This is GWAR is a documentary about the band/art collective known as GWAR. It’s a pretty straightforward history of the group, which formed in Richmond, Virginia in 1984 as essentially a joke. Dave Brockie (“Oderous Urungus”) of hardcore punk band Death Piggy was the instigator, along with Hunter Jackson (“Techno Destructo”). The whole thing was put together with the idea of making a film, coming up with a ridiculous heavy metal band that would open for Death Piggy, equipped with costumes and props. But within a few shows, GWAR were much bigger than Death Piggy, and they decided to keep going –and are still going today, despite a couple of deaths along the way, including Brockie’s.
There was always that interest in film alongside the main GWAR project, so there was a lot of footage available—surprisingly for such a weird underground act, they even got on to M-TV. They made some videos and had a moment of success in the early ‘90s, not unlike the Butthole Surfers, who were also putting on these wild, elaborate shows that no one else was at the time.
The film includes interviews with the various members of the band—there have been up to 100 people who have been a “member” of GWAR at one point or another. Weird Al Yankovic is interviewed, as is Alex Winter, who did some work with them on his short-lived Monty Python-eque variety show Idiot Box. It’s very funny, of course, and there are some stories, to say the least. GWAR generally come off as really decent people, although you might not have felt the same if you were in the front row at one of their shows.
The band had its ups and downs, and were even nominated for a Grammy at one point for long-form video for their mini-feature “Phallus in Wonderland.” They came to the awards night in costume, and lasted about ten minutes at the ceremony as you would expect. GWAR’s later history was marred by deaths, including guitarist Cory Smoot and singer-bassist Brockie. There are the usual tales of in-fighting between the two founders, who had a major falling-out at some point. Brockie clearly bought his own hype at a certain point, but he seems to have been fairly harmless despite that.
What you can take away from it all, though, is that if you are inventive and unique, you might have some longevity with your art. The documentary is entertaining, and covers a band that, as Brockie said, hoped to last for 1000 years. It’s pretty extensive going all the way up to the present version of GWAR without Brockie.
The disc includes commentary from GWAR members Mike Dirks and Bob Gorman and a slew of video extras, like Behind the Scenes of a GWAR Show, GWAR on Empire Records (As told by Ethan Embry), The Legend of GWAR: The Story of the Scumdogs of the Universe, and An Important Message from the Scumdogs of the Universe. Extra interview clips include Brockie’s last interview, and the origin story of GWAR with Brockie, Jackson, and bandmates Chuck Varga and Don Drakulich.