Retro Film Report #28: Get Crazy (1983)

Get Crazy (1983) is perhaps the most aptly named move ever made.  Only cocaine could have produced a movie this manic, this politically incorrect, this.... well, crazy.  Do you remember a few years ago when the word of the day was "random"? Well this is that.  It's so nuts that I can't really give it a proper review.

The plot: A 1983 New Year's Concert is being sabotaged.  Silliness, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and more silliness ensue.  So much so that it's impossible to take it all in in a single viewing... or even a hundred viewings. Only under the influence of a massive line of cocaine, might you hope to get a glimpse into the madness of Get Crazy.

For those not doing coke, I thought I'd break it down to allow the rest of us to take in this truly amazing film.

And so it begins.  Ed Begley Jr.and his henchmen, Fabian and Bobby Sherman (!), come swooping in on a helicopter to rain on Max Wolfe's parade.  Their plan: to buy Wolfe's beloved concert hall, The Saturn(akin to the Fillmore East), and turn it into a mega-stadium.

I must admit, I was kind of amazed to see the helicopter so near actual people (not stuntmen); how was no one seriously injured or killed during filming?  (Of course, who says they weren't.)  Today, they would've just CGI'd it.

Here's the crowd waiting in line being bombarded by the helicopter. Several nice touches to be found here.  The attention to detail, with every frame containing some brand of early eighties nuttiness, is breathtaking.

This being the early eighties, you know the wind from the helicopter would have to rip the clothes off the ladies.

Actually "Bartel" is spelled with one L.  My bad
Apparently, this was all too much for Wolfe, who has a mild heart attack.  A doctor arrives who's played by Paul Bartel, director of such classics as Eating Raoul, Death Race 2000, Private Parts, and Big Bad Mama. 

Naturally, the various employees of the Saturn attempt to steal the drugs from his doctor bag.  Sadly, all they manage to loot is some suppositories and aspirin.  Not to fear, Electric Larry is here, and he brings goodies...

Electric Larry is some sort of cross between The Gimp, Snake Eyes, Darth Vader, and a pimp.... let's just say it's weird.  Don't worry about the details, he has a tackle-box full of illegal narcotics!  Never has onscreen drug use been so much fun!

I'll also ad that no one knows who played Electric Larry - some think it was the director, Allen Arkush.  Butthole Surfer fans will also remember their album Electric LarryLand - obviously a pun on Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, but perhaps inspired by this mysterious character.

This movie simply could not have been made today.  There's a host of other politically incorrect material that would keep this film from theaters in 2013; but reason number one would have to be the glorification of drugs.  And by glorification, I mean straight up endorsement!

The drugs allow the Saturn employees to work at a comically Benny Hill speed. Let the good times roll.

The love story of the film is between Wolfe's assistants, played by Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards. The director wanted Tom Hanks and Jayne Mansfield's daughter, Mariska Hargitay, to play the roles, but the producer objected.

 We all know Stern primarily from the Home Alone films and the narrator on The Wonder Years. Gail Edwards, on the other hand, drifted into obscurity after a few episodes of Full House.  She was also on It's A Living and actually sang vocals for the theme song.

You'll note that Daniel Stern is clutching an ape and Gail is wearing sexy lingerie.  There's absolutely no reason for this other than the fact that (as I've repeatedly mentioned) everyone associated with this film was heavily into cocaine.

So, the bands begin to arrive for the aforementioned '83 New Year's bash at the Saturn.  Among the first is NADA, an all girl punk band....except for the lead, "Piggy" played by the infamous Lee Ving (frontman for the Los Angeles punk group, FEAR).

Piggy is kept in the trunk of Nada's car, is covered in blood, and attacks a stack of garbage as soon as he's let loose.  He signs the contract by head butting it.

Robert Picardo (the holographic doctor on Star Trek: Voyager) is the fire inspector who threatens to shut the place down if things aren't in line.  You'll notice Howard Kaylan (former lead singer of the Turtles) in the background - he plays Captain Cloud.

Next, we meet King Blues and nephew "Cool" played by Franklin Ajaye.  Anyone who's old enough to remember the seventies remembers Franklin.  He was a popular black comedian who was in a ton of stuff including Car Wash.

