Bill’s Bizarre Bijou wants you to GET CRAZY (1983)
Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
GET CRAZY (1983)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.
After director Allan Arkush released the wonderful drive-in hit ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL in 1979, he was tapped to make the big budget Christmas release, HEARTBEEPS, co-starring Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters in 1981. Have you seen it? Neither did anyone else, so Arkush returned to the genre that gave him his biggest hit – rock and roll comedy! In 1983, he found a great script about the final concert given at a rock theater and all the people involved in that New Year’s Eve show. In his wayward youth, Arkush had been an usher at the Fillmore East, and he’d seen more than his share of great concerts. So, this was a project close to his heart. Once completed, Arkush gave the world its first Robert Altman multi-storylined, actor-centric movie by way of the Zucker Brothers (AIRPLANE, 1980). GET CRAZY is rock and roll heaven.
Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield of THE CONVERSATION, 1974 and THE STUNTMAN, 1980) owns the Saturn Theater, and he’s had one chili-dog too many, causing a heart attack. He decides to throw one last, huge concert on New Year’s Eve, invite everyone who’s played there, and turn the reigns of the Saturn over to one deserving soul. His kiss-ass nephew, Sammy (played by Miles Chapin of THE FUNHOUSE, 1981 and THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, 1996) wants to sell the theater to big-time promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr. of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, 1987 and the ST ELSEWHERE TV series), who only cares about how much money he can make by bulldozing the hall and putting up a shiny new theater, getting rid of the sex and drugs and rock and roll forever. Max wants to keep the place as it is, so the kids can see the artists, afford the tickets, and enjoy themselves. He is followed by his two minions played by none other than (former teen heartthrobs) Fabian and Bobby Sherman. Meanwhile, the stage manager, Neil Allen (Daniel Stern of HOME ALONE, 1990 and CITY SLICKERS, 1991) is falling in love with the new girl on the crew, Willy Lomann, played by Gail Edwards (star of TV’s FULL HOUSE and BLOSSOM). She once worked for Max years ago, but gave up the rock when she thought she had a future with a bigger promoter. Neil’s little sister is desperate to see the concert and sneaks out of the house, but Neil must make certain she doesn’t get into too much trouble. Plus, their unobservant parents are played by the great Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, 1960 and GREMLINS, 1984)! Electric Larry, the local drug dealer, delivers plenty of speed to keep the staff moving at top velocity. The lighting tech (Mary Woronov of EATING RAOUL, 1982 and SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, 1972) is having electrical failures; the local doctor (Paul Bartel, also from EATING RAOUL and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, 1986) is trying to keep Max alive for the night; and lighting intern Joey (Dan Frischman of TV’s HEAD OF THE CLASS), just wants to lose his virginity. A bus full of hippies led by Captain Cloud and the Rainbow Telegraph arrive with a pass for New Year’s Eve 1968, take over the green room, and immediately get high while planning the finale for the show. The fire inspector (“No spark too small.”) is on the warpath and refuses to allow any fireworks or open flames. Meanwhile, Max puts through a deathbed request to Auden, a Bob Dylan-type of folk singer who hasn’t performed in years and is played by Lou Reed! Auden gets in a taxi and starts planning what song he’ll play for Max’s last big show.
Then, the bands arrive!
First up is a slightly punk all girl group (much like The Go-Gos) called Nada (fans scream Nadanadanadanada!) with special guest, Piggy, a pierced punker locked in their trunk, played by Lee Ving (lead singer of the real band Fear and one of the stars of STREETS OF FIRE, 1984). Nada is played by the lead singer for King Creole and the Coconuts, Lori Eastside. After an all-blind, all-blues funeral, King Blues (an awful lot like Muddy Waters) and his new guitarist, Cool, show up, but they are accidentally sent a Jews band instead of a Blues band to back them. Then, along comes Reggie Wanker, a Mick Jagger type of English strutter played by Malcolm McDowell (of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971 and CAT PEOPLE, 1981). He has a midlife meltdown onstage and during a truly existential moment (and a truly extended drum solo), he has a long conversation with his penis in which he decides how to live the rest of his life! It’s a funny moment, but McDowell wrings it of every bit of pathos he can. Remember when he was a great actor and not just someone who took every part that came his way? His girlfriend, the Countess Chantamina wants more out of life, and she decides to find a new love.
When the concert starts, all hell breaks loose with multiple story-lines overlapping while awesome music plays constantly in the background. One great joke involves every single band playing a cover of King Blues’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” including a fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled punk version by Piggy. “Who says a white boy can’t sing the blues?” the old bluesman says. Every band gets to play an original number and a version of the hilariously familiar “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Oddly enough, the music is all pretty terrific, and it raises the silly comedy to a whole new level of insanity. I suggest you crank it to eleven and make the walls shake!
The crowd goes insane, LSD ends up in the water supply, romance blossoms, a giant living joint is chased all over the theater, the bathroom is infested with sharks, the fire inspector ends up naked and hallucinating, a bomb is hidden in the theater, and every actor gets a bit where they can do something funny. Somewhere in that great, gigantic cast you can also find Clint Howard, Robert Picardo, and Linnea Quigley.
With so many plots and musical performances flying around like an air traffic controller’s nightmare, it would have been easy for Arkush to drop the ball, but he maintains the juggling act right through the explosive finale. Everything works so well, I can’t find anything to criticize. The comedy bits drop so fast and furiously, if one joke falls flat, the next one works beautifully. And the editing is special, too, especially when the bomb is being planted while Reggie Wanker sings his heart out onstage.
Plus, “Hoochie Coochie Man” is a really great song!
It’s too bad the movie didn’t do well; GET CRAZY epitomizes a fun time at the theater. This would be a perfect comedy to watch on New Year’s Eve with your buddies and plenty of cocktails. You need to see it!
I give GET CRAZY three and a half giant joints out of four!
© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl