The El Duce Tapes Review
What do you know about one Eldon Hoke? Not much? If you live outside the US the chances are it’s not a lot. What about if I say El Duce? Anything? The Mentors? No, that’s probably a good thing.
Across 1990 and 1991 Ryan Sexton was an up and coming actor trying to find his way. He inadvertently stumbles across El Duce, who was passed out in a bush in his front yard, and his band Mentors and, picking up a camera, he decides to film enough for a short film.
What Sexton shot was so much more, a massive collection of tapes but it was all brought to an abrupt end. For 25-years those tapes lay dormant until Rodney Ascher (“The Nightmare”, “Room 237”), David Lawrence approached Sexton and together the trio made this documentary.
The Mentors are a band that play ‘shock rock’, this could also be called ‘shit rock’ as the music is very much secondary to the drivel these bands spout. In the Mentors case it was all about raping women and what El Duce would do to them.
El Duce dubbed it ‘rape rock’ and even appeared on The Jerry Springer Show, and others, talking about it. He always wore his black hood with eyes and mouth cut-out, though wasn’t shy about taking it off and revealing his face.
The Mentors, or more precisely El Duce, were so in-your-face and blatant with their lyrics that even other ‘shock rock’ bands thought they went too far.
The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) even attempted to have the band…well, I’m not totally sure what they were trying to do but the documentary is worth watching just for the court scenes where conservative guys in suits have to read out some lyrics and song titles of these ‘shock rock’ bands. Anyway, whatever the PMRC try to do it has the opposite affect and the Mentors end up playing bigger venues then before!
As for El Duce, well he was mostly drunk, drinking upwards of eight 40oz bottles a day. He says heil Hitler a lot but there’s also a childishness to him as he constantly blows raspberries at the camera.
He would sometimes be so drunk on stage that he couldn’t even play, or sing, with other band members admitting that, at best, only 50% of their shows would be any good.
One of the band members, Sneaky Sperm Shooter (I kid you not, real name Ed), didn’t get along with El Duce and the two would regularly bicker over the smallest of things. El Duce, and others, decide to play a trick on Ed and tell him they’ll pick him up on the way to a gig.
They don’t, leaving him sat waiting for a ride that’s never going to arrive. The next night, Ed overdoses.
What does this do to El Duce, well, absolutely nothing. All he cares about is that he’s lost all his stuff: clothes, a coffee machine, he just shrugs and says they were going to kick him out of the band anyway.
As the years pass and his fame subsides he’s caught on camera a few other times, mostly absolutely smashed out of his skull and having the piss taken out of him by others.
He also appears on the documentary Kurt & Courtney as El Duce claims that Courtney offered him $50,000 if he’d kill Kurt, “shoot him in the head”.
Two days after that appearance, El Duce played at a local bar, left and went on a bender and was never seen of heard from again, winding up at the side of some rail tracks having been hit by a locomotive.
The El Duce Tapes are a fascinating look into this world of ‘shock rock’. Whilst it is easy to hate El Duce or shrug him off as some uneducated fool, the directors do well to get beneath that.
I’m not condoning him, or any of the others, but you do wonder if he knew what he was doing was shock. He wasn’t, for instance, racist. He refused a gig because it was in a racist part of America and he had lots of black friends, he also had a girlfriend, and a sister, who both basically shrug and say it’s all a show. Fascinating.
(This film was written as part of the BFI Film Festival coverage)
Originally published at https://www.ocmoviereviews.com on October 9, 2019.