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Detroit Rock City

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Adam Rifkin
Produced by Barry Levine
Gene Simmons
Written by Carl V. Dupré
Starring Edward Furlong
Sam Huntington
Giuseppe Andrews
James DeBello
Lin Shaye
Melanie Lynskey
Natasha Lyonne
and featuring Kiss as themselves
Music by J. Peter Robinson
Thin Lizzy
Van Halen
Black Sabbath
Cheap Trick
Cinematography John R. Leonetti
Editing by Mark Goldblatt
Peter Schink
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) August 13, 1999
Running time 95 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15,000,000
Gross revenue $4,217,115[1]

Detroit Rock City is a 1999 cult film about four teenagers in a Kiss cover band who try to see their idols in Detroit in 1978. It takes its title from the Kiss song of the same name. The movie bombed at the box office, grossing fewer than five million dollars domestically, and it disappeared from theaters approximately a month and a half after its release. It has since become a cult classic for Kiss fans, rock music fans and metalheads in general. The movie was originally to be called The Kiss Movie. It has been often compared to the 1993 film Dazed and Confused and the 1979 film Rock 'n' Roll High School.

The film was shot at Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, and other Ontario locations.[2]



The movie starts in Cleveland, Ohio 1978. Mrs. Bruce (Lin Shaye) is relaxing at home when she plays KISS's Love Gun record thinking it's a Carpenters album. This greatly disturbs Mrs. Bruce, who believes that KISS is "the Devil's Music."

Three blocks away in a basement, Hawk, Lex, Trip, and Jam are four rebellious teenagers whom emulate and tribute Kiss to a degree in their own garage band called "MyStery." Jam's ultra-conservative mother, Mrs. Bruce, races up to the home and drags Jam to the car, throwing Jam's Love Gun album into a nearby trash can.

The three remaining boys discover that their KISS concert tickets are missing in the morning figuring that Trip's jacket carrying the tickets got swapped with Jam's. Jam is not able to retrieve the tickets from his jacket before school due to his mother watching over him as he dresses. As Jam is talking to his crush, Beth (who unknowingly also has a crush on Jam), Jam's mother comes over the P.A and demands him to come to the office. He arrives and is made to sit while he watches in silence as Jam's mom lights the KISS tickets on fire and uses them to light her cigarette. With the other three in the distance watch in horror as their concert experience is shattered.

Mrs. Bruce rips Jam out of school and storms off to place Jam in a Catholic boarding school upstate. This leaves the remaining boys in a state of shock but are shortly brought out of it by the schools security guard: an older pot-bellied greaser nicknamed "Elvis". They quickly run off to the girls bathroom in the second floor. While everything is clear the boys spot a girl going to the bathroom and they quickly stand on a toilet. The toilet the boys are standing on ends up breaking due to their weight and also destroys the bathroom stalls.

While in workshop, the three remaining boys hear a radio contest for KISS concert tickets at Cobo Hall that night.[3] Forming a plan, they get Trip out of class, so he can call the contest line and ends up winning the tickets. They ditch school to bust Jam out of the Catholic school again evading Elvis. Lex manages to take his mother's Volvo while she is away at a conference so they can drive up to the boarding school. The trio arrives and hawk disguises himself as a passing pizza delivery guy and delivers a pizza that is spiked with hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms to the priest that is scolding Jam which makes him high, allowing them to all leave.

With the band reunited, they head to Cobo Hall in the Volvo eating the remaining unspiked pizza.

On the freeway a Solar Gold 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am) is riding their bumper. Trip drops some pizza on his lap and Trip throws the slice of pizza out of the window. It hits the windshield of the car Trans-Am carrying some disco-loving "guidos" and their "stellas". The Trans Am regains control and then pulls beside the Volvo demanding that they pull over and begin to ram the boys. Pulling in front and stopping them, Kenny pulls out Hawk out of the car and rubs his face in the pizza on the windshield upsetting a stella named Christine causing her to leave, walking down the freeway.

Kenny discovers that they listen to KISS, and tosses a 8-track of the Kiss album Love Gun into the way of an oncoming fire truck, smashing it. After a quick discussion, Hawk knocks Kenny to the ground. they then leave the car that the guidos were driving in a ditch. Kenny, Bobby, and Barbara awake from a daze and find that they are chained to a guard rail while Kenny and Bobby's faces are painted to look like Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Christine, one of the stelas who walked away from the fight between Hawk and the Guido, is seen walking down the road and the boys decide to give her a ride. While in the car, Trip lights up a joint and passes it to Christine, who later passes out and is left in the car when they reach Detroit.

