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Rated R
Copyright 2001 Killer Films
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 4 April 2009

The Characters:  

  • Hedwig - An East German glam rocker whose botched sex change operation left her quite angry, hence the "Angry Inch." I am not certain that Hedwig ever decides if he (born a he) is a she or a he, or what. Not that it matters, because what Hedwig needs is contentment. Gender? Who cares?
  • Yitzhak - She makes a really good man.
  • The Angry Inch - Hedwig's band. I guess that the movie's title is something of a double entendre.
  • Phyllis Stein - She does her best, but there is only so much that an agent can do for an angry spurned rocker from East Germany.
  • Sergeant Luther Robinson - He obviously goes through life looking for men that he thinks would make attractive women, and then convinces them to get sex change operations. Maybe he should just love people for who they are, along with dumping those sickly-sweet Americanized gummi bears for some real German candy.
  • Tommy Gnosis - He broke Hedwig's heart and stole her songs so that he could become a freako rock star. Great, just what the world needs: yet another D&D fanatic singing about why he loves his rats and hates his parents.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

This movie dumps you right into the story, introducing Hedwig and her band (and their unorthodox rock 'n' roll) as the group blindsides the unsuspecting patrons of a Bilgewater's. You do not know what a Bilgewater's is? It is a diner, like a Denny's or Bickford's. I bet that they even serve breakfast anytime during the day. Not that anyone wants to eat breakfast when an angry neutered musician is screaming at them about the Berlin Wall.

The film's protagonist, Hedwig, is shadowing Tommy Gnosis' world tour, playing at local Bilgewater's restaurants in a futile attempt to prove that she wrote Tommy's hit songs. Repeatedly traumatizing innocent diners who just want to scarf down ten dollars worth of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and sausage for dinner might seem like a strange way to convince people that a pseudo-goth stole your music, but Hedwig is not the sort of person who listens to the voice of reason.

Unless you consider Iggy Pop to be the voice of reason, in which case I think you are insane.

Bilgewater's older customers are the ones most aghast at Hedwig's performances; the teenage patrons are more than happy to don fake foam wigs and rock right along with the Angry Inch. Young people love doing anything that makes the geezers disapprove, which explains the popularity of quite a lot of music that would otherwise be ignored by not just everybody but anybody.

However, Hedwig's songs are not the sort of music that you ignore, even if you served in the armed forces during World War II, came home with shrapnel in your leg, raised four children in a house half the size of the McMansions being built these days (by numskulls who can't afford them), and now survive on a pension and social security that barely covers the cost of the medication your wife of forty years must take on a regular basis. Hedwig's songs are stories; they are glimpses into her life's many travails and achievements.

"The Origin of Love" is easily my favorite song in the movie. It creates a whole mythology about love, and explains why relationships are so infuriating without a generous application of duct tape. The film knows that it is the best song on the soundtrack. We hear it a number of times, and the song is accompanied by an animated story that makes your head spin.

How did Hedwig get to where she is in her life? The trouble started when she was a boy, named Hansel, in East Germany. His father was an American who might have sexually abused his son. The movie is a bit unclear on that point. All I know is that Hedwig's mom runs his father out of the house screaming about him being disgusting and perverted. When Germans and sex are in the mix, I often have a hard time deciding what the heck disgusting and perverted means "auf Deutsch." Pooping on each other is apparently normal bedroom behavior in Germany. At least that's what I've learned from some of their movies.

So, Hedwig grew up in a little house in East Germany with a crazy mother. He spent quite a few nights playing in the oven while he listened to American Forces Radio. The experience makes the young boy hunger for more David Bowie, Johnny Rotten, and Patti Smith. Into this picture waltzes Luther, an Army sergeant with a sweet tooth. The American sugar daddy promises to take Hedwig away to the land of the free and the home of Lou Reed. There is just one hitch: they have to get hitched. To escape from East Germany, Hedwig has to become a woman, or at least a reasonable facsimile. That is where the trouble starts. Hedwig's sex change operation does not go very well. Instead of becoming a woman, he becomes just not a man. I guess that the one inch bump confused the doctor enough to say, "Yah, you are zertainly nicht ein mann. You must be a fräulein."

I understand the doctor's conundrum. Something that constantly befuddles me is that I consider Hedwig to be a male name. Should you run across a misplaced gender pronoun somewhere in this review, well, mea culpa.

The real problem with sugar daddies is that they are hardly permanent. Not long after buying a trailer under some power lines in the Midwest, Luther leaves Hedwig for another, sweeter (newer is more like it) sex-changing trollop. See, that is what you get for letting an Army chump sodomize you.

