on between the cast and crew.

    The Phillips Session With Impala segment shows McCarthy working with the band on getting the soundtrack right inside a recording studio and it runs just over six minutes. The Barristers Party With Impala piece is a four minute clip of the band playing a live show at a venue named Barristers on August 11th, 1995.

    Booba was a locally produced show out of Memphis that highlighted local artists. McCarthy appeared on the December 3rd, 1994 episode alongside producer/musician Jim Dickinson and tattoo artist Ben Wallenborn. McCarthy's clip, which is included here, runs just over three minutes and sees him talking about the influence of the RE/Search Incredibly Strange Films book, his comic book work and the premise of Teenage Tupelo, working with Friedman and Something Weird Video and more.

    In the Heepelo section we get a selection of video footage and still photographs from the day that McCarthy and company shot the 16mm footage, provided by photographer David Thompson. Apparently it's meant to be synched up with Uriah Heep's song, 'Circle Of Hands,' but as the rights to that song aren't available we are asked to play it on our own and the five minutes of material is presented without sound.

    The Johnny Tu-Note & The Scopitones segment includes a seventeen minute radio interview from Memphis' 96X channel from 1995 featuring Johnny Tu-Note, as well as McCarthy and actress Dawn Ashcraft. Over the course of the interview, they go over the origin of the movie, the collaborative nature of the movie, the origins of Tu-Tone's band name, the wonders of naked ladies and more. A few of the band's songs are also played.

    This section also includes four tracks from Johnny and his band that were used in the movie - I'll Do Ya Right, One More Hit (& I'll Be Done), (I Wish I Was In) Love and Baby, Make Three - from the 7" EP originally released in 1996 by Sympathy For The Record Industry.

    The Chuck Moonchow section includes a forty second clip of Super 8mm footage documenting a living room jam session, a five minute audio recording or sinister laughing and dialogue as well as a still gallery dedicated to the man born Charles Gibson who became a very close friend and frequent collaborator of McCarthy's.

    Finishing up the Teenage Tupelo-specific extras are a photo gallery (broken up into eleven different sub-galleries: Dan Ball, Jim Cole, Baxter Buck, David Thompson, Kristen's Party Polaroids, Summer Drive-In, JMM & Friends, Manhaters, Personals, Locations and Art) and an original trailer for the movie.

    In the Sequelvis section, you'll find a load more material starting with a selection of short films, the first of which is a sci-fi tinged short about the separation of siblings Mildred and Jane (named after his mother and her sister) titled Waif/Hanna Star from 2016. This was inspired by McCarthy's own daughter's interest in anime and cosplay. It runs twenty-four minutes is very different from McCarthy's earlier movies in look and feel as it makes use of a lot of digital effects work and even features some space battles but it is interesting in how it focuses on the issues that arise when the two main characters get taken away from one another. It's pretty ambitious and at times impressive given its low budget. McCarthy's own daughter went on to record a single and an LP and two videos were made to promote this work – ‘Deep In The Meadow’ in 2012 and ‘Low’ in 2015 - those videos are also included here as well.

    2014’s A Day At The Drive-In documents a few of the characters from the Malco Summer Drive-In in Memphis. It runs four minutes and goes over how the drive-in has changed over the years, what keeps it going, the history of the location and the appeal of drive-in theaters in general. We even get a look at the projection booth and learn how that technology has changed since the drive-in was first built.

    Also from 2014 is Midnight Movie, set in a small town where the only movie theater left is being dismantled. A man named Lamar discovers tan old exploitation movie and falls for the lead actress that he sees on the screen while a man on a black horse wanders around town causing problems. Footage from Teenage Tupelo is used here as the old exploitation movie. It was originally intended as a feature but was turned into a short and runs seven minutes. It was shot in a single day.

    Tupelove, made in 2012, explores Elvis' early years and is essentially a fifteen minute tourism video for the city of Tupelo. In it, a man's car breaks down and when it does, he winds up meeting a woman who shows him around the area and details some of the town's history and Elvis' place in it (and to a lesser extent, Jesse's place as well). It's quite interesting.

    Goddamn Goddard, also from 2012, was inspired by an article written by an art critic condemning the behavior of McCarthy and his friends when they visited an art museum. It runs twenty-five minutes and sees a group of young men reading a newspaper article before then getting upset about it, while the art critic goes about his business. At the same time, a beautiful French woman working as a model disrobes for an art class. These threads tie together as the movie. shot in black and white and in a Goddard-esque style, progresses.

    2010’s Horror Host stars Don Meyers as a disgruntled horror host dealing with problems at his job with the producers and his co-workers only to prove, when a foxy new actress shows up on his birthday only to be mistreated, what he's really capable of. It's an eight minute short made with a good sense of humor.

    Tupelowie, which was made between 2008 and 2023, is a four minute short that connects Elvis and David Bowie in a few ways by showcasing footage of Bowie's 1972 Memphis College performance with an Elvis home recording from 1956. It's an interesting experiment. Accompanying this is a short film titled 'Thus Spake Dolph Smith' that details the recollections of artist and teacher Dolph Smith who welcomed Bowie to the Memphis College amphitheater where the footage was shot. It runs six minutes and ties into the Tupelowie shorts in interesting ways and was made for a film class that McCarthy taught at the school in 2008. Additionally, this section also includes another short called Something Alien In The Park from 2023 that runs just over two minutes and goes over Bowie's performances in Memphis, Bowie and his band's visit to the Memphis College Of Art and shows off some concept art of a sculpture that McCarthy would like to see placed near the steps where Bowie walked.

