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DAMAGE CONTROL: Does Cobain Doc ‘Montage of Heck’ Whitewash the Singer’s Death?

Shawn Helton
21st Century Wire

The upcoming documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck promises a ‘revealing glimpse’ of the iconic front-man from the 90’s group Nirvana. However, one should consider the timing of the new film’s release and examine the primary motivation behind it – as the documentary neglects to discuss any of the alarming forensic details observed in Cobain’s death…

Last year marked two decades since the death of the immensely talented musician, Kurt Cobain, prompting many to look back on the events leading up to his untimely end.

In a two part re-investigation into Cobain’s death featured here at 21WIRE a year ago, we detailed his rise to fame, and looked at key forensic details surrounding his death, while also going over the events that had taken place in the month leading up to his shocking demise

As reported previously, forensic evidence suggests that the 27 year-old’s heroin blood level indicated he had 
three times the lethal dose of heroin in his bloodstream prior to the shotgun being used. Expert accounts have stated that due to the amount of heroin in Cobain’s system, he could not have been able to perform the task of shooting himself as the immediate impact of the heroin would have left him incapacitated.

For years, a collection of authorities, experts and media, have argued over the amount of heroin in Cobain’s system, but in order for him to have registered a heroin blood level of 1.52 mg per liter three days after being deceased, he would have had to have had a much higher dose upon the time of injection.

Cobain’s blood morphine level of 1.52 mg per liter at post-mortem indicated a dose closer to 225-240 mg per liter intravenous injection before his death.

Much of the evidence and background of our two-part article from last year was gleaned from Tom Grant, a veteran private investigator and former detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who had intimate knowledge of the case as he was hired by Courtney Love, to find Cobain several days before his body was discovered.

For over 20 years Grant has asserted that the Seattle Police Department did not properly investigate the death of Cobain as a homicide.

IMAGE: ‘ An Unfinished Case’ – Iconic singer Kurt Cobain: Will the Seattle Police Department re-open his case? (Photo link ultimateclassicrock.com)

The Cobain Catalog 

The forthcoming documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, is the latest Hollywood depiction of Cobain’s lifeas filmmaker Brett Morgen, was said to have been given ‘unrestricted’ access to the deceased singer’s archives.

The film itself was brought to life through carefully chosen diary entries, audio tapes and home movies of Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love. However, it would would not have been possible if the couple’s only daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, had not been involved in the project – as she now controls the ‘publicity rights’ of her late father’s fortune and how his likeness and appearance can be used in media.  

According to reports, “Love lost legal control of her daughter (and her daughter’s fortune) in a custody battle in 2009; Frances cited drug addiction and violence to justify a restraining order against her mother,at the time.

In 2012, according to court documents cited by The Fix, a $2.75 million dollar loan was transferred from Frances’ fund at End of Music LLC, into an account held by Courtney’s former lawyers, Pryor Cashman, in New York in 2010. After having accepted the loan, Love stepped aside as the manager of EOM, “the business entity responsible for generating cash from Cobain’s publicity rights.”

A contingency to receive the loan, was that Love was required to relinquish managerial oversight of EOM, and in order to make any money from the company, she would have to repay the loan in full, or she wouldn’t be able to receive any capital.

The administrative rights of Cobain’s music is said to be held by Larry Mestel, of Primary Wave Music, and unnamed sources claim the entity also owned a significant amount of the publishing rights at one time. 

Love’s legal and financial troubles have mounted over the years, culminating in the loss of her Cobain estate publicity rights.

A Scripted Montage

Back in 2007, Love introduced the Cobain documentary concept to Morgen, having approached him due to his work on a documentary about the dubious Hollywood producer, Robert Evans. The documentary filmed by Morgen, featuring Evans, was called the The Kid Stays in The Picture, and was named after the 1994 autobiography written by Evans himself.

Evans made his fame from producing films such as Chinatown, The Godfather and Rosemary’s Baby, but was later implicated in drug trafficking, around the same time, he was also suspected of being involved in the death of loathsome vaudeville show promoter, Roy Radin. Radin’s death became known as the “Cotton Club Murder,” and was said to be part of a string of particularly dark and brutal murders connected to the Hollywood scene from the 60’s into the 80’s.