When they get to Detroit, they find out that Trip did not stay on the phone long enough to give the radio station his information, forcing the station to give the tickets to the next caller. Hawk breaks down in the elevator and attacks Trip. When coming back outside, Lex notices that the car has been stolen, and they suspect Christine, who they left in the car. Hawk states that the boys go their separate ways in order to find Kiss tickets, and agree to meet in the same place later. When Jam starts to walk, he hears something familiar and it turns out to be his mother. Mrs. Bruce finds him walking in front of her anti-Kiss rally, Mrs. Bruce grabs his shirt and drags him to a church across the street. Beth is sitting at dinner with her parents and sees Jam being pulled into church and follows him. Hawk finds a scalper who tells him he has a ticket for $75, however Hawk does not have that much money. the scalper advises Hawk to go to a nearby strip club to enter a strip contest. However Hawk tells the scalper that he suffers from severe stage fright, leading the scalper to tell him to "shit or get off the pot rockstar". Hawk ends up dancing at the strip club to win the money for the tickets and meeting a MILF played by Shannon Tweed. Trip goes to a "Smiley Mart" store and finds 2 six year old kids to mug for their tickets, but the two kids don't have any tickets and tells him that "Kiss sucks." Trip gets furious and grabs the boys Stretch Armstrong and they run from him. Inside the store he finds a blonde boy with his face painted like Ace Frehley playing a Kiss pinball game. Trip tells him give his tickets to him but Trip is confronted by Chongo, the 12 year old blonde boy's older brother (a hulking sasquatch) and his equally muscle-bound friends.

Meanwhile Lex sneaks into the backstage area with the Kiss loading crew to help set up the concert, but is soon discovered and found, causing him to flee from arena security and manages to get to the area where the band's trailer is located Meanwhile, Trip tries to pay them so they don't mug him, but they take his wallet and threaten him to come up with more. Beth finds Jam and starts to talk to him about how she loves him. Trip decides to rob the store to get the money to pay the kid, but another man beats him to it. Lex meanwhile is caught and tossed over a fence by the guards. A group of junkyard dogs start to attack him. Trip manages to get the robber on the floor using the Stretch Armstrong and saves the store. Even though he had the money he is again assaulted and robbed. Jam and Beth confess their feelings for each other (which they could never get the courage up to act on in school, and Beth is now moving away), and lose their virginity in the confessional booth. When the pastor comes back to the booth, Jam and Beth escape from the church. Almost before the dogs attack Lex, a little wiener dog comes with a Frisbee to throw. In a nearby building he finds Christine and his car in a chop shop with 2 workers, Hawk meanwhile starts to have sex with the MILF in her car. Lex than uses his newly befriended dogs to chase the 2 thugs into a back office room, saving Christine and his mom's car. Beth tells Jam to think about what's happening today and not the past as they share one last kiss. She says goodbye and Jam goes back to the rally, determined this time to take a stand. Trip pays the boy, but still gets beat up by the boy's brother.

Jam finally stands up for himself, getting revenge at his mother for her controlling and domineering ways by yelling at her before the assembled crowd, telling her that forcing religion and morality down his throat are the reasons that he has been rebelling lately and demands his drumsticks be given to him, only to get one of them back (the other one being broken in half, most definitely by his mother in protest). As Jam walks away with his remaining drumstick, his mother watches him with pride and a smile eventually stating that "They grow up fast, don't they?".

When the boys meet up again, none of them have had any luck getting tickets, so in a last-ditch effort, Jam decides that they should beat each other up and say that muggers took their tickets. They do so, and upon arrival at the concert, they tell the guards that they were mugged by four people. The guards don't believe them, so Trip points out to the guards the thugs from the store, who are just entering the concert hall. The guard finds Trip's wallet (with his Kiss Army picture ID) in the brother's pockets, and hands him the tickets, ejecting the others outside. In the concert, Gene Simmons blows fire and spits blood, Paul Stanley sings his heart out and smashes his guitar, Ace Frehley's guitar starts smoking and Peter Criss throws his drumstick into the crowd; Jam, jumping up, catches it, making up for the one that his mother broke. Criss gives Jam a look of approval. KISS plays the title song of the movie, "Detroit Rock City".[4]


Reviews for Detroit Rock City has been mixed to good positive reviews from critics and KISS fans. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film got a "Rotten" score of 49%, although the user section on the site was much more positive with a "Fresh" score of 73% (C on and a 33 out of 100 rating, which indicates "Generally unfavorable reviews", at Metacritic. To KISS, metal, and rock fans the film was a cult classic.



The DVD is on Region 1, Region 2 and Region 4, although the special features differ.

