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3.0 out of 5 stars interesting cultural artifact from the 80's but the humor doesn't hold up, April 5, 2012
This review is from: Get Crazy (VHS Tape)
Get Crazy is a fond look back at the 80's music scene, and the plot revolves around a rock concert to celebrate New Year's Eve, 1983. The director, Allan Arkush got his start in the film business by working in the trailer department of Roger Corman's New World Pictures. This movie had a very strong Corman vibe so I checked to see if Roger had produced it, but nada. However, Arkush was also the director for the Corman produced Rock 'N' Roll High School.

In Get Crazy the promoter is Max Wolfe, played by Allen Garfield, here billed under the name Allen Goorwitz. Goorwitz or Garfield's claim to fame is not Get Crazy, crazy as that seems, but he played Gene Hackman's rival corporate espionage expert Bernie Maran in The Conversation. Max Wolfe is clearly modeled on American impresario and rock concert promoter Bill Graham, so it is slightly macabre that Wolfe attempts a stunt involving being launched in a model airplane at the stroke of twelve, especially when the stunt goes awry and is almost blown up from a bomb placed by his rival promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley, Jr., more about him later).

About ten years after Get Crazy was filmed Graham was killed in a helicopter crash near Vallejo, California on October 25, 1991, while returning home from a Huey Lewis and the News concert at the Concord Pavilion. Graham had attended the event to discuss promoting a benefit concert for the victims of the 1991 Oakland firestorm, after a large portion of the Oakland/Berkeley Hills area burned. Once he had obtained the commitment from the News to perform, he returned to his helicopter, which crashed shortly after take-off, just 20 miles from the concert site. Flying in weather reported as low overcast, rain and gusty winds, the aircraft flew directly into a 223-foot high-voltage tower along Hwy 37, which runs between Vallejo and Marin County.

Ed Begley, Jr. is another well known character actor whose claim to fame, crazy as it sounds, was not Get Crazy. Begley has played small parts in numerous movies and television shows but is perhaps better known for being a notorious tree hugger who actually quit his job with a Los Angeles environmental agency because his job itself generated too much paper. He was also in rock cult film This Is Spinal Tap and he was in a few scenes in Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, along with Mary Woronov (more on her later). As Colin Beverly Begley is a conniving weasel who is trying to tear down the venue that Wolfe has nurtured so he can erect a big corporate entertainment complex that will no doubt suck all the life out of the music scene, and he'll stop at nothing to achieve his dastardly objective.

Two of his henchmen are played by has-been pop stars: Bobby Sherman and Fabian. Long before Cher or Madonna, Fabian was one of the first pop stars to go by a single name, though his real last name, Forte, would have fit pretty well with a music career. Fabian Forte was his real name. He was named after his grandfather. Fabian never took pop stardom seriously, as it was thrust on him by a fluke, but in his day he was quite famous. He played opposite John Wayne in North to Alaska, which is good to know if you are trying to connect someone to John Wayne in The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Bobby Sherman was also huge in his time--his singing career took off when he was cast on a popular hit show called Here Come the Brides. He had at least seven hit singles, such as "Julie, Do Ya Love Me?" and my fave, "Easy Come, Easy Go." How big was Bobby Sherman? Why, people used to say, only slightly ironically, "Peace, Love, and Bobby Sherman," and then flash a peace symbol. Like Eddie Haskell's real life embodiment, Ken Osmond, Sherman would eventually end up in the Los Angeles Police Department, rising to the rank of Captain.

Speaking of aging pop stars, Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker, an over the top, over the hill parody of Mick Jagger. McDowell should have read the script BEFORE taking the role, as it required him to have a conversation with his own member. Malcolm found out about the mess he was in the middle of when another cast "member" asked how he was going to "handle" that "part." I didn't really care for his characterization, though he did a pretty decent job. I took issue with the fact that he was attacking one of my sacred cows. It was sacrilegious. Having personally seen Mick Jagger perform with The Rolling Stones on the Tumbling Dice Tour, he achieved TOTAL HEAVIOSITY. Who you calling a wanker, Wanker? Jagger did a better parody of himself as an aging rock star in Performance. BTW, Stone's manager Andrew Loog Oldham once owned the film rights to Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange. One of The Stones' LPs even got its juice from Clockwork Orange for the liner notes--just ask the Malchek Plebbies. Andrew Loog Oldham really wanted to have Clockwork Orange made into a film. Jagger was even going to play my droog Alex, but that project never got off the ground, and when Kubrick came sniffin' around, Mick was already too old. Malcolm McDowell had those big eyes and boyish good looks, so he ended up doing it even though he was 28. Seems like it might have backfired on him though. He went from playing youths to crusty curmudgeons over night. Little Alex was suddenly Caligula, then the disturbingly ancient-looking Dr. Derrick Russell in Disturbed (with Clint Howard, more on him later). As Reggie Wanker he performs with a gigantic codpiece, which, now that I mention it, was also his costume's accouterment in Clockwork Orange.

