Malvern Caulfield Progress (Australia) 03.08.1988
'Rebel' with a cause
Whether you know before or after you see the movie that its star was found dead allegedly floating face down in the lake with half dissolved sleeping tablet in his stomach less than a year later is not important.
Equally unimportant is the fact that the star's father, who appears extensively throughout the film, blew his brains out two month later after the movie was completed.
What is important is that the story of the "most famous American in Moscow" has been committed to film.
The Johnny Cash of communism had his chance to justify, if it was ever necessary, his conscience and the subsequent actions that took him from being a mediocre rock star born on a chicken farm in Lakewood, Colorado, in 1938 to the cavalier idol of millions in eastern block countries in 1985.
Reed grew up in Denver and attended university before slinging his guitar on his back and heading for Hollywood where he appeared on such shows as "Bachelor Father" and recording a couple of songs for Capitol Records.
One of these songs hit the top of the South American charts and Reed hit the trail for a promotion tour. He was mobbed by huge crowds and decided to stay a while to enjoy this moment of glory.
He suddenly found himself doing concerts, learning to converse and sing in Spanish and his politics changing from white to pink to red.
Whether he was singing "Tutti Frutti" or "Let's twist again" on some make-shift Siberian stage or swaying millions in stadiums and on television with "We shall overcome", Reed introduced the Russians to rock and roll.
A self-described revolutionary artist, Reed was a mixture of Pat Boon, Pete Seeger, Elvis Presley, Tom Cruise and Jack Thompson.
He wowed Russian, East German and Czech audience for 15 years with his cowboy image and "Top Gun" personality.
In a clip from one of his Bulgarian films, he appears as an American cavalry officer who, disgusted by atrocities he is forced to commit against Indians, breaks the banner holding the stars and stripes over his knee.
American Rebel is a story about a typical good-looking American boy who went the other way.
Destiny took him on a path that led him to 32 countries and prison cells in six because he felt the only value in being famous was that he had responsibility to speak out as the unofficial ambassador of the people, not the government, of the United States.
Reed was about to return to the United States after the premiere of "American Rebel" and it is alleged that the threat he posed to parochial sensibilities led to his downfall.
Director, Roberts makes no attempt to sway his audience views praising or condemning Reed.
He, and Reed, told it exactly as it is.
There is no gloss, no great red, white and blue sentiment in this 93-minute documentary which is so totally unique.
Perhaps over-long by about 15 minutes, it is an eye opening stuff.
Enough to say it is a unique story about a unique man - an adventure story about ideals and ambitions, soaring philosophies and passionate love.
As a radio colleague who saw American Rebel with me said, "This film culd almost become another cult movie."
Do see it - it almost could!