Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Movie: Get Crazy (1983)

One of the cable stations – I want to say the USA Network, back in the glory days of Night Flight – tried to turn this Allan Arkush movie into a December 31 tradition. Makes sense, because it’s about a wild New Year’s Eve rock concert. Despite their best efforts, the Get Crazy cult never caught fire. Apparently I was the only person watching on New Year’s Eve – for two years running. Clearly, I couldn’t wait for high school to end.

It’s too bad, because Get Crazy is a terrific, riotous comedy that should be better known. The gags fly at a fast and furious pace, but the movie owes more to the anarchic spirit of the Marx Brothers than the ZAZ school then coming into flower. It’s not a spoof, but a movie about rock and roll informed by Arkush’s experiences working at the Fillmore East, Bill Graham’s legendary New York club. A lot of the jokes are about the soullessness creeping into the music business and all of ‘80s life – but a lot of them are just plain silly. We’re talking about a movie featuring a teleporting cyborg drug dealer named Electric Larry, a giant ambulatory joint, and evil henchmen in the persons of ‘60s heartthrobs Fabian and Bobby Sherman.

Many of the other characters are send-ups of legends like Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan (here played by Lou Reed), and Mick Jagger (Malcolm McDowell as Reggie Wanker). The movie’s also packed with great music. Every artist does a cover of the blues song “Hoochie Coochie Man,” including the film’s Muddy Waters figure, Wanker, and punk fixture Lee Ving, proving that all contemporary music flows from the same source. And Reed closes the show with a strong solo number.

Arkush is now a veteran TV director, but on the strength of this movie and Rock’n’Roll High School he should be enshrined in Cleveland. Get Crazy is playing on cable again, and it’s as funny as I remembered it being on those New Year’s Eves in high school. I won’t be taking it off the DVR any time soon.