Lori Eastside, who would later become a casting director who "discovered" Michael Pitt plays the leader of a big all female outfit who really wants to be Joan Jett but has to settle for her "best shot" being more like Pat Benetar. She is called Nada, and though she put in an enthusiastic performance I can see why she traded in her sunglasses for a casting couch.

Lee Ving, who was himself the "singer" for punk group Fear also does a parody of another rock star: Iggy. His Piggy is obviously based on Iggy Pop of Iggy and the Stooges. Again, I take issue. The Iggster is even more of an icon than Jagger in my eyes, and I resent the film trashing this Sacred Iguanna. But enough. Lee Ving should be leaving. He did a good job, throwing himself into his role with the same enthusiasm Iggy used on stage, writhing in broken glass while covered in peanut butter. Piggy smashes his head against the wall repeatedly while the crowd chants, but truth be told, he hit his head once and then they rolled the film back and forth to simulate the effect of repeated head smashing. Crazy as it sounds, Get Crazy is not Lee Ving's signature film role, for he played the owner of the rival strip club in Flashdance. Other musicians who got crazy in Get Crazy were John Densmore, drummer for The Doors, and Derf Scratch. Just the other day I was saying we don't get to see enough Derf Scratch in the movies.

Howard Kaylan played a character called Captain Cloud, who was somewhere between Jerry Garcia and Wavy Gravy on the weird hippie time-space continuum. Both, coincidentally, have Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavors named after them. Howard looked familiar, and lo and behold, he was one half of Flo and Eddie, and the pair had also both been in The Turtles. "So Happy Together" is a pop song monument that I kneel before. Flo and Eddie were in Frank Zappa's band and can be seen in 200 Motels. I don't know which one is Flo and which one is Eddie, but Howard Kaylan is the fat one with salt and pepper hair and beard.

One final rock star has a part, but like the movie, I am saving that one for last.

Daniel Stern is also in this film, and as insane as it sounds Get Crazy is not the film he will be remembered for. He was in Diner, with Micky Rourke, but perhaps his zenith will be as one of the thugs who pestered Macauley Caulkin along with Joe Pesci in Home Alone. Clint Howard, Oppie's brother, is in this one as well. He was such a cute kid in Gentle Ben. What happened? Other Cormanites worthy of mention who got crazy were Dick Miller and Paul Bartel.

I said I would get to Mary Woronov, and let me say that she was part of Andy Warhol's entourage, was in some of those films, such as Chelsea Girls, and later she had parts in other independent films, such as Eating Raoul and Rock 'n' Roll High School.

The Warhol Connection is the perfect segue to Lou Reed, of the notorious Velvet Underground. He was playing a folk rocker/poet named Auden (get it, like the poet W.H. Auden, just like Dylan took his name from the poet Dylan Thomas, whoever he was). There is one cool joke where we see that Auden is kind of an agoraphobic, and he is posed exactly like Dylan on the cover of Bringing it All Back Home, except that everything is covered in spider webs. Because of the nature of the film I thought that it was an actor playing Lou Reed doing a parody of Bob Dylan, and I was thinking, he really is doing a great Lou Reed impersonation, but it was actually him. Lou Reed hasn't really been in very many films, and if only he would do something, that would make Get Crazy worth tracking down. And then, just when the movie is almost over, and you're thinking what a great opportunity was missed, he performs a song, and it is really fantastic! I wish I could get a copy of this song so I could play it for my sister.

The Bottom Line is that Get Crazy is an interesting cultural artifact from the 80's but the humor doesn't hold up. Those dudes would laugh at anything, due to the chemical enhancements that were all the rage in those halcyon days. One of the women is named Willy Loman, which is the name of the salesman character in Arthur Miller's play: Death of a Salesman. Jokes like this are a little bit too inside. There is a lot of talent wasted in this film, but it would be a good one to know about for playing The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You could make a case that it sums up the 80's better than Breakfast Club, or St. Elmo's Fire, but would the evidence stand up in court? I'd like to see Lou Reed do that song one more time, but first I would have to sit through this entire movie again, and that would make anyone Get Crazy.

Rock 'N' Roll High School
A Clockwork Orange
Tank Girl
The Conversation
Flashdance
North to Alaska
Diner
Scenes From Class Struggle in Beverly Hills [VHS]
200 Motels [VHS]
This Is Spinal Tap
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 13, 2012 8:50:58 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 13, 2012 9:46:52 AM PDT
Jesse Nelson says:
Very good, in-depth review... yet Malcolm's character seems also based on Sting of the Police as well as Mick Jagger. He makes reference to not being "punk" anymore. That's the Police, as is the Reggae Wankers name. When he goes on stage, true, he looks Mick Jagger...

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2012 6:50:27 PM PDT
C. CRADDOCK says:
Yeah, there is a bit of Sting. A composite character. But there is a Jagger connection because Rolling Stones' manager owned film rights to Clockwork Orange, and there were plans to shoot it with Jagger as Alex. Thanks for your comments.
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