The grave site scene features a host of blind African Americans, one of whom falls into the grave.  Not the most PC scene in the world, to be sure.

Would you believe the next act to perform at the Saturn is played by Lou Reed?  He plays a reclusive "metaphysical folk singer" named Auden.  (Note the cobwebs throughout the Auden residence.)

Cut to Daniel Stern calling his little sister Susie (Stacey Nelkin) to get her to come to the big New Year's shindig. Nelkin dated Woody Allen as a teenager, and their relationship was the basis for his film, Manhattan (1979).

We next see her on the phone with her friend, Debbie, played by Charity James.  James provides a textbook example of gratuitous nudity and is never seen in the film again.  Since Get Crazy, James has provided a shit ton of cartoon and animation voices including Anastasia, Gargoyles, and Space Jam.

Then, for no reason whatsoever, a scuba diver emerges from the bath.  This is what I'm talking about, folks.  You can't fake this kind of insanity.

And who are Susie and the naked Debbie so excited about? That would be Reggie Wanker (Malcolm McDowell), the most famous of all the musicians to play at the Saturn. The Wanker character is an obvious parody of Mick Jagger.

 He's flying-high doing coke in his private jet while his band reeks havoc on the rest of the plane.

They cause the plane to spin out of control, upsetting big vats of cocaine of which Reggie and his squeeze, Chantamina (Anna Bjorn) , roll around in.  One member of Reggie's band, Toad, is played by John Densmore, drummer for The Doors.

The Jack Nicholson character in The Departed was based on a real life criminal James 'Whitey' Bulger - second on the FBI's most wanted list after Osama Bin Laden in 2007.  Bulger was captured by a tip from Anna Bjorn.

Finally, the concert begins and the crowds push in.  Yes, that's a man in a reefer costume and, yes, that's a man carrying a giant reefer.  Sometimes it's better just to not ask why.

While King Blues, the opening act, plays on stage, Toad (Densmore) is getting busy with a groupie played by my favorite Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley.

Nada goes next and plays a fairly catchy Tony Basil slash Go-Go's number.  Then their bestial singer, Piggy, jumps in and starts screaming like a psychopath.  It should be noted that this movie actually plays the songs almost in their entirety.

When it's Wanker's turn to close out the show, we find him sporting a codpiece bigger than the one McDowell wore in A Clockwork Orange.  Eegad! And look who's dancing with him - it's lil' sister Susie!

And this, dear readers, is where I must raise the flag for spoilers, and also spare you the intricate detail.  Suffice it to say, the following insanity ensues....

1. A fire breaks out but Electric Larry returns and puts LSD in the water cooler; turning the uptight, douche bag fire-inspector into a peace-loving hippy.

2. Ed Begley Jr, Fabian and Sherman get incinerated by the bomb they had planted in the New Year's rocket Max Wolfe rode at the concert finale.

3. One of the oddest scenes in film history: Reggie Wanker starts talking to his penis.  In fact, his penis convinces him to turn his life around.  Wanker then makes his talking penis the band's new manager.

4. Read number 3 again.

Unlike McDowell, Lou Reed walks away from this film with dignity intact.  He arrives late and plays a personal performance for sister Susie.... actually a pretty decent song, and possibly the only moment in the entire picture that takes a genuine serious tone.

All in all, it's a pretty damn entertaining movie, and pretty well captures the pathos of the music it celebrates. If you're expecting cerebral drama, you've come to the wrong place. It suffers from being a little too bizarre; it's so overboard that it actually subtracts from the free-flowing fun - a quality that was executed so perfectly in Rock and Roll High School (another Arkush film).   I think Arkush summed it up best when he said: "It’s a movie with three thousand punch lines, but only a thousand jokes."


  1. I too covered Get Crazy awhile back. You do a better job of explaining its nutiness than I do. Thanks for this!


  2. AnonymousMay 29, 2013

    More importantly, Bartel played the part of Mr. McGree in "Rock and Roll High School" (Featuring the Ramones). His crowning jewel I'd say.

    Maybe you could review RnRHS some day?

  3. A fun post! I had an employee give me a VHS copy way back when. I had never even heard of it but been a big fan ever since.