IMAGE: ‘Bad Company’ – Well-known producer Robert Evans with close friend Henry Kissinger and ex-wife Ali MacGraw. Some reports have alleged when Kissinger was Secretary of State, he helped Robert Evans avoid drug charges by writing a letter to Prime Minister of Malta, Dom Mintoff. (Photo link: Robert Evans Twitter)

After gaining the attention of Hollywood insiders after his near Oscar win for the heralded boxing documentary, On the Ropes, Morgen and his film partner Nanette Burstein, continued to please their peers with the Evans documentary, which most certainly cemented them as loyal industry go-to-directors

In an interview conducted by filmmaker magazine in 2002, Morgen gleefully exclaimed that the Evans documentary wasn’t meant to be truthful and that he presents things the way ‘dominant’ cinema does – as an illusion of reality and truth:

“The first shot of the film is a red velvet curtain. It represents the fact that everything you’re seeing is on a stage. It’s all theatrical. We’re acknowledging constantly through the entire film that what you are seeing is a distorted truth.”

“We can go through 10 of the great non-fiction films of the last 10 years – there’s nothing objective about any of them. Do they acknowledge it? No. They’re doing what the dominant cinema does, which is to present the illusion of truth.”

While the Evans documentary received rave reviews for its style of storytelling, some critics felt the film was nothing more than a heavy-handed public relations stunt, employing an over-the-top grandiosity to dazzle the audience. The seemingly biased nature of The Kid could have been a huge attraction for Love, as she along with writer, Charles Cross, sought to dictate a certain narrative for Cobain’s legacy in the aftermath of his death.

There were many flagrant and misleading statements made in the Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven, written by Cross. 

Could it be that Morgen’s ‘Montage of Heck’ is the cinematic companion piece to the glaringly distorted Heavier Than Heaven?

Here’s the official trailer of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck…

Both projects were provided intimate access to Cobain’s archival material at the behest of Love, with Morgen’s film said to have ‘unfiltered’ access to a treasure trove of many of Cobain’s belongings, along with apparently unseen video footage of the star.

However, when you consider that Love was the primary influence in shaping both the biography of Cobain and the soon to be released documentary, Montage of Heckthen a somewhat biased portrait begins to appear.

IMAGE: ‘Hard Love’ – Frances Bean Cobain, Courtney Love, and Brett Morgen (Photo link nydailynews.com)

Dodge & Burn

In recent promotional interviews, Morgen, the creator of the Cobain documentary, was dismissive about those searching for answers in the Cobain case. He even labeled those questioning the official narrative as being, “gravediggers, ” which has caused some to believe that the film could be a deliberate attempt to gloss over the suspicious nature of Cobain’s death.

Throughout Montage of Heck, the theme of suicide becomes a prevalent story device, prompting a very revealing excerpt from the  Daily Beast

“Yes, the subject of suicide is indeed a recurring theme throughout Montage of Heck, which Morgen says should silence all the “conspiracy theorists” that believe that Cobain didn’t take his own life.”

The report from the Daily Beast continued by offering up a clue as to the motivation behind Montage of Heck:

“Nick Broomfield is one of the reasons I went into documentary, and Nick Broomfield should have served time for what he did in that film by putting someone’s life at risk for no reason. Courtney has had death threats for years because of that film, which is completely unfounded. Kurt wasn’t this meek fucking guy that they made him out to be.”

The interesting thing to consider about Brett Morgen’s tirade against documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield, who made Kurt and Courtney in 1998, is that he includes a disparaging rant about Cobain in relation to the suffering that Love endured following the controversial film’s release. Morgen’s response above is also of particular interest when you consider his film Montage of Heck supposedly depicts a ‘warmer’ more family oriented side of Cobain, with the film having been dedicated to his daughter.

While Broomfield’s Kurt & Courtney was intriguing, it failed to provide a comprehensive report of all of the facts surrounding Kurt’s death and ultimately, on some level, served to undermine the case. However, the film’s presentation of the suspicion surrounding Cobain’s death – proved to be a catalyst for future inquires into the case.

In an interview conducted by Collider featuring filmmaker Brett Morgen, the director discusses his own account of the Cobain overdose in Rome, which took place a month prior to the singer’s death. Not surprisingly, Morgen’s assessment of the events in Rome were heavily skewed. According to Tom Grant’s case notes and the doctor who treated Cobain, the incident in Rome was not considered to be a suicide attempt.

The section with Morgen discussing Cobain and Love in Rome starts at the 10 minute 28 second mark, continuing until the 12 minute 23 second mark. 

