NEW YORK -- This heaping helping of Meat Loaf is tasty in parts, but the mashed potatoes are too lumpy and dessert never comes, leaving one a bit unsatisfied.
Made in 1981, "Dead Ringer" (not to be confused with the Bette Davis film of the same name) finally makes its U.S theatrical premiere at Anthology Film Archives. It is a combination of real concert footage mixed with a fantasy story line, revolving around the immense and immensely popular (particularly in the late '70s and early '80s) singer.
Meat Loaf fans will certainly derive the biggest pleasure from this film.
DEAD RINGERA Feature Films Production
Director-writer Allan Nicholls
Story Allan Nicholls, David Sonenberg, Alfred Dellentash
Director of photography Don Lenzer
Editor Norman Smith
Songs Jim Steinman
Meat Loaf-Marvin Meat Loaf
Russell Josh Mostel
Ernie Weaver MacIntyre Dixon
Running time -- 101 minutes
No MPAA rating
Meat Loaf's first album, "Bat Out of Hell," was a megasuccess, selling more than 11 million copies. This large, talented, sweaty singer hit the scene like a tank out of hell and the fans loved him. Now, several years later and about to go on the road again to promote his new album, Meat Loaf starts to feel the stress of success. His production office looks like a war zone and none of his "people" are listening to him. His two agents are either on the phone or playing Space Invaders (remember that?) while pretending to be taking meetings. Meanwhile, his manager keeps booking Meat Loaf for interview after interview, slowly driving the singer insane. The highlight of the film, in fact, is MacIntyre Dixon, who plays Ernie Weaver, a slightly vacuous, enormously patient New York interviewer trying to discover the true ingredients of this Meat Loaf, and believing every false word his subject tells him.
Elsewhere, seemingly in some perpendicular universe, are Russell (Josh Mostel) and his nerdy brother, Marvin (Meat Loaf), who not surprisingly bears an uncanny resemblance to his idol, Meat Loaf. It seems that Marvin never talks, but he can belt out a Meat Loaf tune as well as the original. When they learn that the great one is going on tour, they make it their lives' mission to find and maybe, hope against hope, even meet Meat.
The rest of the film interweaves the separate stories as Russell and Marvin follow the band across the country, just missing them at every turn. It is all, to say the least, an uneven hodgepodge that is consistently hit and miss.
There are several funny bits in addition to Ernie the interviewer. There's a Napoleonic punk security guard who harasses anyone trying to get close to Meat Loaf. This one-man riot act would beat away Meat's shadow if he could.
The concert footage is erratic, in that sometimes we'll only see a few seconds of a number, such as with "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," and it's more of a tease than anything else. But watching and hearing Meat Loaf perform is a treat throughout. He has a great voice and a hypnotic stage presence, making one wish we could have seen him in concert back then. He also looks as comfortable in front of the camera as he does on stage.
"Dead Ringer" is lively, but simple-minded fun. You may moan one or two times, but on the whole it's worth it.