I was sitting in a Boston rock club called The Axis back in 1996 waiting for a band to take the stage. At the back of the bar was a bank of TVs arranged in haphazard fashion, each showing clips from movies. None of them stand out to me today, thirteen years later, except for one that I never knew the title of until recently. It showed clips of Lee Ving leaping around and destroying shit while a salty old blues man smoked a glittering joint and drifted over the stage like Christopher Walken in that Fatboy Slim video. It was captivating. The kind of movie I absolutely loved but at no point did it ever say what it was called. It never occurred to me to just look Lee Ving up on the IMDB and do a little deduction to figure out what that movie was called but as you can see, I figured it out, eventually.
There are certain titles that I’ll stumble across from time to time that leave me wondering how they haven’t penetrated deeper into the cult movie culture and Get Crazy is the latest one to baffle me. For instance, how did Howard the fucking Duck become at least a minor gem and this one is relatively undiscovered? Aside from bearing every single characteristic that makes a cult movie a cult movie, it features a mind boggling cast playing firmly against every stereotype that their reputation would eventually lead up to. This includes Lou Reed playing a parody of himself in a part much larger than you would ever expect of Lou Reed. Warhol couldn’t even get this sort of performance out of him.
It’s New Years eve, 1982, leading up to the glorious opening of 1983 and the fabulous Saturn Theater, a stand in for The Filmore East, is gearing up for the most spectacular party ever. Straight shooting club owner Max Wolf has big plans for the night but rival concert promoter, Colin Beverly, shows up to make a deal that would end the run of the Saturn and put up apartments. When Beverly shouts, “Fuck you! And fuck rock and roll!” Max suffers what he thinks is a heart attack, and with his uncle on the ropes, Wolf’s snivelling, business suited nephew, Sammy, sets out to make a deal with Colin Beverly. But not before midnight. They still have a show to put on and dedicated stage manager, Neil Allen, must make sure that everything goes off without a hitch to make it a night everyone remembers for the rest of their lives.
I described this movie to my brother Dave as such, “It’s like Mad Magazine got together with the SNL writers and made their own version of Rock and Roll High School. And the boom is visible in every shot!” The latter is certainly true. Not even Dolemite suffers from this much visible microphone. You can see it in just about every scene creeping in from the bottom of the frame or the top. It’s hilarious. And the former is also partially true because this gonzo rock and roll flick comes from the cameras of Allan Arkush, who directed said Rock and Roll High School for Roger Corman. The spirit of that movie is very much alive in this one. The forces of the establishment want to stomp out the rebellious attitude of rock because there’s money to be made!
And it’s alarming to see some of the people who turned out for this movie, too. As said before, Lou Reed turns in as Auden, a reclusive folk singer suffering a creative dry spell (and performs the film’s closing number). Doors drummer John Densmore plays Toad, drummer of Reggie Wanker (Malcolm MacDowell doing his best Mick Jagger). Fabian and Bobby Sherman play Colin Beverly’s yes men and Lee Ving, frontman of seminal LA hardcore band, Fear, plays Piggy, an abrasive punk that isn’t too far from the Lee Ving you’re probably familiar with.
The bulk of the movie is the concert, which is disparate display of musical themes floating around back in 1983, meshing pop, new wave, punk and the blues as the show opens with a Muddy Waters parody, King Blues who performs Willie Dixon’s Hoochie Coochie Man and is then followed by two more bands who do covers of Hoochie Coochie Man, including Fear. And what can you say? As a museum of rock artifact, the music isn’t bad. It’s entirely ridiculous and the movie fits the over the top camp of the rest of the movie…
…Which has the appeal of, say, Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie. It’s all quite heady and feels as though a lot of blow was consumed on the set as two recurring characters are a giant anthropomorphic joint and a leather clad robot/alien drug dealer named Electric Larry who always seems to show up at just the right time with drugs that shimmer thanks to cheesy composited special effects. The entire film, comedy and all, has this barely in control feel that communicates, accurately, the kind of fun that it’s trying to get across. Make no mistake, it’s a very stupid movie but the poster makes no promises and even tells you to say goodbye to your brain, so you know what to expect as the bouncers at the door start pulling shotguns and three foot long joints out of concert goers pants as they rush in for the show of a lifetime.
The rest of the cast carries the movie. It’s a delirious drug trip but without Daniel Stern, as stage manager Neil Allen to tie the movie to the foundation, the whole thing might float away, drunk on its own silliness. And Ed Begley, Jr. turns in a supremely evil run as corporate, jumpsuited asshole, Colin Beverly. Also appearing are small roles filled by Cormanite cult favorites, Mary Woronov, Clint Howard and Dick Miller. Yet nowhere is Corman to be seen.
The movie ends as quickly as it begins, is cheap and stupid, careens wildly out of control during its 90 minute running time but is charming in the same way that The Blues Brothers is. It’s a slap in the face to the perceived establishment of the time, celebrates rock and roll and partying from start to finish and is actually extremely funny. The bad news is that the movie died at the box office and floundered on the home video market so there is no available version outside of DVD bootlegs that can be attained with some ease. But I’ll tell ya, this movie really deserves a proper DVD release. It erases the pain and heartache left over from Arkush’s last theatrical outing before he retreated to television, Caddyshack 2.