Former Russ Meyer protégé Rene Daalder (Massacre at Central High) directs this off the wall punked out musical starring Tomata Du Plenty former front-man of The Screamers. Population: 1 is about a lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust (played by Du Plenty) retelling American history from a bomb shelter.
Tomata Du Plenty was a prolific and eccentric stage performer who was part of the San Francisco drag troupe, The Cockettes, the Seattle counter-culture theatre group Ze Whiz Kidz and eventually fronting the synth-punk band The Screamers. Du Plenty melds the style of these groups together to give a revisionist history of America. He delivers his vision of America thru dance, poetry, singing, super imposed video footage and some completely bizarre imagery that includes floating singing appliances and a woman with breasts for eyes.
This idiosyncratic history 101 begins with Tomata reminiscing about his childhood home and mother and then his take on the Pilgrims arriving in North America with the song Do Or Die. He sings this tune in a fast pace accompanied by a player piano with superimposed video of the Pilgrims shooting Indians. This is a really great scene that sets the tone of the film letting you know that is isn’t going to be your average high school history class. Tomata then goes onto tell the story of how he and his partner Sheela met.
Sheela Edwards really steals the show at this point with her rendition of Jazz Vampire which really made this flick for me. A really great piece of performance art utilizing some really cool animation for its time. The story of Tomata’s relationship with Sheela continues with the song Pillow Talk. Shella fights it out with belly dancers and girls from stag films for Tomata’s attentions in another bizarre sequence that really makes this film a gem. Following this Tomata states how sexist the world was back then and how he tried to change people’s perceptions by performing song I Wanna Hurt in a duet with Sheela. I Wanna Hurt is taken from one of The Screamers concerts and is a really powerful performance that shows how great this band was.
The history follows Sheela and Tomata’s rise to fame and the event of war which eventually destroys the country after a nuclear attack. Sheela and Tomata eventually end up in a bomb shelter after the nuclear apocalypse with a band of misfits including Al Hansen, El Duce, KK Barret and a 12 year old Beck who make up the decent contributing members of society who are deemed worthy enough of a place in the new future. Tomata’s history is a hallucinogenic journey that confronts the intolerance, selfishness, greed and violence of society that will lead to its demise. Scathing political satire delivered via the music video medium Population: 1 is an innovative piece of DIY filmmaking miles ahead of its time. Turn it up and sit back and enjoy the ride.
Cult Epics have gone all out on their release of Population: 1 putting together a really great two disc set filled to the brim with extras. The extras include rare concert footage of The Screamers in action, scenes from Mensch (the prequel to Population: 1 that never saw the light of day because of funding problems) and interviews with Rene Daalder. What impressed me most from the extras were Daalder’s sharp mockumentary on Hollywood Je Maintiendrai and Tomata’s tribute to his musical heroes Punish or Be Damned.
This set is essential for fans (and a great place to start for those unfamiliar with their work) of both Tomata Du Plenty and Rene Daalder because it’s a really comprehensive set showcasing their talents.
DIRECTOR(S): Rene Daalder | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 1986 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Cult Epics | RUNNING TIME: 180 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 1.33:1 | REGION: ALL/NTSC | DISCS: 1
- The Screamers live music video
- Unreleased Tracks by The Screamers and Sheela Edwards
- Behind the scenes gallery of stills
- Original and new trailers for Population: 1
- Scenes from Mensch the lost prequel to Population: 1
- Palace of Variety trailer
- Je Maintiendrai
- Over 40 minutes of exclusive concert footage of The Screamers
- Rare footage of Fluxus artist Al Hansen
- Exclusive outtakes of Vampira’s final major interview
- Punish or Be Damned
- Girls; a never before released Penelope Houston music video
- Interview with director Rene Daalder