July 16, 2010
By Zack Carlson

24,000 movies times 90 minutes = your whole life.That’s a good question, and there’s no good answer. This book may very well be the single most self-abusive research project in “film criticism” history.

As soon as Hollywood first caught wind of punks, they were immediately misrepresented and reshaped into non-human goofbags. No ’80s party comedy was complete without some pierced, rainbow-colored man-turd doing a human cannonball through a plate glass window. Whether you were an actual punk or a mother of twelve, you couldn’t deny these braindead stereotypes were even more entertaining than the two-dimensional hippies, bikers and metalheads the studios had dragged out in the past. No other cultural movement had ever been so damn wronged.

Of course, there were exceptions. In addition to some undeniably incredible documentaries of the punk scene, filmmakers who’d spent time understanding — or even participating in — what was taking place managed to create movies that endured to this day. Unfortunately, few of them were able to land proper distribution and have managed to evade the audience they deserve.

In early 2004, Bryan Connolly and I decided the world desperately needed a book that covered both genuine and totally defective depictions of punks. We started with a general list of the most crucial titles: Return of the Living Dead, Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia, Class of 1984…but soon realized it wasn’t enough to just hit on a few dozen names every self-respecting punk fan and/or movie nerd had on the shelf.

To create something of any actual value, we needed to hunt down every single on-screen appearance of a punk or new waver in the 20th century.

In films from any country.

Even if the punk is only visible in the distant background of a crowd scene.

For one second.


To start, we spent three consecutive 14-hour days at the world’s largest video store, Scarecrow Video, turning over tens of thousands of VHS tapes and DVD boxes. If the movie was made between 1976 and 1999 and wasn’t a western, we wrote it down on the list. By the time we were done, our fingers were black with video grime and we had notebooks brimming with titles.

When the rentals started, we’d pick up a couple armloads of tapes at a time. But, quickly realizing the enormity of our plan, we switched to heavy duty black trash bags. Bryan and I wouldn’t leave the video store without at least four giant sacks packed with movies. Once home, the viewings were relentless, only 5 – 10% of the films yielding any kind of punk gold.

This went on for years, the titles becoming rarer and more difficult to find. Much of our meager day job salaries went to tracking down fuzzy bootlegs and often-busted eBay purchases. Several friends joined the struggle, both writing and wearing out the fast forward buttons on their VCRs. In January of 2009, Seattle’s Fantagraphics Books were so impressed — either by the content or our masochistic obsessiveness — that they offered to release the book. We quadrupled our efforts to complete our research, began tracking down interview subjects, gathered hundreds of punk movie images and delivered it right under the deadline wire. At that point, superhuman designer Jacob Covey shaped all of our our chaotic mess into one of the most colorful, visually exciting books I’ve ever seen. That’s not salesman bullshit. I’m just saying he’s great.

Right now, after nearly seven years of blood, toil and stupid expense, the book is at the printer, we’ve lost nearly a decade of our lives and the world needs fun more than ever. We hope DESTROY ALL MOVIES!!! will supply it.

Tags: , punks on film

4 Responses to WHY???

  1. Diane Smith on September 17, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Perfect; especially the Little Dudes. Thanks for including me. I don’t think this is a topic I ever thought about before. Keep me in mind when it’s time to do marketing or promotion or print flyers or banners or postcards or to purchase a targeted mailing list. Remember Zack, you get the family discount.

    Aunt Dinny

  2. Aaron Soto on September 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Looking forward for the book, congrats.

  3. Steve Carlson on October 5, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    When did YOU learn how to write?

    Damn proud of you, son!


  4. [...] mind-bending reference of cinematic trash culture, are obsessives to be sure (read Carlson’s blog post titled WHY?), but not the kind who exhaust you with eye-glazing otaku trivia that doesn’t matter to [...]