Release Date(s)1983 (December 7, 2021)
Studio(s)Embassy Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: A
Allan Arkush’s 1983 film Get Crazy could reasonably be described as a bit of a mess, but that’s actually one of its major selling points. If it is a mess, it’s a glorious one: a rock-and-roll version of Hellzapoppin' that leaves few stones unturned in its quest to squeeze as much music and zaniness as it can into a brief 84-minute running time. Arkush has described the film as having 1500 punchlines, but only 1000 jokes, and that’s not too far from the truth. (He’s also described it as having 3000 punchlines with 1000 jokes, but both statements are equally plausible.)
Arkush originally wanted to make a serious homage to his days working as a stagehand at the Fillmore East under the legendary promoter Bill Graham, but the only way that he could get financing was by turning it into a comedy instead. Despite the box office failure of his most recent comedy Heartbeeps, he embraced the change with both hands, and even willingly let any kind of coherency slip through his fingers in the process. Get Crazy is all about the moments, not the narrative. The script that barely holds everything together was written by Danny Opatoshu, Henry Rosenbaum, and David Taylor, inspired by Arkush’s experiences. There is an actual story involved, but it doesn’t really matter. Get Crazy is essentially a “let’s put on a show” musical comedy in the form a live-action cartoon—it’s Babes in Arms directed by Tex Avery while he was listening to The Ramones.
Arkush assembled an impressive cast, led by Allen Goorwitz/Garfield as a Graham-type concert promoter, Daniel Stern as the stagehand who works for him, and a supporting roster that includes Malcolm McDowell, Ed Begley, Jr., Miles Chapin, Stacey Nelkin, Dan Frischman, and Gail Edwards. The film is also filled with memorable cameos by Bob Picardo, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, and even Clint Howard (in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment).
In addition to all of those great character actors, Arkush put together a diverse collection of musical acts. Lori Eastside and Nada were invented especially for the film, but he also brought in well-known musicians like Lou Reed, John Densmore, Howard Kaylan, and Lee Ving, who more or less plays himself. (After Ving’s unrestrained performance, King Blues (Bill Henderson) drunkenly responds, “Who says a white boy can’t sing the blues!”) Even Malcolm McDowell performed his own songs in the film, for good or for ill—he actually insisted on doing so as a condition of participating in the project. It’s all in the spirit of anything goes, including the running joke that Lou Reed’s extended taxi trip to the theatre means that he never even performs. (Those who sit through the credits, however, will be rewarded.)
Get Crazy never found an audience in 1983, but it was never given the chance to do so. According to Arkush, Embassy Pictures decided to use the film as a tax write-off, so they deliberately tanked it by only releasing it in a few theatres, with minimal promotion. Since it’s been difficult to find on home video, it hasn’t even had a fair chance to build up a sizable cult following. Yet its memory has been kept alive by those who have had the chance to see it, and now that it’s more widely available, hopefully it will gain more fans. Any film that features the drummer from The Doors offering a drink to Malcolm McDowell’s penis deserves as much exposure as it can get.
Cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth shot Get Crazy on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray features a brand-new 2K master that was produced from the original camera negative, along with the original sound elements. Given the fact that the only previous home video version of the film was its original VHS release, needless to say this a dramatic improvement. There are a few minor flaws such as scratches (including one prominent blue one on the left side of the frame in one shot), but nothing that’s too distracting. The image is generally sharp and detailed, with good contrast and black levels, and only a bit of crush in the darkest scenes. Arkush used a lot of optical effects like wipes, dissolves, and onscreen titles, so those shots are understandably softer than the surrounding material, but that can’t be helped. The wildly vivid color scheme is reproduced accurately, and it puts the faded look of the VHS transfer to shame.
Audio is offered in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English subtitles. Get Crazy was released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, so this is a four-channel matrixed mix. It’s still primarily focused on the front channels, and the center channel in particular, with the dialogue and effects often anchored in the middle. The music provides the bulk of the stereo spread, with the surrounds used mostly for ambient reverberations, though there’s the occasional active surround effect like thunderclaps or frisbees (don’t ask). The dialogue is clear, but it has a touch of excessive sibilance. Unfortunately, there’s very little low frequency information, so the music doesn’t have as much impact as it could.
Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray for Get Crazy includes a slipcover, as well as the following extras:
- Audio Commentary by Allan Arkush, Eli Roth, and Daniel Kremer
- The After Party: Documentary with Cast and Crew (HD – 75:43)
- Fan Fiction with No Dogs in Space (HD – 8:16)
- Trailers from Hell with Allan Arkush (HD – 4:22)
- Get Crazy Theme Song by Sparks (Upscaled HD – 3:45)
- Not Gonna Take It No More by Lori Eastside & The Nada Band – 1983 Music Video (HD – 3:59)
- Not Gonna Take It No More by Lori Eastside & The Nada Band – 2021 Music Video (HD – 3:49)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:32)
The commentary with Arkush, filmmaker Eli Roth, and filmmaker/historian Daniel Kremer is an entertaining blend of factual information, amusing anecdotes, and blatant hero-worship. (Roth describes himself as an Allan Arkush superfan, and that’s clearly the case.) Much of it takes the form of a question-and-answer session, with Roth and Kremer happily gleaning everything that they can from Arkush. The stories about making the film are often even more interesting than the film itself, and Arkush is equally happy sharing them. Some of this information is understandably duplicated in the rest of the extras on the disc, but it’s still a great commentary track and an essential listen.
The After Party is a wonderfully freewheeling feature-length collection of reminiscences by over thirty members of the cast and crew of Get Crazy (and a few outsiders, as well). It was produced and directed by Arkush, who opens the proceedings by showing off some of his collection of memorabilia from the film, and then explaining how this Blu-ray came to be. Aside from a poor-quality VHS release, the film has never been available on any other home video format, because Arkush had been unable to locate the picture and sound elements. Kino Lorber finally found them, but when the label contacted him to plan a special edition, the pandemic intruded. In the best “let’s put on a show” spirit of Get Crazy, Arkush didn’t let that slow him down, so he contacted everybody involved via Zoom instead. Some of the participants have passed away by this point in time, but he really did manage to track down nearly everyone else—actors Malcolm McDowell, Daniel Stern, Miles Chapin, Stacey Nelkin, Bob Picardo, Dan Frischman, Gail Edwards, and Ed Begley, Jr., as well as crew members like producers, writers, sound editors, picture editors, costume designers, and more. He also tracked down some of the surviving musicians, like Lee Ving, Howard Kaylan, Lori Eastside, and all the members of Nada. They share their memories of the film, as well as plenty of amusing stories about its production, release, and legacy. (Favorite moment: Bob Picardo describing that phase of his career as being the official “Oh no, you can’t do that” guy.) Zoom has been a necessary evil during the pandemic, but Arkush managed to turn a vice into a virtue by making its disconnected nature an active and energetic part of the documentary. Even if Kino hadn’t located the elements for the film itself, this documentary alone would have been worth the price of admission.
Fan Fiction features Carolina Hidalgo and Marcus Parks from the No Dogs in Space podcast, who provide amusing invented biographies for the fictional bands in the film. (This extra was also produced and directed by Arkush.) In the Trailers from Hell, Arkush gives an overview of the film’s background, as well as the painful nature of its release. He isn’t impressed with the trailer that Embassy cut, calling it one of the worst available on the Trailers from Hell website. This extra was taped before Kino located the picture and sound elements, so Arkush still describes it as a lost film here. The Get Crazy music video features clips from the film, while the first Not Gonna Take It video is a reedited version of the complete performance of the song in the film. The second one features new clips of Lori Eastside and the members of Nada enthusiastically lip-syncing to the song in 2021. (Needless to say, all of the videos were also produced and directed by Arkush.)
In addition, there's also a wealth of material that didn't make it onto this release. You can read all about it in our Supplemental Review.
Some directors show little to no interest in the home video versions of their films, while others take a more active role in their releases, and then there’s directors like Allan Arkush. Get Crazy isn’t just an Allan Arkush film; it’s an Allan Arkush Blu-ray. Kudos to Kino Lorber for giving him the support, and also for letting him have free rein in the production of the disc. (Not sure if it was his idea to loop Lou Reed’s guitar solo from Little Sister over the menus, but mad props to whoever came up with the idea.) Get Crazy spent decades as a virtually lost film, but now it hasn’t just been relocated; it’s been rediscovered.
- Stephen Bjork