Blu-ray Review: The El Duce Tapes



The Mentors would have easily stayed a low level outrageous metal band in the ’80s if it hadn’t been for a senator’s wife. Al Gore allowed his wife Tipper and her watchdog Parents Music Research Center to attack rock and roll in 1985. They wanted to clean up the naughty words and imagery of record albums back when kids actually bought music. During the testimony, the disturbing lyrics of The Mentors were entered into the Congressional Record. Almost overnight The Mentors became a sensation for being attacked by the PMRC. Kids who wanted to upset their parents had to get the record by the band known for wearing black executioner hoods on stage and singing about bodily fluids and criminal behavior. Lead singer and drummer El Duce (Eldon Hoke) found himself in demand for talkshows because he didn’t try to downplay his outrageous move or excuse it away. He gets both Jerry Springer and Wally George upset by calling his band’s music “Rape Rock.” The El Duce Tapes shows a man who didn’t merely play a character on stage. He was a 24-7 disaster zone as shown by an intimate documentary portrait.

How did so much footage of The Mentors end up. Ryan Sexton was an actor in the ’90s who was making his way doing commercials and ended up on General Hospital. One day he found El Duce passed out near his apartment. This wasn’t that odd of a sight in the ’90s. But instead of merely walking by Sexton ended up grabbing his camcorder and filming the band around time in 1990 and 1991. He got in the pit. He hung out at the band’s parties. He wanted to go deep on a band that seemed rather superficial with their shocking persona and songs. Their guitarist was Sickie Wifebeater. But before Sexton could make a mid-’90s masterpiece, the dozens of VHS tapes went untouched. And then Rodney Ascher and David Lawrence came on board to edit Sexton’s work into what’s a compelling portrait of a repealing person.

This is not a feel good movie about rock in the early ’90s. Even with their controversial PMRC fame, The Mentors weren’t nearly as big as GWAR. You don’t hear the Mentors on the radio. Even after the film, you might not be tempted to run out and buy their albums like recent documentaries about Big Star and Frank Zappa. But we get a sense of the mayhem and ragged nature of the band’s music.

While El Duce comes off as out of control, he discusses his brutal relationship with his father. His old man worked in the military industrial complex designing bombs. It’s strange to think that Al Gore wanted to stop El Duce from ruining innocent children when there’s no clue how many children were killed or injured when El Duce’s dad’s bombs were dropped on various countries. Who was a bigger threat to society?

While much of the film is Sexton’s footage, there’s plenty of news footage from the time and recent history that put The Mentors into context and creates a sense of their impact. There’s a clip of when George H.W. Bush claimed he wanted to make American families more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons. But then they jump forward in time to show how during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing that he had used a phrase that The Mentors were attacked for singing earlier. We see how the things that were so disgusting in the late ’80s are now commonplace. El Duce goes on a rant about building a wall on the Mexican border to keep immigrants out. El Duce could have been president if he hadn’t died in a gruesome way. He’s not as shocking as politicians now.

The El Duce Tapes is an unrelenting documentary that makes you feel the self-destruction of a singer.

The video is 1.37:1 full frame. This keeps the VHS tape from being cropped. The picture has the roughness of analogue videotape. There’s a bit of fun with blue screens and tracking issues. You don’t want the story of El Duce being told cleanly. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA although most of the mix is focused on the front from the original recording of El Duce’s words. The new score is what takes up most of the speakers. The movie is subtitled in English.

Audio Commentary with The El Duce Tapes crew goes into how they went from a pile of VHS to a well-rounded production.

The Ryan Sexton Tapes (34:37) is a conversation between Ryan Sexton and producer Tim Kirk about how they discovered the Mentors and began videotaping the band in VHS. While the conversation is only audio, there’s plenty of photos illustrating their tales.

The El Duce Sessions (4:17) has Nilbog recording the original score for the film. It’s an interesting approach to creating the music for a musical documentary. They used destroyed VCRs to get unique sounds.

More El Duce Tapes (12:54) is more footage edited together.

Tape 2: Hollywood Reservoir (16:45) is more outtakes including a walk through the nature of Los Angeles.

El Duce Stories (3:45) has El Duce’s rambling tales edited together into one strange story.

Return to Rape Rock Mountain (29:04) is a brand new interview with Steve Broy, aka Dr. Heathen Scum of The Mentors. He gives a tour of the old place.

Reality Check (6:17) presents the all-female El Duce tribute band The Womentors. There’s a warning that this isn’t for kids. These ladies go all out in channeling the Mentors.

Arrow Video presents The El Duce Tapes. Directed by: David Lawrence, Ryan Sexton & Rodney Ascher. Starring: El Duce, The Mentors, GWAR, Wally George and Jerry Springer. Running Time: 104 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: February 9, 2021.

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