Gervasi, Sacha (Director)
Anvil-The Story Of Anvil (DVD)
Released: 2009, VH1 Films
The moral of the story is that it pays to be nice. Years ago, 1982 to be exact, Anvil was on tour and they met up with a kid who wanted to hang around with the band. Instead of blowing him off, Anvil invited the kid hang around. Who knew that 23 years later he would be a big-shot Hollywood movie Producer working with Steven Spielberg? Who would have guessed that he wanted to actually do a movie about the band? The band at first was a bit skeptical, but after getting flown to LA it started to sink in that Sacha Gervasi was not kidding. The result was ANVIL-THE STORY OF ANVIL.
After a powerful opening scene putting the bands massive influence and early success into context starting with vintage 1984 footage from a massive stadium show in Japan with Scorpions, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi and followed by an seemingly endless parade of famous Metal dudes saying how awesome the band ‘were’. The past tense is important because we jump forward 20 years to see the lives of Lips and Robb and their very modest lives in Ontario Canada, with simple jobs, and long suffering family members.
The narrative does an all too brief overview of the bands history and glosses over 20 years in the blink of an eye, which was very disappointing to me. The film instead focuses on the 2006 European tour, which was by most accounts a poor tour with a few highlights, Sweden Rock Festival being one of them. The tour was organized by the inexperienced, but sincere promoter from Europe, who eventually becomes tour manager, band manager and marries one of the guys in the band. The tour virtually falls apart after and band limps home and licks their wounds. They get their shit together for the recording of THIS IS THRITEEN and the movie follows that process from start to finish, including dramatic and emotional recording sessions in England. After being rejected by virtually everybody the band decide to release it independently and the shows ends with a high-profile show in Japan, completing the circle. It is a short movie running about 80 minutes. There are many fun scenes, the band visiting Stonehenge, the band touring Europe, the band hanging around at home and lots of interviews with family members. It is a very emotional film, there are lots of tears. The band cries, the manager cries, the wives cry, I hand it to the band to leave those very personal scenes in the film, watching them fight and cry and struggle through adversity, which is really the central theme of the movie. It’s eye-opening how much these guys just don’t when to quit which is one of the central themes of all struggling Metal bands, when lesser mortals would have walked away long ago.
There are a few bonus features including an extended interview with Lars of Metallica (30 minutes) a few deleted scenes (12 minutes worth) and a clip of Sacha Gervais playing ‘School Love’ in Japan (4 min) and the Directors Commentary assisted by Lips and Robb. I have a soft spot for this movie as I am a huge fan of the band. I even ordered the original, limited edition pressing of THIS IS THIRTEEN (aka tit ha ! ha! ) directly from the band so there is a bit of a personal connection to the band for me as it was interesting to see. There is a scene where Lips is personally picking up and mailing orders of the new album to ship out to fans and I always wondered if that was my copy on screen.
The movie was extremely well-received. It seems many people love a rags to riches to rags to riches story. Some critics went as far as to call it the Greatest Movie about rock and roll ever made. That may not be far off as it won countless awards and helped revitalize, to a degree the bands profile and career, although since then Lips of Anvil has admitted all the extra exposure has not translated directly into increased album sales. Above and beyond Anvil fans, all Metal fans should view this film as it really shows not only the historical importance of the band to the history of Metal but a demonstration of perseverance and friendship and the sacrifice it takes to (barely) make a career. In the end the movie was as much about the life-long friendship of Kudlow and Reiner as it is about Anvil.