    A couple of points:

    Paul Bartel was only the 2nd unit director on BIG BAD MAMA but that got him DEATH RACE 2000. Also an excellent actor, usually paired with Mary Woronov!

    You mention that McDowell is playing Jagger but not that Lou Reed is playing Dylan. Even the name, Auden, comes from poet W.H. Auden, the way Mr. Zimmerman took HIS name from DYLAN Thomas.

  4. Yeah, the pic of Reed's scene is a mock-up of the cover of Dylan's album Bringing It All Back Home. The cobwebs aren't a good sign!

    Saw this when I was 13 or 14 on late-night HBO, the conversation with the penis blew my mind! So much inappropriate fun.

  5. AnonymousMay 29, 2013

    Great film with a lot of laughs! A great companion double feature with Rock & Roll High School.
    Electric Larry is hilarious - you could NEVER get away with a character like him these days.

    Actually, the Reggie Wanker character played by Malchie was reportedly based on Rod Stewart & his Swedish girlfriend at the time, Britt Ekland.

    Trivia: The Icelandic beauty Anna Bjorn who plays Reggie's girlfriend in the film provided the tip that led to the recent capture of FBI's Most Wanted James "Whitey" Bulger - apparently she bonded with the gangster's girlfriend over a stray cat as they were neighbors in the same complex. Anna hadn't realized the criminal connection until later when she recognized Whitey's photo on a television report.

    When asked by a crew member how he planned to play out the "talking penis" scene, Malcolm McDowell claimed in an interview that he hadn't even bothered to read the entire script so he was surprised at what he had gotten himself into...

  6. "The director wanted Tom Hanks and Jayne Mansfield's daughter, Mariska Hargitay, to play the roles, but the producer objected."

    Yea, who would want THOSE one hit wonders in your movie. Wow, talking about dodging a casting bullet. If you had Hanks and Hargity no one would have ever HEARD of this movie. It would never have become the "cult classic" it is today.


  7. Hey Cool, don't drink that wine, it struck me blind!

    I always remember that line. I must have seen this on HBO or Cinemax back in the day. It was also on USA back in the early 1990s (if I recall correctly).

  8. BTW, the Amazon link goes to "Video currently unavailable."

    Does this mean your post drove sales through the roof and they are out of stock???

    1. I think there were only like seven copies left when I put this post up. But, yes, technically it did drive them out of stock.

  9. "Get Crazy" is one of my favourite movies! We just never had a chance to get around to it yet! There's so much left, I can still do it without us having much crossover! The screencap of the Dylanesque Lou Reed is just like the cover of Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home!" I love Lee Ving as Piggy especially when he entices the guy to jump from the balcony, and Lori Eastside as Nada puts on one of the greatest and sexiest performances of all time! I had to buy a VHS copy, but I seem to have misplaced it!

  10. So, does the movie take place in 1973, or when it was made in 1983? You jumped back and forth a few times and now I'm confused!

  11. Watch now, before they're on to us!

    1. AnonymousMay 30, 2013

      Thanks for the link. Will watch the movie and then reread this post.

      Great post!

  12. This was an MGM movie?

    Wow, the came a long way form Gone With the Wind, haven't they?

  13. Remember Daniel Stern's show "Get a Life"? That was great. ;)

  14. AnonymousMay 30, 2013

    It was better than I expecting. Thanks for the link. The music was good, it was fun to see how young everyone was.I think it should be seen more than once. There too much to take in one viewing. It is amazing that that they got some really good actors to be in the film. Nick

  15. I didn't see this on Cinemax or USA, or on a VHS; no I actually saw this in a movie theater in Southern Florida. The theater was packed and was the only patron who wasn't high or drunk. It was one of the few times I remember people toking on reefer in the theater, the other time was Up IN Smoke.

  16. Here's a link to the full movie on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrIRmMNi800 Grab it before it goes up in smoke.

    I remember watching this movie in the 1980's. While completely over the top, some of the scenes were very reminiscent things that really did happen when I was in college in the late 60's and early 70's.

    I wish they'd release a soundtrack. Some of the songs are priceless.

  17. There was a soundtrack released. I used to have a copy.