Greek Mythology: The Post-Apocalyptic Proto-Grunge Version | Bleader

Greek Mythology: The Post-Apocalyptic Proto-Grunge Version



Positing as it does that love and music are forces powerful enough to bend the will of the gods and (almost) conquer death, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice was bound to inspire artists across the millennia, from medieval troubadours to Nick Cave. It is, however, a little surprising to find a retelling based around skateboarding and proto-grunge.

Last night I had the semi-pleasure of watching Shredder Orpheus, a 1990 film that puts Orpheus and Eurydice in a post-apocalyptic Seattle where people live in customized storage containers and spend all their time skateboarding and going to rock shows (which is about the first post-apocalyptic scenario that I've ever been seriously jealous of). Orpheus is a rock idol to the city's skate punks, due in large part to his skill at ripping—some might say "shredding"—super hard on the magical light-up future-harp pictured below.


You can't really make it out because of the combination of low-quality filming, low-quality VHS transfer, and low-quality YouTube rip—plus the fact that the future-harp emits a blurry glow when Orpheus is rocking out with exceptional vigor, as he is in the captured clip—but the instrument is equipped with a whammy bar. Unafraid to defy expectations, Orpheus also sometimes ditches the future-harp in favor of giant, floating electric guitars that look like praying mantises:


Obviously Shredder Orpheus is in no way a good movie. It's cheaply made, and it's overflowing with blindingly obvious metaphors and a clunky message about how the sheeple need to wake up and realize how fucked the world really is. And Orpheus's music—which mind you is supposed to be responsible for making him a godlike superduperstar—sounds like someone took a 15-year-old with two weeks of guitar lessons under his belt, fed him a bottle of Goldschlager, plugged him into a four-track, and asked him to improvise some solos.

The movie is, however, a reasonably interesting time capsule of the late-80s alt-rock scene, after punk but before grunge, when underground fashion was stuck in that Jane's Addiction-style gypsy-punk thing that's already being revived by gothy hipsters. Major media exposure was still seen as a deal with the devil, and the film takes this literally—the underworld here is replaced by a television network and Hades himself by a ghostly TV exec. Adding to the time-capsule feeling is the presence of troubled underground poet Steven "Jesse" Bernstein (signed to Sub Pop back in the day) and drummer Bill Rieflin (who played in nearly every industrial band you've ever heard of), both in decent-size roles, as well as beloved character actor Fake Klaus Nomi:


For those still interested, here's the trailer: