Review: Twisted Sister’s Hard Road and Drummer Shortage


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The rock band Twisted Sister is the subject of Andrew Horn’s documentary.

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Music Box Films

“We went through a succession of drummers,” one member of the titular band in “We Are Twisted _______ Sister!” recalls at a relatively late point in this largely fascinating but arguably overlong documentary directed by Andrew Horn. That should ring a bell with aficionados of rock docs both actual and fictional, and the movie does contain further echoes of the classic comedy “This Is Spinal Tap.” A crucial difference is that this film’s subjects, and particularly the core members Jay Jay French and Dee Snider, are polar opposites of Tap’s pitifully un-self-conscious dim bulbs.

Mr. French, the band’s guitarist, kicks off the movie by telling how he ditched his flirtation with recreational substances in the early ’70s to seriously focus on a career as a gigging rock musician, inspired by the glitter movement. Mr. Snider, the group’s relentlessly outrageous frontman, recalls how his time as a high-school outcast helped him hone his performing chops.

The movie tells an incomplete version of the band’s story — it ends before the recording of its best-known anthem, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” recently a feature of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign — but provides a comprehensive and sometimes harrowing portrayal of the grind a working bar band in the 1970s had to endure to get by.

Mishaps and intrigues along the way include a misfiring audience-participation antidisco shtick, and the unnerving prospect of the heavily made-up group playing for a few thousand grungy Motorhead partisans. Sex is lightly touched upon, drugs are practically nonexistent — both Mr. Snider and Mr. French are teetotalers — and rock ’n’ roll runs on two parts passion to three parts pragmatism. What Twisted Sister definitely shared, for a time, with Spinal Tap was freakishly persistent bad luck, extending to one executive promising to sign the band to a record deal, and then dying on a plane home mere hours later.



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