“If the audience hated Courtney the whole movie wouldn’t work.” – Brett Morgen

Cobain was said to have fallen into a 20 hour coma in the morning hours of March 4th, 1994 after allegedly ingesting some 50 Rohypnol pills while drinking.

The drug  Rohypnol, also known as ‘Roffies’, is highly potent and has often been used to incapacitate unknowing victims before being raped (known as the ‘date rape’ drug) or abducted in some way for many years. Roffies render the victim unable to remember what happened to themselves under the influence of the drug, as it is odorless as well as tasteless, and cannot be detected when administered.

At the time, Love herself admitted to Select Magazine, that Kurt’s overdose was “not a suicide thing.” 

Dr. Osvaldo Galleta, the attending doctor who treated Cobain in Rome,  stated that the overdose did not appear to be a suicide:

We can usually tell a suicide attempt,” adding: “He did not seem like a young man who wanted to end it all.”

We should also remember that the note from Rome – later referenced as an ‘additional’ Cobain suicide note, was destroyed by Courtney, as she was on record stating that former Seattle Police Department Sgt. Don Cameron – told her to do so.

Re-opening the Cobain Case

Veteran investigator, Tom Grant, claims to have even more damning information to prove foul play in this case but is waiting for the Cobain case to be re-opened by the Seattle Police Department. He’s been involved in the feature film Soaked In Bleach’ that discusses the final days of Cobain’s life and the events surrounding his death in a docudrama featuring a host of forensic experts.

Here is the trailer to ‘Soaked In Bleach’, the docudrama that investigates Cobain’s death, featuring noted pathologist Cyril H. Wecht, President of the American Academy of Forensic Science, as well as veteran private investigator Tom Grant…

This past February, Germany’s Ascot Elite acquired rights for ‘Soaked In Bleach’ along with Tomorrow Films for Japan, following a buyers screening in Berlin.

IMAGE: ‘Breaking Rank’ – Former Chief of Police for the SPD, Norm Stamper, seen on the far left at the WTO Seattle riots in 1999. (Photo link seattlepi.com)

The film also interviews the former Chief of Police for the SPD, Norm Stamper. Stamper who was the acting chief of police at the time of Cobain’s death, recently expressed his thoughts concerning the forensic details of the case. Here’s what he had to say:

 “I would tell you right now that if I were the Chief today, I would re-open this investigation.”

Following his resignation after the infamous WTO Riots and protests in 1999, Stamper wrote the book Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing, which advocates for an alternative to a term he coined,the paramilitary bureaucracy that is American policing.”

IMAGE: Searching for the truth – Tom Grant a noted private investigator and former detective for L.A. County. (Photo link: Shockya)

Incomplete Investigation

In anticipation of the 20th anniversary of Cobain’s death last year, the SPD’s cold case division unearthed some ‘four rolls’ of undeveloped film taken at the scene, claiming that this was definitive proof that the initial ruling in the case should stand.

Tom Grant believes that release of the case photographs 20 years later,  should ‘speak volumes’ about how the Cobain case was handled from the start. In fact, as Grant reminds us with this quote from his own website, cobaincase.com, “the Medical Examiner has no forensic evidence that proves Cobain’s death was a suicide. On the other hand, there’s a substantial amount of evidence for murder.”

It’s important to reiterate, that Grant has never been issued a lawsuit for any of the information he has released regarding this case – that should tell you something.

Here’s a recent YouTube video uploaded last May, where Grant analyzes and responds to the SPD’s recent release of photographs pertaining to the Cobain case…


In Summary

The Courtney Love-approved ‘documentary’ Montage of Heck made by Brett Morgen appears to be just the latest attempt to steer public conversation away from the facts surrounding Kurt Cobain’s death.

To this day, most media outlets continue to propagate the official narrative of Cobain’s demise without even looking at the forensic details in his case.

The new documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – seems to be another chance to sway public opinion away from what really happened.

Editor’s Update: Listen below as Shawn Helton joins Host Jeff McArthur on Talk Radio AM640 Toronto to discuss Kurt Cobain’s story and the upcoming documentary.

Bleach, Blood & Lies: A Look Back On The Death Of Kurt Cobain 20 Years Later – Part One

Death Is Not The End: Investigating The Kurt Cobain Case After 20 years – Part Two

READ MORE HOLLYWOOD NEWS AT21st Century Wire Hollywood Files



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