    The Super Tupelo & Super Teenage section includes a selection of shorts made between 2002 and 2004. Broad Daylight Trailer is a five minute selection of good looking women shaking what they were given shot in an old school burlesque film style and set to a garage rock soundtrack. What's not to love? Road Strip is footage from 2003 of burlesque star Kitten DeVille, actor Emmy Collins and McCarthy himself (as Super Tupelo) travelling from Riverside, California to Las Vegas shot by Scott Stoddard. The intention of this material, which runs six minutes, was to creature a pilot for a TV series and it's an interesting look at what could have been. Rise And Fall Of American Pop Culture is three minutes of material shot by Irish filmmaker Paul Duane of McCarthy in London as Super Tupelo spreading his gospel of Elvis. Rock'n'Roll Soundtrack is a selection of four music videos made with McCarthy, John Pickle, Roy Berry and lovely Jenny Patton that forms a narrative about a girl who falls in love with a boy who has a big collection of Archie comics. There's thirteen minutes of material here and as it plays out we get to enjoy tracks from Viva La American Death Ray Music, Poli Sci Clone, Hartwell Littlejohn and Jack Oblivian. It also feels like a bit of a travelogue at times, showing off different Memphis locations both highbrow and lowbrow. Super Tupelo & Super Teenage is an amusing three minute bit with McCarthy and a topless Jenny Patton in character and in costume posing for photos at different locations around the city. The Winston Eggleston Photos is a selection of photos shot by Eggleston that capture McCarthy and Patton doing their thing, spread out over a ninety second slideshow.

    2000's Elvis Meets The Beatles is a twenty-three minute short that is more or less what you'd expect given the title. It's an amusing piece about how the four Beatles travel to meet The King Of Rock 'n' Roll, The Colonel and Brian Epstein's involvement in all of this. It's quite funny and it's amusing to see how this all plays out - bonus points for including some cat fights and shooting it in El-Vision! Make sure you watch it through the end credits.

    In the Super 8 Oddity section we see an early short that McCarthy made with a friend and that friend's cousin called Dracula Reads Playboy, with McCarthy himself playing Dracula. It's quick at only two minutes but fun to see and it's clear that these guys were having a great time making it.

    There are also three additional features included on the disc as well, starting with 2023's Beatnik Manor, is made using original Super 8mm and 16mm footage from the Board Of Education film by students in a class taught by a sculptor named John McIntire at The Memphis Academy Of Art in the early seventies. Newly recorded narration from McIntire gives a personal slant to the piece. The documentary features musical contributions from Luther and Cody Dickinson, Sid Selvidge, Jimmy Crosthwait and Jerry McGill as well as an original score from Justin Thompson and John Stivers. The images and narration are presented in a free-form style, and the forty-nine minute documentary serves as an interesting time capsule/art project with McIntire telling stories about his life and his experiences. The end result is oddly surreal but interesting and the score fits it all really well.

    Destroy Memphis, made in 2016, was made by McCarthy who served as a "one-man documentary crew" attempting to capture an interesting moment in the city's history when the Zippin Pippin, a roller coaster built in 1922 and a favorite of Elvis Presley, was set to be demolished. Around the same time, an all-girl band that dubbed themselves ‘The Zippin Pippins’ after the coaster, were in breakup mode. The band did go into Sun Studios to record some music in hopes that it would help save the roller coast from gentrifiers, politicians and real estate moguls with some help from local activists united in the same cause. This documentary runs just shy of ninety-one minutes and it shows Memphis dealing with a lot of the same socio-political problems other large cities due, with business and politics often times pushing history aside in favor of greed and profit. Footage of McCarthy and his kids at Libertyland opens the movie that also features some great footage of the park itself, and there's loads of archival and historical footage used in here to showcase the history of the park. The band members also offer up their thoughts on all that's happening and we get some great live footage of them in action. There's also some very telling footage politicians and local activists sparring over the issue as well.

    Lastly, 2012’s Native Son is a sixty-four minute piece that covers how McCarthy both pitched the city of Tupelo on a sculpture of Elvis Presley based on his 1956 homecoming concert and, around the same time, met his biological mother for the first time - ideas and events that led to the making of Teenage Tupelo. The sculpture was eventually created by artist Bill Beckwith. McCarthy hosts the piece that covers the significance of the event, McCarthy's earlier work and how he and Beckwith came to collaborate, McCarthy's personal collection to Tupelo and to Elvis, his work on Tupelove, the importance of Roger Marshutz to the sculpture, how the sculpture was designed and put together, his mother's own experiences at the concert, how his relationship with his mother evolved and lots more. Clearly a very personal project for the filmmaker, it’s strangely fascinating to see how all of this winds up tying together.

    Teenage Tupelo – The Final Word:

    Teenage Tupelo stands the test of time and remains an entertaining exploitation throwback with a killer soundtrack, a gorgeous leading lady and plenty of quirk and kink to complement an entertaining story. The Blu-ray looks solid considering the Super 8mm source material, and it is absolutely stuffed to the gills with extra features. Recommended!


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    Ian Jane
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    Last edited by Ian Jane; 02-06-2024, 05:22 PM.
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