Region 1 Special Features

  • Commentary by Gene Simmons and Director Cole Remple
  • Commentary by all four original Kiss members
  • Commentary by Adam Rifkin
  • Commentary by Cast and crew
  • Multi-Angle Views of the Kiss Concert
  • An instructional segment featuring a step-by-step guitar lesson by SongXpress on how to play the Kiss song "Rock -N' Roll All Night"
  • Over 15 Minutes of Deleted Scenes
  • 2 Music Videos "The Boys Are Back in Town" performed by Everclear & "Strutter" performed by The Donnas
  • Original Screen Test Footage
  • DVD-ROM Features: Script-to-Scene Access, website access, email-able trading cards featuring characters from the film, M.A.T.M.O.K. (Mothers Against the Music of Kiss) spoof newsletters, updated cast and crew biographies and filmographies, productions notes

Region 2 Special Features

Region 4 Special Features

  • Commentary by director Adam Rifkin
  • Individual commentary by all four original Kiss members conducted in interview form by Director, Adam Rifkin
  • Multi-angle views of the Kiss Concert
  • Over 15 minutes of deleted scenes
  • 2 music videos "The Boys Are Back in Town" performed by Everclear & "Strutter" performed by The Donnas
  • Original screen test footage

KISSology Volume Three

In December 2007, the film was re-released on DVD as an exclusive bonus fifth disc contained within Kissology Volume Three: 1992–2000. This disc was only available with initial pre-orders sold during VH1 Classic's 24 Hours of KISSmas weekend marathon.


Front Cover

Track listing

  1. "The Boys Are Back in Town" performed by Thin Lizzy
  2. "Shout It Out Loud" performed by Kiss
  3. "Runnin' With The Devil" performed by Van Halen
  4. "Cat Scratch Fever" performed by Ted Nugent
  5. "Iron Man" performed by Black Sabbath
  6. "Highway To Hell" performed by Marilyn Manson
  7. "20th Century Boy" performed by T. Rex
  8. "Detroit Rock City" performed by Kiss
  9. "Jailbreak" performed by Thin Lizzy
  10. "Surrender (Live)" performed by Cheap Trick
  11. "Rebel Rebel" performed by David Bowie
  12. "Strutter" performed by The Donnas
  13. "School Days" performed by The Runaways
  14. "Little Willy" performed by Sweet
  15. "Nothing Can Keep Me From You" performed by Kiss

The soundtrack album however contains some covers of the original songs, some of which were not in the movie itself. The following originals were played in the movie...

  1. "The Boys Are Back in Town" performed by Thin Lizzy
  2. "20th Century Boy" performed by T. Rex
  3. "Highway To Hell" performed by AC/DC
  4. "Cat Scratch Fever" performed by Ted Nugent
  5. "Strutter" performed by Kiss

Other songs performed in the movie but not featured on the soundtrack are:

  1. "Come Sail Away" performed by Styx
  2. "Frankenstein" performed by The Edgar Winter Group
  3. "Fox On The Run" performed by Sweet
  4. "Ladies Room" performed by Kiss
  5. "Radar Love" performed by Golden Earring
  6. "Love Gun" performed by Kiss
  7. "Christine Sixteen" performed by Kiss
  8. "I Wanna Be Sedated" performed by The Ramones
  9. "Shock Me" performed by Kiss
  10. "Godzilla" performed by Blue Öyster Cult
  11. "Strutter" performed by Kiss
  12. "Blitzkrieg Bop" performed by The Ramones
  13. "Popcorn" performed by Hot Butter
  14. "Beth" performed by Kiss
  15. "Love Hurts" performed by Nazareth
  16. "I Stole Your Love" performed by Kiss
  17. "Cat Scratch Fever" performed by Ted Nugent
  18. "Funk No. 49" performed by James Gang
  19. "Conjunction Junction" performed by Bob Dorough
  20. "Good Old Days" performed by The Beau Hunks
  21. "Lights Out" performed by UFO
  22. "Making It" performed by David Naughton
  23. "Wild and Hot" performed by Angel
  24. "Problem Child" performed by AC/DC
  25. "Turn to Stone" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
  26. "Black Superman (Mohammed Ali)" performed by The Kinshasa Band
  27. "Monster Attacks" performed by Hans Salter
  28. "Escape" performed by Rupert Holmes
  29. "Black Magic Woman" performed by Santana
  30. "Every 1's a Winner" performed by Hot Chocolate
  31. "Convoy" performed by CW McCall
  32. "Boogie Shoes" performed by KC & The Sunshine Band
  33. "Fire" performed by Ohio Players
  34. "Muskrat Love" performed by Captain & Tennille
  35. "Calling Dr. Love" performed by Kiss
  36. "Rock Your Baby" performed by George McCrae
  37. "Whole Lotta Rosie" performed by AC/DC
  38. "Love to Love" performed by UFO

Some songs in the movie were not released until later periods of times, such as David Naughton's "Makin' It" (the disco song the "guidos" and the "stellas" on the highway were listening to) which was released early 1979, and the AC/DC song "Highway To Hell", which was also released in 1979. However, the latter served only as ironic background music and was most likely not intended to be diegetic.

See also

Footnotes and references

  1. ^ "Detroit Rock City (1999) - Box office / business". The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved 14 November 2009.  
  2. ^ "Detroit Rock City (1999) - Filming locations". The Internet Movie Database (IMDb).  
  3. ^ During the 1978 "Alive II Tour", KISS didn't perform at Cobo Hall. They did two shows at Olympia Stadium on January 20 and 21 that year.
  4. ^ Stephenson, Cliff (30 November 1999). "Detroit Rock City Review". Retrieved 14 November 2009.  

External links

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