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USA 2005
Directed by
Greg Whiteley
75 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

New York Doll

Anyone expecting kick-ass sensationalism will be disappointed by this account of the rise and fall of Arthur “Killer” Kane, the former bass player for the legendary proto-punk glam rock band, The New York Dolls.  It has all the ingredients one comes to expect from films dealing with rock n’roll – drugs, paranoia, breakdown, death, survival and so on but more as a backdrop to Arthur’s story which is coming to a head in a reunion performance of the band at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

The  New York Dolls were an incendiary band that were more important for their influence (the UK aspect of which is well covered here) than their actual output, releasing only two albums New York Dolls (1972) and Too Much Too Soon (1974), before breaking up in a typically acrimonious fashion. Arthur slowly spiralled out and down in a drug and alcohol-fuelled burn-out before being saved by the Word of You Know Who and becoming a librarian’s assistant in the Mormon Family History Center in L..A.

Director Greg Whiteley seems blessed not only in that his slight documentary has a ready-made structure in the band re-union process to focus its anecdotal nature, one which conveniently brings together all the main players (three of the original band members were dead), but, and this is a qualified “but”, he is supplied with a stunning closure to his story that no film-maker could orchestrate. Centre-stage, of course, is Arthur – a remarkable character, quiet, reflective with a rather bemused stoicism shored up by his religious faith that is never dogmatic or exclusive.

This is a poignant story and an exemplary reminder that it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock n’roll.

DVD Extra: Theatrical trailer 

Available from: Madman




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