The other day I was struggling with the question of whether or not the 1984 micro-budget indie Desperate Teenage Lovedolls qualified in any way as an actual movie. One of the stranger details backing up its validity as a feature was the fact that the desperately-amateur production had somehow spurned a sequel just two years after its release. Unconvinced that the sequel was a real movie either, I decided to track it down & that’s how I ended up sitting through all 80 minutes of Lovedolls Superstar, something I doubt too many people have done in the past decade or three.
I’ll say this much on Lovedolls Superstar‘s behalf: unlike its predecessor, it is clearly an actual movie. With a run-time that stretches beyond the one-hour mark, plot threads that (sort of) reach an A-B conclusion, and a cast that can for the most part read their lines without giggling, it already has a head start that Desperate Teenage Lovedolls couldn’t afford. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean much in terms of the film’s overall quality. I picked on the first Lovedolls film for not being able to reach a legitimate feature length, but its sequel wasn’t really improved with the embellishment, not knowing at all what to do with the extra thirty minutes of runtime.
After catching audiences up on the first installment through a montage in the opening credits, Lovedolls Superstar checks back in on the formerly-famous, now-homeless lead singer of the fictional punk group The Lovedolls as she bathes in a drainage canal. Meanwhile her estranged drummer has used her past fame to fashion herself as a cult leader among her punk peers (“If a wannabe rock star Charles Manson could do it, why not me?”) and the two eventually join forces for a Lovedolls reunion (“We could be on top again! We could be drinking champagne instead of Night Train!”). Splitting their time between getting the band going again & running a Satanic cult that convinces kids to kill their parents for Jesus, the girls more or less relive the can’t-run-from-your-past tribulations of the first film and build a growing list of enemies that would love to see them dead. The main difference is that Lovedolls Superstar forgoes the Valley of the Dolls tragic ending of the first film in favor of a conclusion that sees The Lovedolls boarding a rocket ship for a space adventure in a third installment that certainly was never coming. I promise it sounds way cooler & more watchable than it is in reality.
As poorly made as these movies are, I’ll admit that morbid curiosity would’ve lead me to watching Lovedolls in Space had it ever been made. If nothing else there’s a few interesting ideas running around in Lovedolls Superstar that might’ve worked in a shorter, more well-planned film. I had fun with the Satanic cult activities (which included fantasy fulfillment assassinations of cops, record executives, and Bruce Springstein) in particular, since it at least showed a vague interest in taking the movie’s blasé attitude into more exuberant territory. They’re just wasn’t any true effort there to back it up. Once again, the film plays like kids making a home movie for kicks & works best as a document of 1980s California punk fashion more than anything. Also on the plus side, its soundtrack includes pre-fame Sonic Youth, Dead Kennedys. Meat Puppets and, of course, Redd Kross (whose bassist Steve McDonald plays an antagonistic role in both films). When the movie’s not making grotesque “jokes” about how feminists are “dykes’ & sex workers are “trash”, it actually works as a half-decent montage with a great soundtrack. The sound & the imagery are there, just with no structure to support them.
My ideal version of a Lovedolls 3: Lovedolls in Space would be a dialogue-free, punk-soundtrack montage of the first two films’ highlights leading all the way up to the (underwhelming) rocket ship blast off conclusion of Lovedolls Superstar, followed by a music video-esque continuation of those images with a space backdrop. It could be entertaining for at least a half-hour’s time. That formula wouldn’t necessarily amount to a true feature film, but neither did the twice-as-long Desperate Teenage Lovedolls and Lovedolls Superstar didn’t know what to do with that distinction anyway. It would, however, have a much better chance of being enjoyable.
Side Note: There is a very brief cameo of a young Jello Biafra playing the President of the United States in this film, which is a funny thought, for sure, but not funny enough to earn 80 minutes of your valuable time. I promise.