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Movie Review: 2001 CUFF: We Sold Our Souls For Rock ‘n’ Roll

By Mike Everleth ⋅ August 21, 2001

Before the screening of We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n’ Roll, its director, Penelope Spheeris, said that the film has some serious legal music rights problems and that it may never be seen again after the Chicago Underground Film Festival. That would be a real shame cuz it’s a pretty rockin’ movie.

It’s a documentary of Ozzy Osbourne and the 1999 Ozzfest, which if you don’t know is an annual summer road tour made up of heavy metal bands. The 1999 lineup consisted of, partially, Slipknot, Fear Factory, Deftones, Rob Zombie, Slayer and a reunion of Black Sabbath.

The movie was conceived by Penelope after the Osbournes – Ozzy and his manager wife Sharon – approached her about making a fictional film revolving around the Ozzfest. Penelope told them to forget doing a fictional film and allow her to make this documentary.

The thing you have to give the Osbournes real credit for, and I can’t imagine many other music industry people allowing this, is that they gave Penelope unrestricted access to themselves and agreed to have themselves shown warts and all. Not that the Osbournes do anything heinous, but if you think Ozzy is still a bat-eating drunk, it’s absolutely hysterical to see him using a teleprompter on stage because he can’t remember Sabbath lyrics, drink herbal tea and get a massage backstage in-between Sabbath songs, and kiss and play with puppies while the other bands are playing.

The Osbournes are a real hoot and I don’t think I’d mind watching a documentary about them sitting at home doing not much of anything. But in We Sold Our Souls they’re really only bit players while large amounts of screen time is given to the other bands and the heavy metal fans at the shows.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Capturing music fans in the heat of the moment, and hopefully drunk and/or high, is pure documentary gold, which any fan of Jeff Krulik‘s Heavy Metal Parking Lot can attest to. And We Sold Our Souls has more than its share of hilarious rednecks and other heavy metal morons expressing their love, usually for Ozzy but also for the other bands. We Sold Our Souls is like 20 Heavy Metal Parking Lots crammed together.

The best fan in We Sold Our Souls is a guy, who seems a little slow, who first asks where the t-shirts are then proudly stomps off to go into the mosh pit. “I go into the mosh pit for every show! It’s kickin’!” he exclaims. Only as he walks away do we see that this guy needs leg braces and crutches to walk. How the hell does he survive in a mosh pit for chrissakes?

But I also liked the drunk hick who tries defending some girl’s honor on the topless mechanical bull ride. When asked by Penelope what he wants to do with the girl, he replies, “Why, I’d take her home and make her righteous!”

One’s tolerance for We Sold Our Souls, tho’, is going to be determined by one’s appreciation of heavy metal. After awhile all these piss-ant bands, with the exception of Primus and Black Sabbath, started sounding all the same and started seriously tiring me out. The most ridiculous of them was Slipknot who, looking like they take career advice from Gwar, wear orange jumpsuits, masks and refer to themselves only by number. They looked like a bunch of douchebags. But the scene of them trying to instill terror at the Lincoln Memorial was awe-inspiring.

But not only do heavy metal bands and their fans come away looking braindead and useless, but there’s also a great sequence featuring some nutjob religious fanatics protesting the Ozzfest coming to their town. The protestors are led by some ranting preacher who seems more interested in the publicity he’s generating than actually believing his own rhetoric against the evils of heavy metal. The way he manipulates a young man with obvious mental problems in front of the camera is absolutely disgusting. But it’s hilarious when the preacher debates Sharon Osbourne on the radio. The preacher claims that one of the evils that bands like Black Sabbath promotes is homosexuality. So, Sharon asks him, “What’s wrong with homosexuality?” Perfectly deadpan, the preacher responds, “Haven’t you ever heard of anal fisting?”

It’s great shit like that that would make it a real shame if We Sold Our Souls doesn’t get a proper release. But Sharon Osbourne, producer of the film, messed up getting the publishing rights to the music used in the film.

So, I think we should all join hands right now and pray to Satan that these legal wranglings get cleared up soon.

Continue on to 2001 CUFF: Hybrid.

Go back to 2001 CUFF: “Spells for All Your Troubles” (shorts).