A short while ago I posted a review of the all rather odd Andy Kaufman comedy Heartbeeps, where two robots fall in love in a weird and creepy way. Its director Allan Arkush fully admits that it was his fault the movie didn’t turn out well though, and I heard through the grapevine (ie what everyone’s calling the internet these days) that he was at least responsible for two bona fide classics, Rock ‘N’ Roll High School and Get Crazy.
I’ve yet to see Rock ‘N’ Roll High School but Get Crazy doesn’t quite fall in to the classics category, though it comes pretty close and is definitely a fairly unique movie. The first half of which is a Airplane style parody where the jokes come thick and fast and there’s a fair amount of visual silliness as Neil Allen (Daniel Stern) is a stage manager at a music venue and putting together a big show on New Year’s Eve where singer Reggie Wanker (Malcolm McDowell) will headline. The whole thing is organised by the building’s owner Max Woolf (Allen Garfield) who thinks he’s had a heart attack and is dying – but it’s just indigestion and so his nephew Sammy (Miles Chapin) won’t be inheriting the venue, much to his chagrin, but that doesn’t stop him from being a right old shit who plans to somehow sell it to evil business magnate Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jnr)
This first part of the movie introduces all of the main players (often with onscreen captions informing us who everyone is) and has lots of very funny sight gags, including a great bit where Colin Beverly carelessly and callously lands his helicopter in the street, and later after chatting with Sammy he throws him out of the helicopter, though is kind enough to give him a parachute to grab hold of at least. There’s also a fun bit where the supposedly based on a real life drug dealer “Electric Larry” turns up with a whole load of drugs that help everyone build the set super speedily, and when Neil meets the venue’s former stage manager Willy Loman (Gail Edwards) we’re given a nicely daft dream sequence where he’s Tarzan and she’s Jane.
There’s also some all round silliness with Neil’s sister and her friend Debbie, who has a boyfriend in full scuba gear in the bath with her, while Reggie Wanker travels to the venue by plane which contains more cocaine than Elton John used to snort in a year, and which nearly crashes when his band mates decide they fancy trying to learn how to fly. And perhaps funniest of all is Neil’s trip to one of the toilets inside the venue, which contains enough water to house a shark and in one of the cubicles there’s a gentleman with an enormous bong that’s only $1 dollar a hit.
Forty minutes in and the gig kicks off and from that point on it’s a slightly different kind of movie however, a mixture of performances from bands and backstage footage, plus some occasional hijinks with Sammy trying to burn the building down. One of the running jokes is that all of the bands play the same song, “Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Walters (who was due to star but couldn’t due to illness) in different styles, and it’s pretty impressive just how disparate the various covers are.
The musical footage is often quite exhilarating, especially in the case of Piggy (punk singer Lee Ving), which is helped by speeded up footage of the audience and some insane balcony jumping, and there’s still some decent enough jokes in this section like how King Blues (Bill Henderson) is joined by “The Jews Band” instead of a blues one, and Electric Larry makes another amusing appearance, but it can’t be denied that in the second half of the film the gag rate drops considerably and while enjoyable it’s definitely not as funny.
There are still some highlights, Lou Reed spends the film in a taxi taking the scenic route to the venue until right at the end when he speeds through the city while singing what’s happening to him, and the idiocy regarding Sammy’s attempts to destroy the building are fun, as are Reggie Wanker’s hallucinations at the end of the movie, but I couldn’t help but find myself wishing there was less music and more silliness.
It’s an odd old piece of work then, half sort of concert film half absurdist comedy, and though it’s a movie I’m very fond of but it can’t be denied it’s a weird and rather unusual concoction, and if you don’t like the music then it may not be for you. But if it’s the sort of thing you find fun there are at least scenes of the variety that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the forty odd years I can remember watching films, and there’s not many movies I can say that about these days.
You can watch the film in full on youtube here.