Published on September 6th, 2019 | by Robert Barry Francos0
STIV: No Compromise No Regrets
Fans of punk music will enjoy the depth of Danny Garcia’s recent biographical documentary about The Dead Boys’ Stiv Bators, STIV: No Compromise No Regrets.
The Dead Boys were an exciting band, to put it mildly. Luckily, I got to see them quite a few times, mostly at CBGB, and quite often sharing a bill with the equally wild British punkers, the Damned.
It was an exciting time, and in his documentary, STIV: No Compromise No Regrets, Danny Garcia seems to be on a mission to preserve as much as it as possible, having previously directed strong films about the likes of Johnny Thunders, Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, and the Clash.
As bios go, with the exception of a bit at the beginning, the film follows the usual chronological order of Stiv’s great march to the East, starting in Ohio (Rocket From the Tombs; Frankenstein), then New York (Dead Boys), to England (Wanderers, Lords of the New Church), and ultimately to his final days in Paris. These are backed up by many of his musician pals and a girlfriend who do the talking head remembrances. But here’s where this is different, and it’s an important variance: rather than the camera just sitting on the person talking for however long, once the introduction is done, the images we see is of Stiv in both still and video form, while the person continues narrating. This keeps it a lot more interesting.
What’s also in a positive is that Garcia digs pretty deep into the personality of Bators, from his good nature and humorous moods to his darker depressions and drug abuse. This pulls no punches. Stiv was known for some wild actions, such as “surfing” on the top of cars going 70 mph, fitting himself inside the bass drum during the set, or cutting himself Iggy-style on stage.
It’s also important to point out that this film is not about the Dead Boys or any of Stiv’s other bands, per se, but rather about the man, and Garcia never seems to lose track of that. Sure we get stories and anecdotes of life on the road from other band members, but this is definitely focused on the guy whose name is on the film. And that’s great.
Speaking of interviews, while Jimmy Zero (rhythm guitarist and songwriter for the Dead Boys) rightfully gets the most screen time as he tells great stories, all the people present to talk about Stiv give first hand reports, which is much better than “I heard that Stiv did this or that” or “I believe Stiv felt that…” Even the few journalists who get face time, such as John Holstrom and Nina Antonia, were there and give compelling first-person observations.
One things stand out for me negatively, albeit minor: I’m sure there is no blame on Garcia, is that it would have been interesting to hear from Cheetah Chrome (lead guitarist of the Dead Boys), and he would have some great tales as well; but I’m willing to bet that his exclusion was his own choice, and I respect that.
When dealing with the life of someone who lived on the edge for as long as Bators did, I kept wanting more, such as his relationship with the Damned, the Johnny Blitz benefit and how the drummer’s stabbing affected Stiv’s life, more about the contentiousness recording session of the DB’s Young Loud and Snotty (Genya Ravan’s reaction to Stiv’s Nazi fascination), etc. Of course, this would have made the film three hours long, but this is actually a complement to Garcia’s biography, because it kept my interest and I also wanted more.
Danny Garcia makes some compelling documentaries, and I always look forward to seeing them. While I don’t know what will be coming next, I’ll be there to see it. This film is a perfect indicator of why.
STIV: No Compromise No Regrets
Directed by Danny Garcia
Chip Baker Films
80 minutes / 2019