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Get Crazy!  Classic Lost Film By Rock & Roll High School Director Sparkles In New 2K-Transferred Kino Lorber Blu-ray With Soundtrack By Lou Reed, Sparks, Marshall Crenshaw, Adrian Belew, The Ramones & more

Mark Smotroff rejoices over a fave film’s restoration…

Mea culpa. Just last month I learned that one of my favorite “cult” films had finally been restored and issued on Blu-ray Disc back at the end of 2020… So I felt compelled to fill you in on it figuring that if I missed this new release, you might have missed it as well! So, please file this review under the category of “better late than never!”

I recently learned that in late 2020, Kino Lorber reissued for the first time on Blu-ray Disc, a classic unintentionally underground film which was made in the early 1980s: Get Crazy. This fun movie which falls somewhere in the grand spaces between Spinal Tap and Airplane for numerous reasons never quite saw the light of day even on DVD. 

I have learned since getting this fine new reissue that it barely got released at all!  This is kind of amazing because Get Crazy was produced by the man who directed one of the iconic comedy films of the punk / new wave era –– Rock ‘n’ Roll High School – Allan Arkush (Fame, Caddyshack II, Moonlighting, Crossing Jordan, etc.)

Get Crazy Director Allan Arkush

I first discovered Get Crazy in a somewhat backwards way, when I first came across the soundtrack album at a used record shop in New York City back in the 1980s. (side note: I’m pretty sure I got it at Sounds Records, for those of you who remember that legendary shop down on Saint Marks Place )

Some years later, I found a VHS copy of the film, which became a quick favorite of mine, given just how ridiculous and wonderful it all was! 

Get Crazy stars some incredible (an unexpected) actors and musicians working side by side including: Malcolm McDowell (Clockwork Orange, O’ Lucky Man, Caligula), Lou Reed (Velvet Underground), Howard Kaylan (The Turtles, Frank Zappa), John Densmore (The Doors) as well as ‘60s teen idols Fabian and Bobby Sherman (playing roles as evil henchmen!), Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere, Spinal Tap, An Officer & A Gentleman) , Daniel Stern (Home Alone, City Slickers, Diner, Milagro Beanfield War), Miles Chapin (Murder She Wrote, People Vs. Larry Flynt, Man On The Moon). There are many others. 

Lou Reed as “Auden”

So why did this wonderful madcap film get lost in the sauce? Well, it turns out from the bonus materials on this new Kino Lorber edition that the film effectively got caught up in a scenario akin to the classic Mel Brooks film The Producers (and if you don’t know that movie or the later musical, well you need to go watch it soon). The “After Party” documentary traces the origins of the film — including many of the actors and crew, in a Covid-era Zoom-styled production — explaining that the film was not only barely released theatrically but was put out on VHS in shoddy form. Get Crazy came and went without much notice. And then the original film and negatives were lost for decades despite ongoing searches until sleuths at Kino Lorber found it! 

Allen Goorwitz (aka Garfield) as the Bill Graham-inspired promoter

It is quite tragic that a film made with this much love at its heart got such poor treatment, but at least Get Crazy is getting a second chance in the 21st Century looking and sounding better than ever. 

The semi autobiographical script began as a tribute to director Allan Arkush’s experiences working at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East in its 1968-1971 heyday. But, due to the machinations of the film production universe, Get Crazy ended up staged in the 80s punk and new wave era (with plenty of nods to vintage rock and blues before it). This is very much a love letter to the rock and roll universe — from the fandom and on- and off-stage concert mayhem, to the pure mad bravado and non-stop visual punning in most every scene. Yet, the film also remains remarkably poignant and heartfelt. 

The Kino Lorber website, this paragraph sums it up pretty well:

“From Allan Arkush, the acclaimed director of the cult classics Hollywood Boulevard, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Heartbeeps, comes this raucous musical comedy that invites you to get crazy… and say goodbye to your brain! Its December 31, 1982, and Saturn Theater owner Max Wolfe is attempting to stage the biggest rock and roll concert of all time. But things aren’t going right. His doctor tells him he might have a fatal disease; his nephew and his arch-rival are in cahoots; a crazed fire inspector is spraying the audience with foam; and someone is trying to kill him and blow up the theater. Of course, these are secondary problems compared to those posed by the crazy rock and roll performers themselves. The gags come fast and furious from the truly insane cast that includes Allen Garfield, Daniel Stern, Gail Edwards, Miles Chapin, Ed Begley Jr., Stacey Nelkin, Bill Henderson, Lou Reed, Howard Kaylan, Lori Eastside, Lee Ving, John Densmore, Robert Picardo, Bobby Sherman, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Clint Howard, Linnea Quigley, Dick Miller and the great Malcolm McDowell as debauched rock star Reggie Wanker.”

