DIO: Dreamers Never Die 2022 Movie Review
Which is what makes Don Argott and Demian Fenton’s documentary so engaging. Whether you are already worshipping at the temple of the mascot Murray, or even if metal isn’t your scene at all, Dio’s journey is fascinating. From his early days as a crooner in the 50s to playing trumpets in Cartland, a near-fatal car accident was a turning point that put him on the path to greater fame. DIO: DREAMERS NEVER DIE describes a person who was driven to an uncompromising position of high standards and even higher ambitions.
A rogue’s gallery of guests — from his wife Wendy Dio, to members of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot), Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) and even ‘epic Dio fan’ Jack Black — speak to his intellect, his caring and his dedication to the craft. The film argues that his unwillingness to cheapen his vision was evident from early days, departing Rainbow because they wanted to move away from ‘sword and sorcery’ and record the radio-friendly ‘Since You’ve Been Gone.’ (It became a hit for the band with Graham Bonnet on vocals). It was a path that led him to greater success, taking over as frontman for Black Sabbath when Ozzy Osborne left, and eventually massive success as DIO with albums like ‘Holy Diver.’
While the documentary arguably overplays the importance of metal to MTV, a combination of timing and exposure led to DIO being a recognisable rock god. Don Coscarelli, director of Phantasm and The Beastmaster, talks about being brought in to direct the epic ‘The Last in Line’ music video. The added attention snagged him up in the moral panic of parent groups who associated the artwork with the promotion of Satanism. This only led to more success, including tours with elaborate fantasy stage shows. Yes, it all feels a bit Spinal Tap at times — and there’s even a cameo from David St. Hubbins in the ‘Hear ‘N Aid’ charity video — but that only speaks to how accurate Rob Reiner’s film was in comparison.
If there is a weakness in the documentary, it is perhaps that is runs with the well-worn argument of ‘new bands’ and grunge taking down “everything.” (Many would argue it was also a combination of the introduction of computerised receipts and the natural fickle trends in popular music that led to the shift). It’s a film that emphasises the importance of music integrity, but also features a montage of men complaining about success moving onto other bands. As any music fan will tell you, the beat is still going on somewhere. You just have to know where to look for it.
Yet as friends are still visibly upset over a decade after Dio’s passing from stomach cancer, it’s clear that he touched a lot of people. Whether they were into the music, the imagery or a human being that “was very nurturing to everyone,” Argott and Fenton’s documentary leaves no doubt that he will be remembered. “Ronnie was special, man,” says one colleague in summary. “There’s no more Ronnies out there.”