Heavy Metal Parking Lot

Made in 1986 by two aspiring documentary filmmakers from Baltimore, Heavy Metal Parking Lot has since become an underground cult phenomenon and probably one of the widest seen documentary short-subjects ever produced.  This DVD release is the first for HMPL, pulling the film out of the underground bootleg VHS tape-trading culture in which it has thrived for two decades by word-of-mouth alone, and into the mainstream, adding commentary, outtakes and hours of nifty bonus features.


Film Baby

For those who have never seen Heavy Metal Parking Lot, it's probably hard to understand what all the fuss is about: it's nothing more than a barely edited 20 minutes of footage from cheap video gear of fans tailgating in the parking lot of a Maryland arena in which Judas Priest and Dokken are soon to perform.  This description, while factual, belies the true entertainment value of the film, which is one of the purest and funniest cultural time capsules of the 1980s.  Seeing this film once is like buying a lifetime pass to it; there is no doubt you'll re-watch it again and often.  It seems to reward repeat viewing and encourages memorization of some of the metal fans' more outrageous dialogue.

For 20 glorious minutes, the film depicts an asphalt sea of pickup trucks, Chevy vans and Trans Ams serving as points of convergence for sunbaked metal fans—a veritable petri dish of sweat, mullets, Budweiser, hairspray, peroxide and acid-washed jeans.  Everyone from food court bimbos to trailer park Romeos, shirtless rednecks and zebra-suited suburbanites, guys about to join the army and 13-year-old girls with braces getting their first taste of beer, rock n' roll and date rape.  Everyone in the crowd is excited by what they are about to see, many of them hardcore faithful Judas Priest fans, and their enthusiasm is contagious.  I myself am a huge Judas Priest fan, and even though the tour captured here comes on the heels one of the band's worst albums (1986's Turbo), I probably would have been just as excited as these freaks.

Some of the episodes from the film have become famous, such as the aforementioned zebra-suited teen who grabs the microphone for a long, rambling, half-witted monologue which is punctuated by the obnoxious kid hitting himself in the teeth with the microphone:  "Heavy metal rules, man!  All that punk shit sucks!  It doesn't belong on this planet, man.  It belongs on fucking Mars!  Madonna's can go to hell as far as I'm concerned.  She's a dick!"  Or the brace-faced redhead who, when asked what she would do if Rob Halford were present, replies without hesitation: "I'd jump his bones."  Or the skinny shirtless dude tripping on acid, who introduces himself as "Gram, like gram o'dope n' shit!"  Or the sleeveless tee-wearing blonde dude who says in the way of introduction: "Hey, my name is Dave Helvey, and I'm here to rock!" then proceeds to french kiss a 13-year old girl.  Or the hirsute Jewish fan who gives props to Priest and especially guitarist Glenn Tipton, before qualifying his praise with: "Robert Halford, I'm not so sure about you," proving that at least some people knew about Halford's dark secret long before he publicly came out of the closet in the late 1990s.

The DVD contains a digitally-scrubbed version of the original film, better than its ever looked in 20 years of bootleg VCR-to-VCR dubbing.  However, for those people who, like me, wistfully remember those days, the filmmakers have included an inegious feature called Dub-o-Vision.  At any time during the film, if you press your DVD's ANGLE button you can toggle between the "cleaned up" version, and one that looks like a 10th-generation VHS bootleg, complete with horizontal roll, ghosting, washed-out color and blurring.  The disc also includes a few informal and brief sequels made by Krulick and Heyn years after HMPL, including Neil Diamond Parking Lot, Monster Truck Parking Lot and Harry Potter Sidewalk, none of which are anywhere near as good as the original.

One of the most interesting features is a lengthy "Where Are They Now?"-style documentary, where the filmmakers attempt to track down as many of the unwitting stars of the film as they can, update viewers on their lives, and get them to talk about being a part of a cult phenomenon.  The most fascinating and ultimately sad segment comes at the end, when Krulick and Heyn track down a grown-up Zebraman, who owns an ugly suburban McHome, no longer listens to heavy metal (only country), and hardly even remembers going to the Priest concert in 1986.  It's a fitting metaphor for the way that the passion of youth so quickly and decisively gives way to the conservatism and repression of so-called maturity.  At least Dave Helvey doesn't seem to have changed at all.  Among tons of other features too numerous to list, something called Heavy Metal Basement is also included, a lengthy conversation with a metal enthusiast whose entire downstairs level is devoted to Judas Priest and metal fandom.  He provides the viewers a protracted trawl through his Priest LP collection, pausing to give commentary on each album.  Even though this guy is clearly an obsessed geek, he can't be all bad, because his favorite albums are mine, too.  (For the record, the best two are Sad Wings of Destiny and British Steel.)

All things considered, I'm not sure how Heavy Metal Parking Lot could have made a better transition to DVD, where though it has clearly lost some of its underground name-dropping cache, it can now be easily seen by a whole new generation of ironic retro-culture goons and mondo video dorks.  Priest is the best, man!  Party, hell yeah!


You can see some clips from Heavy Metal Parking Lot by viewing the DVD ad on YouTube.  Click here to watch.