Review: The El Duce Tapes (2020)

Documentary The El Duce Tapes is a collection of VHS tapes recorded by Ryan Sexton that capture The Mentors and their lead singer El Duce. El Duce (Real name Eldon Hoke) himself is either an avant-garde boundary pushing artist and talented drummer or he is a fiend. Calling his music rape-rock, giving nazi salutes and drinking non stop, El Duce is an intriguing and repulsive character and you spend a lot of this documentary wondering if this genuine or if this is all an act.

Delving into the the band The Mentors but also into El Duce’s family and life before becoming who he is. El Duce’s life looks and probably smells like a trash fire, not that it seems to worry him in anyway. A contradiction in terms and possibly a man with a bunch of non diagnosed or untreated mental illness. A guy with no ego but seemingly a love for the spotlight – he says I’m hate myself, he wants to get ‘better’ but doesn’t have the will to do it, so he goes further down the spiral. Interviews with band mates, friends and his sister paint a picture of someone following their own path, interesting that none of these people are trying to steer him onto a different path, they seem to be passive onlookers that hang around, with this idiot savant.

Rodney Ascher (Room 237) certainly has a style to his documentaries and in this case it really suits the subject. David Lawrence edited Ryan Sexton’s footage (it is also Ryan doing the impromptu interviews with El Duce), this must have been an incredible undertaking, to make a narrative out of the madness. Ultimately The El Duce Tapes is a wistful look at the underground of punk-rock in the early 90’s. The music wasn’t played to get sold, it was played because the bands wanted to play it. It is also incredibly sad, the rise and fall of a very damaged man. The final moments of the documentary are painful to watch but seemingly inevitable.

Available on the Arrow Video Channel

Ryan Morrissey-Smith | Twitter: @TigersMS78

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