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The El Duce Tapes

USA 2019
produced by
Tim Kirk for New City Road, Highland Park Classics
directed by Rodney Ascher, David Lawrence, Ryan Sexton (interviews)
starring El Duce (= Eldon Hoke), Ryan Sexton, Steve Broy, Anneta Hoke, Eric Carlson, Missy, Pallas
music by Jonathan Snipes/Nilbog

documentary

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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Even among "shock rock" bands, The Mentors were the one group that would take things almost too far, in their openly violent and misogynistic lyrics that seemed to pretty much advertise rape. And on first glance, their frontman and drummer El Duce (real name: Eldon Hoke) seemed to be the embodiment of their image: A lifelong alcoholic unable or unwilling to get a decent job and having lived on welfare most of his life, and yet never short of insults to dish out to others. On stage, he and the band would always sport executioner hoods, just to make a point on how menacing they are, while El Duce would frequently throw Nazi slogans into the crowd. Now despite the controversy they created as part of their act, they initially made hardly a ripple on the music scene - until during a senate hearing that let to the creation of the Parents Music Resource Center, founded by Tipper Gore among others in 1985, one of The Mentors' lyrics was read out loud - upon which sales of their music sky-rocketed and they became (at least for a time) a cause celebré. This in turn led to El Duce's appearances on several talk shows where hosts like Jerry Springer would hypocritically condemn his statements and call for a media ban when in reality they fed off the very shock value they could count on El Duce to bring - and he didn't disappoint.

In the early 1990s, Ryan Sexton, an actor on TV commercials and frequent guest star on General Hospital, spent his spare time documenting The Mentors and El Duce in particular, painting a rather different picture from the band's public image, like that they started out as a fusion jazz band and eventually leaned towards shock rock because they couldn't book any venues playing fusion, that El Duce was actually a gifted drummer, a very non-violent person, and not a Nazi-sympathizer at all who despite slogans he used tried to avoid any brushes with the neo-Nazi scene.

That said, El Duce was still an unapologetic alcoholic and became increasingly erratic as life went on, which also hurt his performances with the band. El Duce died in 1997, when in a state of intoxication he was hit by a train. He was 39 years of age.

 

Now I'll freely admit, I hadn't heard of The Mentors before watching this documentary, nor is their musical style entirely up my alley (no accounting for taste, I know), and yet, I was pretty much glued to the screen while watching this, because the film manages to shed a sympathetic light on a person who's (only at first glance) a vile human being and bring his humane side to the fore. And even if it's clear from the start the guy's on self-destruct due entirely to his own actions, one roots for him. And thus, what could have become a pile of gross-out spectacle that would have been in line with El Duce's public image, has become a rather fascinating biographical take on an artist working outside the mainstream and outside societal norms.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD