It has always struck me as odd that Hollywood has not investigated the idea of turning rock and roll concept albums into film. As potential film projects, they certainly seem like attractive prospects- They already have a built in storyline, score and fan base. But with the exception of director Ken Russell’s Tommy, based on The Who’s classic album, and the short film Kilroy Was Here, which the rock band Styx screened on tour in 1983 to promote the same-titled album which yielded the hit “Mr. Roboto,” I am at a loss to think of when Hollywood looked to a pre-existing rock and roll album as the source for a film.*
Perhaps comic-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait will change all that if his planned rock musical film, an adaptation of the Kinks’ 1975 concept album Schoolboys In Disgrace, comes to fruition. During an interview with CHUD to promote his upcoming film World’s Greatest Dad, Goldthwait stated that he is currently developing storyboards for the film to help him convince potential investors of the project’s viability.
The album was released at the end of the band’s short-lived “theatrical period,” which saw Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies turning his hand from pop hits to broader, sprawling rock operas. The story of a school boy who is continually humiliated and punished by a sadistic school master until he eventually grows up to be a villain himself, serves as a prequel to two previous 1973 albums, Preservation: Act 1 and Preservation: Act 2, which kick started the theatrical period.
Goldthwaite has already met with Davies about the project and has received the singer’s blessing.
Due to numerous reasons, the Kinks’ “theatrical period” is probably the least familiar to modern listeners and casual fans, myself included. While this might not be ideal from the standpoint of the project already having a built-in audience, it does give Goldthwaite some latitude to develop the film’s plotline without having to worry that any deviation from the source material will put him under fire from fans. Goldthwaite has been very quietly building a decent resume as a director, starting with 1991’s cult classic Shakes The Clown, described by one critic as “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.” While a musical would be new territory for Goldthwaite to navigate as a director, I am sure that it will still carry his distinct darkly comic sensibilities.
And who knows, if the film hits, maybe it will give me the incentive to dig out my half-completed screenplay Celluloid Heroes out of my desk drawer.
*I am, of course, throwing out many of the rock and roll movies that featured rock acts as characters, oft times playing versions of themselves, or which draw some of their plot from a single song title like the Herman’s Hermits film Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.