Review We Are Twisted F***ing Sister

From live bar band to big stage act, Twisted Sister finally get their story told in this entertaining and insightful documentary.

Tony Antunovich

Published

By Tony Antunovich @tonyantunovich

Rock 'N' Roll legends. Grown men dressed in drag and spandex. Ridiculous glitz and glam musicians. Call them what you will, but Twisted Sister made their impact on the world of music and accomplished their goal of being a household name, forever. That's right. Both you and I, and everyone else who has ever turned on the radio, know good and well who Twisted Sister are, and we'll never forget it either. It doesn't matter if you like them or not, or whether you even care. The fact remains that a band from New Jersey/New York had enough ambition, passion and guts to do what was necessary to make it, or die trying.

It only took 40 years, but for the first time ever, Twisted Sister's story is chronicled in one single documentary that, at the very least, will leave you with newfound respect for a band that never gave up, no matter what obstacles stood in their way. We Are Twisted F***ing Sister captures the band from the very beginning of their career to their subsequent journey into the mainstream. It all began in the early '70s with founding member Jay Jay French and his bandmates working the New York bar circuit, playing night after night trying to make a buck, and a name for themselves. Many promoters, club owners, and fans alike didn't "get" the whole dressing up in women's clothing shtick. It was seen as a joke, but it was simply Twisted Sister's way of getting the attention they wanted, and it worked. This wasn't just a bunch of flamboyant guys jumping up on stage for a nightly gong show. This was a band that meant business.

The film presents lots of great vintage footage of the band on stage (and they were usually small stages too), performing their raunchy, high-energy act. About three quarters of it is devoted to the club shows, before Twisted Sister recorded their debut album Under the Blade in 1982. We see the ever-present Dee Snider commanding the audiences' attention not only with his energetic stage presence, but also his raw uncensored rants. One memorable moment is the "Disco sucks" campaign when he expresses Twisted Sister's blatant dislike for the then-popular genre, holding up crude anti-Disco signs, along with smashing a club's Disco ball right in front of everyone. It's absolutely hilarious to watch, though in today's world it would be intolerable. Another instance shows Snider getting angry at some people in the audience, telling them that if they don't like the show they should get lost. Then there is the one gig where the crowd isn't into it at all. Snider picks up on the fact that maybe they don't like the makeup he's wearing, and in a fit of desperation asks for a towel and some makeup remover, then basically says "Okay, here I am! How do you like me now?" From there the band resume playing and the crowd responds favourably. It's moments like these that truly reveal the lengths that Snider and company went to in order to really make their mark, even if it was risky.

The film goes back and forth from older on and off-stage footage to new interviews with Snider, French, Eddie Ojeda (guitars), Mark Mendoza (bass) and the late A.J. Pero (drums), plus band management personnel, club owners, several fans, and even members of the New Orleans-based Rock band Zebra. These one-on-one interactions add a lot of interesting perspectives to the movie's core purpose, which is telling the whole story of Twisted Sister, not just from the point of view from someone on the outside. As they say, there are always two sides to every story, but in this case, it's more like multiple sides. This really lends valuable insight into the many ups and downs Twisted Sister went through in their quest to be the best live band in the world. Another highlight worth mentioning is the footage of the late Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead) joining the band on stage during their gig on the UK-based program Tube TV, which was the same performance that finally caught the attention of a British Atlantic Records executive to sign them.

While most of the film does a great job of touching on Twisted Sister's transformation from unsigned live bar band to getting the record deal with Atlantic Records, there is one major problem here. It completely shuns out the height of Twisted Sister's success: 1984's Stay Hungry. Why the producers saw it fit to basically shove the band's entire Atlantic-era into a one-minute scroll of text at the end of the film is just mind-boggling. What a dumb idea and equally a huge disappointment. Surely there was more than enough footage in the vaults to add at least another half hour to the movie? Shameful to say the least.

Those who have ever followed Twisted Sister -- especially since the '70s and '80s -- will really find this documentary an interesting view. The band's impact on the Rock and Heavy Metal music scene is undeniable, and they have every reason to be proud of what they managed to achieve in this life, regardless of status or whether or not they were signed. We Are Twisted F***ing Sister is a true testimonial to the blood, sweat and tears one must endure to exist not only as a band, but also in the dog-eat-dog world of the music business. It's extremely entertaining, downright hysterical in some segments, and just a real pleasure to watch. After 40 years pushing forward, one thing will always remain firmly intact: Twisted Sister's heart and soul.

Images courtesy of Music Box Films.

8.5

Great

The Rundown

An enlightening, well-told story of Twisted Sister's journey across four decades of hard work and perseverance. Definitely recommended.

What's good?

  • Highly entertaining
  • Excellent interviews
  • Great storytelling
  • Nostalgic footage

What's not?

  • Lack of the band's most successful era

For Fans of

  • Twisted Sister