Truth be told, you shouldn't let anyone sodomize you, or change who you are, or do a host of other unnatural things to you.

Following her sudden abandonment, Hedwig returns to music with a vengeance, which is where she meets Tommy. The young man gravitates toward the talented artist, and she teaches him everything he needs to know about rock 'n' roll. Hedwig gives him everything she has learned from countless nights in the oven. She even creates his image. During this, Tommy falls in love with Hedwig. Unfortunately, the young man does not realize that his soulmate used to be a he, but never quite made the transition to becoming completely a she, meaning that he is not really ready for a relationship with her, because she is still enough of a he to make him uncomfortable when they are together. Faced with the angry inch (and I don't mean the band), Tommy takes all of the songs and leaves town to become the rock star Tommy Gnosis.

Quite shallow of Tommy, if you ask me. Of course, to make things work with a woman, what Hedwig needs is a (physically) shallow partner.

Bada-bing! That was an inch joke, in case you missed it.

All of this is why Hedwig is so unhappy. Nobody has ever appreciated her for who she is, and changing to meet their expectations has never been successful. Worst of all has been the lack of acknowledgement of her talent, of her worth. The band, her family, is being ripped apart by the anguish. Without the Angry Inch, Hedwig is lost. Unless she can recover what Tommy stole, and it was a lot more than just songs, Hedwig's journey does not have a happy ending.

Thank the gods (Osiris, Thor, Zeus, etc.) that celebrities always go cruising for transvestite hookers. When Hedwig finally runs out of money, she takes to the streets to make a little cash on the side (well, more likely her knees). Of all the people in the world to pull up in a limousine, who should Hedwig meet other than the high and mighty Tommy Gnosis. They take a ride together. Once again Tommy's shallowness annoys the protagonist, except this time Hedwig can do something. She can irrevocably wreck Tommy's career, and perhaps recover herself in the process.

What I am saying is that Murphy (you know Murphy; he wrote a law that everyone is familiar with by the time they are ten years old) loves it when famous people pick up transvestite hookers "just to give them a ride."

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • A crossdresser kissing a transvestite might not be gay, but it is still likely to upset most seniors.
  • In the old days, everybody was a Siamese twin.
  • Love is a simple matter of adding fractions.
  • Women wear makeup because they want to look like chaos moths.
  • Hitler and Jesus have one thing in common.
  • "Little bishop wearing a turtleneck" is a euphemism.
  • Never take candy from strange men wearing Army uniforms.
  • Barbie used to be a guy.
  • La-Z-Boy furniture is made from recycled radial tires.
  • People with skeletons in their closets should not give rides to transvestite hookers.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 2 mins - That is not a very lady-like pose.
  • 6 mins - Hedwig must spend the day before a gig just unpacking her wigs.
  • 9 mins - "I'm here for half the week. Try the bacon!"
  • 25 mins - Ack, NAKED MAN A**! Wait, does this count? Hedwig still has male bits at this point. I say that it counts.
  • 35 mins - Good hang time (now I've got you wondering what I mean).
  • 42 mins - Why isn't this song ever played at karaoke bars? Not that I would ever go to one of those, but the bouncing wig made me think about karaoke.
  • 49 mins - "Look, ma. No hands!"
  • 65 mins - Dude, you need a refresher class on anatomy.
  • 68 mins - What is up with the soccer mom haircut?
  • 72 mins - She looks more Beverly Switzler than Pat Benatar.
  • 79 mins - This is suddenly straying dangerously close to David DeCoteau territory.

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note hedwig1.wav Hedwig: "Thank you. My name is Hedwig. Please welcome those ambassadors of Eastern Bloc rock, the Angry Inch! Here they are, ladies and gentlemen."
Green Music Note hedwig2.wav Hedwig: "I suddenly recognized the flavor in my mouth: it's the taste of power."
Luther: "Damn, Hansel, I can't believe you're not a girl. You're so fine. He he he he..."
Green Music Note hedwig3.wav Hedwig sings about her angry inch. Six inches forward and five inches back indeed.
Green Music Note hedwig4.wav Hedwig: "You are such a sissy! What are you afraid of, huh? What are you afraid of? What?"
Tommy: "I love you!"
Hedwig: "Then love the front of me, hunnie!"
Tommy: **Running footsteps**
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Cliphedwig1.mpg - 5.2m
Hedwig meets her wig. It makes her happy, but the wig is still just a costume that she wears. That's the Angry Inch singing to her, and the black-bearded chef/rocker is indeed Miriam Shor.

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