Malcolm McDowell as Reggie Wanker

The new Blu-ray release looks fantastic as Kino Lorber found the original negative and thus Get Crazy is presented in a brand new 2K master which was approved by Director Allan Arkush.

Back to the “love letter” I mentioned earlier, if you are a deep music fan you will pick up on many jokes and iconic touchstones embedded within Get Crazy.  

One of my favorite scenes is the first appearance of Lou Reed who plays the role of a Dylan-esque character named — quite humorously — Auden (another great poet, for those not in the know). When we first see Auden appear in the film, the set is designed to look like Bob Dylan’s iconic 1965 album, Bringing It All Back Home, right down to the woman in the red dress remaining absolutely still. Instead of the blurry fisheye lens the whole room is covered in spiderwebs (because the character is supposed to have been dead and nobody had seen him for years). It’s really quite brilliant when you stop to think about it.

There are all sorts of irreverent (and perhaps politically incorrect at times these days) period references, but it’s all done in a very tongue-in-cheek manner with a loving heart that works.

One of the most incredible performances happens with a band that was brought in for the show that I had never heard of, which was an assemblage by someone called Nada as fronted by Lori Eastside (from Kid Creole & The Coconuts). This band had something like 15 members on stage, playing new wave-ish, power pop ala The Go Go’s and The Bangles. Iconic punk rock singer Lee Ving – – of Fear – steals many scenes in his off-the-hook role as “Piggy” (including some amazing stage driving scenes!)

Malcolm McDowell pulls off a bravado performance as Reggie Wanker — an aging rock star modeled after Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart. Don’t forget to watch for the incredible drum solo by John Densmore of The Doors, who at one point switches out his drumsticks for some turkey legs (which he of course eats along the way!). Again stupid mad, fun.

If this all sounds outrageous, and ridiculous, it is! And that’s part of the joy of Get Crazy.  

The Doors’ John Densmore and matched Turkey leg drumsticks

Get Crazy looks great in its new 2K transfer and 1080p Blu-ray Disc presentation.  The stereo soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio and is perfectly fine for this type of film. And there are some nice bonus materials including the aforementioned “After Party” documentary, trailers, a new music video (featuring Sparks!) and much more.  

My only “nit” to pick is that no booklet was included in the package to tell the back story of the film in print form. But again, fortunately there is that heartwarming “After Party” documentary which connects all the dots for us visually and aurally. Again, it is amazing that this Blu-ray Disc exists at all!

My only genuine disappointment was that there was not a bonus track included of Lou Reed’s performance of the song “Little Sister” on its own without the rolling, closing credits, going over him. I understand why this song was put at the end of the film as it was but still, it would’ve been nice to have had a clean version without all the credits. This song is one of Lou Reed’s finest of his latter day renaissance period.  

Howard Kaylan as Captain Cloud

Maybe someday they’ll find the original production elements and can include it in a a super Deluxe Edition — when and if Get Crazy becomes a wildly popular film again… for the first time!

At least for now Get Crazy is preserved and available for a new generation to discover. I hope that they will re-issue the soundtrack album, perhaps for Record Store Day because it’s a super fun collection including a punchy title tune by Sparks (who are arguably more popular now than they were back then). And, apart from the early 1990s boxed set Lou Reed anthology called Between Thought And Expression, the only place where his song “Little Sister” resides. 

If you click on the title of Get Crazy anywhere in this review, it will take you to Amazon where you can purchase the film on Blu-ray.  

If you love rock ‘n’ roll, the music world of the 1960s through the 1980s, and madcap comedy films such as Airplane then Get Crazy may be your magic elixir of freewheeling fun.  Do check it out.

Following are some clips from the film as found on YouTube. 

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