Wellspring Media // 2003 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 17th, 2006
"Sharon speaks from the grave! Avenge my Bouffant!"
"Murders[sic] go to court! Shave their heads and look awful!"
-- Headlines in the movie
What if Rankin-Bass decided to make a stop-motion animated musical out of Helter Skelter? Imagine the possibilities no more, because Live Freaky! Die Freaky! is here to fulfill your Manson family puppet dreams. It's been a hit on the midnight movie circuit, but now we have a fully-packed DVD to get us to bed at a reasonable hour. Of course many people won't get much sleep after an hour and a half of puppet gore, sex, and heavy drug use. If you thought the randy love scene in Team America: World Police was out there, get ready for the next level of obscenity. This is something Matt Stone and Trey Parker could never get away with. These puppets have porno sex, snort mountains of coke, eviscerate each other, and say the most politically incorrect things you've ever heard. Yet Live Freaky! Die Freaky! also aims for not-so-subtle satire in addition to its gross-out humor, which makes it an oddity even for a stop-motion musical based on an infamous true crime. Is there something more going on in Live Freaky! Die Freaky!? Does this movie have anything to say, or is it doomed to be found in the bargain bins at Hot Topic?
Underneath all the lunacy of seeing a puppet and clay rendering of "Charlie Hanson" and "Sharon Hate" (real names had to be changed slightly), there is a sly message about falling for false gods. Not only does the "family" come off as murderous fools, but the victims are portrayed as coked-out monsters who worship Hollywood. Live Freaky! Die Freaky! is a morbid cry to not be sheep or blind followers. It's sort of the same punk rock manifesto that's been circling around for an eternity, but nonconformity still seems to have not caught on. Oh screw all that, Live Freaky! Die Freaky! is just a bunch of people having a lark. Director John Roecker was having too much fun to restrain himself. He's working with material reminiscent of John Waters, back when he was making people eat dog shit -- except luckily for John Roecker's friends, he was using puppets.
And boy, does this guy have some friends. Stunt casting abounds, with the voice talents of Kelly Osbourne ('80s retro queen and daughter of Ozzy), Theo Kogan (lead singer of the Lunachicks), Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day singer), Jane Wiedlin (Go-Gos), Henry Rollins (punk poet), Sean Yseult (of White Zombie), Asia Argento (Land of the Dead), Tre Cool (Green Day), Warren Fitzgerald (The Vandals), Travis Barker (Blink 182), Matt Freeman (Rancid), Davey Havok (A Fire Inside), Nick 13 (Tiger Army), Brett Reed (Rancid), Benji Madden (Good Charlotte), Mike Dirnt (Green Day), Tim Armstrong (Rancid), Rob Aston (The Transplants), Lars Frederikson (Rancid), Matt Freeman (Rancid), Robert Zabrecky (played with Beck), and John Doe (punk rock legend and the dad in Roswell). Oh yeah -- Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence) appears in a cameo from inside a bush; (He doesn't speak, you just see his face.)
If you're a fan of punk rock aesthetics, you'll find Live Freaky! Die Freaky! right up your alley. The humor is out there, so sensitive types will find it offensive and hideously grotesque. There are jokes about homosexuals, pregnancy, women, Europeans, ecologists, the media, and the justice system, not to mention how callously they treat the crimes committed by the real Charlie Manson and his followers. Movies like this are built to be offensive and in your face. If you watch it and actually get outraged, then you're barking up the wrong damn tree. Truth is, the director would tell you to f*** off and go make a better movie yourself if you don't like it. What I found amazing was how a lot of details were factually right, and how much the whole thing did look like a Rankin-Bass holiday special. This isn't just an offensive puppet play, it's also a biting satire of how the media treated these crimes, and the silly obsession punkers have had with it for years. The songs are Broadway show tunes or Disney production numbers gone terribly wrong. The music makes all of it much more twisted, because they're offensive and catchy.
The transfer is a fullscreen affair, which is pretty clear given the film's origins and sketchy production values. Audio is available in a surround or a stereo mix, and both sound good. The extras on this release are definitely worth a look. Behind-the-scenes footage includes many of the famous faces listed above delivering their lines and recording the Broadway-soaked punk tunes that make up the soundtrack. There is one deleted scene (with no sound) of a baby killing a pig. It was cut because PETA would have been angry, but somehow they left in running over a bunny. The commentary is as scatological and morbidly funny as the feature film. It features director John Roecker, Billy Joe Armstrong, and Jane Wiedlin riffing off a glass over their limit of wine. Also included with the DVD is a CD version of the soundtrack. There's also a very nice booklet, which includes an informative interview with the director from Spin magazine.
It won't be to everyone's tastes, but if you're up to it, Live Freaky! Die Freaky is a punk rock dream channeled through Rankin-Bass. You'll need to have a sense of humor, a strong stomach, and your political correctness switch set in the off position to get through it. Still, clay puppets singing about taking out Liz Taylor's eye in a soulful ballad about all the good things they could have done is worth a giggle. Charlie would be damn proud.
Review content copyright © 2006 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Wellspring Media
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary with Director, Billy Jo Armstrong, and Jane Wiedlin
* Behind the Scenes: "Making Puppets Speak"
* Behind the Scenes: "Soundtrack Rehearsals"
* Behind the Scenes: "Desert Footage"
* Deleted Scene
* Mini Bios
* Music Video "Mechanical Man"
* Official Site
* Jane Wiedlin Official Site
* Green Day Official Fan Site