Slaves to the Underground (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is a story about the eternal love-triangle. A couple broke up because she was raped by one of the guy's friends, and she couldn't tell him or deal with it emotionally. She is a guitarist, wanders off into a band, and strikes up a sexual relationship with the lead singer. She realizes that she wants to go back to her boyfriend, but can't do it because she doesn't want to mess up the band, which is on the verge of breaking through.

Blah, blah, blah. Usual stuff. Nothing so new and different. The film never would have caught any attention at all if the lead singer had been a man, but this lead singer happens to be another woman.

If I were a 22 year old filmmaker today, I would make gay-themed movies. The reason is that you can take any old clichéd story that has been done a zillion times, and any old unoriginal dialogue, and make a movie which seems fresh to a built-in audience if you simply change the sex of one of the lovers. Then, instead of reviewers saying, "This is the same old crap," they will say, "Breaks new ground in dealing honestly with same-sex relationships." The ides of showing gay characters doing the same old stuff as straight characters seems fresh because very few mainstream movies have treated gay characters without condescension or some kind of implicit understanding they they are out there doing some kooky, almost non-human stuff 24 hours a day.

Hey, gay filmmakers. If you have to re-hash the same old crap, why not do it with some great stuff? How about Casablanca. Just make Rick a tough-talkin' butch, and put in plenty of nude scenes, and you'll get my nine bucks. I recommend Laetitia Casta as Ilke and Hilary Swank as Rick. If you do a lesbian movie with plenty of nudity, hetero guys will watch it as well. That formula worked perfectly in this film. The two stars in this film got naked and looked great in the clinches. Molly Gross was a screen newcomer, with a kind of intense, confused charm, and quite a nice body, but this was just about her entire film career. Marisa Ryan was a TV veteran. As a girl, she was one of the daughters on Major Dad. More recently, she was in that "Mary and Rhoda" reunion movie as Rhoda's daughter, if you were one of the three people who saw that. She has continued to work steadily in TV and films to this day. (Written nine years after the film was released.) She's a good enough actress, but found her a dubious casting choice as the lead singer because she can't carry a tune.

I guess that doesn't matter that much in grunge.

In fact, many reviewers praised this movie for an accurate portrayal of the grunge scene. I have to defer to their knowledge on that. The score is mostly just noise to me, a definite candidate for my least-favorite musical score in history. (But I still have to cast my vote for the all-Donovan 1960's hippie score in Zefferelli's Francis of Assisi, a story located 650 years before the hippies were spawned.)  Reviewers in the gay community also praised the accuracy of the lesbian politics in Slaves to the Underground.  Again, I must defer to their insider knowledge.

Setting aside the matters of accuracy and originality, I found this film to be pleasant enough as a bland romantic comedy with more nudity than usual. Although it has some rough edges, I generally enjoyed it when there was no grunge music playing.



  • widescreen, but no meaningful features



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The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C-. It is a watchable romantic comedy which is not at all unpleasant except for the grunge score. Although it is about the grunge scene and has quite a bit of nudity, it is actually quite bland and unthreatening, as if a TV sitcom got a minor re-write.

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