Get Crazy (1983)
Director: Alan Arkush
Embassy Home Entertainment
After his failed, if not somewhat misunderstood, attempt to bring Andy Kaufman’s unique humor to the screen in 1981’s Heartbeeps, director Alan Arkush tried to rekindle some of the anarchic humor that made Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979) a success with 1983’s Get Crazy. Utilizing an excellent ensemble cast, Get Crazy is essentially a loosely connected chain of anecdotes of rock stereotypes surrounding a converging plot line involving a New Year’s Eve party at the Saturn Theater, a small Fillmore East-type venue. The converging plot lines are little more than a series of sight gags with an underlying anti-corporate message. But a load of clever rock jokes and a couple of interesting musical performances is far and above with what could be expected from a music related film these days. It’s an excellent pull for fans of jokes about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
The main plot line surrounds Saturn Theater owner Max Wolfe (Alan Garfield). Wolfe’s failing health brings him close to death hours before the yearly Saturn Theater New Year’s Eve concert where rich and famous rock stars return every year to perform out of respect for their roots. Wolfe’s failing health inspires music mogul Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr.) to make a play for Wolfe’s lease for the purposes of destroying the small venue and putting up a building of his own. Wolfe is relying on stage managers Neil Allen (Daniel Stern) and Willy Loman (Gail Edwards) to keep the show running on time and to thwart Wolfe’s greedy nephew Sammy (Miles Chapin) from sabotaging the show and obtaining the lease. Stern’s long underrated straight man routine plays well as the befuddled stage manager whose diplomacy bonds the eccentric rockers. Mining the rockers’ outlandish behavior is what works best about the film.
One of the most intriguing bands is Nada, an over-the-top punk stereotype of the kind you have never seen outside of a Tony Basil video. Every member of Nada’s fifteen piece band is a representation of an eighties caricature of a punk rocker. Nada (Lori Eastman), the vocalist for whom the band is named, leads the band and is in charge of Piggy portrayed by Fear front man Lee Ving. As silly as they are together, their party antics are big fun; their involvement peaking during a version of “Hoochie Coochie Man” obviously recorded by Fear, but frames the antics of Ving and the other actors chaotically. Ving begins the song with a world-class stage dive that rivals the best 80s hardcore footage and the chaos that ensues reflects some great, albeit staged, punk footage.
Other acts arriving or racing to get to the venue are egomaniac Reggie Wanker (Malcolm McDowell) the legendary King Blues (Bill Henderson), metaphysical folk singer Audin (Lou Reed) and Jerry Garcia inspired commune leader Captain Cloud (Howard Kaylan of The Turtles). If you are into a certain type of silly humor, none of these characters are especially weak. McDowell plays an excellent jerk and Reed’s overly laid-back recluse is oddly meta.
Arkush sadly went on to direct Caddyshack II (1988). Caddyshack II at least got a DVD release. Get Crazy is difficult to find as it has only been released on home video as a VHS. It’s a silly film, but if you pine for the humor of Airplane! (1980) and love a little punk attitude, Get Crazy is a must-see. (Billups Allen)
Memorable line: “Okay! This building is coming down and 88 stories are going up. So fuck you, and fuck rock and roll!”
So many memorable lines: “God, this is my man, and you better take care of him. Or I’m gonna wax your ass.”
***Hot tip for record people: The soundtrack features Fear’s manic version of “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Lou Reed’s “Baby Sister” also isn’t found anywhere but on the soundtrack. I’m also kind of partial to the song “Hot Shot” Malcolm McDowell sings in the movie.
(A version of this article was published in Lunchmeat Magazine, Issue #8.)