And so we have come to the end of another year. B-Movie Enema has done all sorts of fun stuff throughout 2022. We revisited Russ Meyer. We entered into the Madea Cinematic Universe for the first time. Also, for the first time, Steven Seagal showed up to sit around for a couple hours. We plowed through Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell Trilogy. AND I’ve done all sorts of digging into the themes of the Phantasm series. We’ve done it all, Enemaniacs.
So, let’s close things out with a movie that actually got fairly decent review from none other than Janet Maslin from The New York Times. Yessir… It’s time we celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next while we all Get Crazy!
What’s more, this is the return of a director we’ve seen before – Allan Arkush. Arkush co-directed the incredibly fun Hollywood Boulevard with Joe Dante. That’s a fun movie. I feel like we could very easily do more of Arkush’s stuff. His next film was as a co-director on 1978’s Deathsport that stars Claudia Jennings. Then, he rattled off three solo efforts in quick succession – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (probably his most fondly remembered), Heartbeeps (a big ol’ swing and miss in terms of movies), and Get Crazy. Arkush had talent and still works today in TV. In fact, he was a Primetime Emmy Award winner for his musical mini-series The Temptations.
Again, the Roger Corman family tree making good in the biz.
For Get Crazy, Arkush had some fairly big plans. He wanted to go big with casting, including casting a young Tom Hanks for one of the parts, but the atom bomb that was Heartbeeps made him have to scale this back quite a bit. That said, he swears to this day that this movie is based on real stuff that happened. If he could have one wish granted in his career, it would be to remake this movie with a much more serious tone. A big reason why this didn’t quite turn out the way he wanted was his contentious relationship with the producer Herbert F. Solow. “Solow,” remembers Arkush, “was pretty much a jerk.” He’d change the ideas Arkush would bring to him so he had his own stamp and spin on whatever was being made.
What this movie DOES have a pretty big cast and it’s all led by Malcolm McDowell, who, I might add, had a condition in his contract to be allowed to sing his songs in the movie. Yeah, everyone in this movie had to sing their own vocals. Only Lou Reed (formerly of the Velvet Underground) wrote his own songs. Returning to B-Movie Enema are folks like Clint Howard (previously seen in Ice Cream Man and Ticks), Stacey Nelkin (previously seen in Halloween III), Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov (from Hollywood Boulevard as well as B-Movie Enema: The Series episodes like Bad Georgia Road and Trick or Treats), Howard Kaylan (member of the duo Flo and Eddie from B-Movie Enema: The Series episode Down and Dirty Duck), and, of course, Linnea Quigley in an uncredited role as a groupie. Even Dick Miller shows up here. That makes for a lot of Roger Corman alumni present here.
So yeah, members of the cast like the previously mentioned Lou Reed and Malcolm McDowell sing their own songs, but we also have Sparks and The Ramones contributing to the soundtrack as well. But let’s just dive right in, cool? Cool.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I don’t know much of anything about this movie outside that it does have a decent cult following. I did NOT expect this movie to open like Star Wars with the title coming in and fading off into space with what appears to be a giant Star Destroyer type spaceship flying overhead and passing us. It’s not a giant spaceship. Just an old man riding some sort of space rocket Slim Pickens-style, and having a grand ol’ time doing so.
This is all just a dress rehearsal for a big New Year’s Eve rock concert. This is Max Wolfe. He’s planning the biggest concert in the history of everything. He’s got a doting nephew who is such an asshole, he even kicks a dog. He’s also got his crack stage crew led by Neil Allen (Daniel Stern), who is getting some help from beautiful Willy Loman (Gail Edwards). We also have the great Mary Woronov as Violetta, the temperamental director of Max’s show.
But not everything is coming up Max.
We meet the bad guys, led by Colin Beverly, played by Ed Begley, Jr. He’s a hot shot up and comer in the world of production. He doesn’t really care much for this old fart Max holding a 30-year lease on the best concert hall in the world. He thinks Max is old news. Colin believes he’d be better off leading the entertainment world into the 80s and beyond than that old fart.
Colin runs Serpent Sounds. Colin is so ruthless, and means so much business, he decides to visit the Saturn Theater to see Max by landing his helicopter right in the street in front of the theater, blowing people around, tearing women’s tops off, and so forth. Max’s nephew, Sammy, well… He’s quite the fan of Colin Beverly because he’s rich, powerful, and doesn’t let anyone fuck with him. He thinks the million dollar offer Colin made to his uncle is too good to pass up.
Things get so heated between Max and Colin, Max has what appears to be a heart attack. However, his doctor, played by Paul Bartel, only wants Max to believe it’s a heart attack so he’ll rest. What he actually is suffering from is acute indigestion. But, with Sammy thinking this is serious, and knowing he stands to inherit, Sammy plans to work with Colin to get Max’s signature to turn over the lease. This will give Sammy the million dollars.
Now, I gotta say something about Get Crazy. I really do understand why this has a little bit of a following. This movie is zany as fuck. Characters are more like caricatures. I’m only 12 minutes into this movie and it is frenetic. It starts right off with a Star Wars parody that knows just how far to take the joke and how to kind of not overplay it. Mary Woronov is absolutely not to be fucked with, so that’s pretty perfect. You have Ed Begley, Jr. just chewing all the scenery as our villain. Then, you have our other stagehands. Everyone has a very distinct personality led by our everyman, Daniel Stern. The moment he sees Willy, he has a fantasy of embracing and making out with her. Shortly after that, he sees her again, but this time he sees her in sexy lingerie, back-lit with sexy red lighting. It’s actually a pretty spot-on interpretation of lustful infatuation.
And the last little joke that is pretty great is when Dr. Paul Bartel is telling Daniel Stern what’s going on with Max. While he’s giving his diagnosis, one of the other stagehands is under the table sneaking whatever he can get out of the doctor’s bag. They are looking for something that can help boost them into overdrive to finish the stage set up for the show that night. Luckily, a robotic drug deal shows up with an entire tackle box of pills that then causes the movie to smash-cut to the stage crew moving in super fast motion to get more work done.
This shit is zany, but it’s that 80s style of zany, and that’s particular flavor of zany I like.
One of the bands arrives in the form of Captain Cloud and the Rainbow Telegraph. This is a band of your prototypical hippies that are likely too high to realize they are 15 years too late to the party. They come dancing in, singing weird versions of psychedelic songs and carrying signs like “Make Love Not War” and what have you. They are led by, well, Captain Cloud. CC is Howard Kaylan who, in real life, was a member of the Turtles, Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, and Eddie of Flo and Eddie.
Knowing how much I find hippies to be super annoying, I’m going to guess Captain Cloud and his band of merry misfits are going to be fairly unhelpful to the stagehands trying to get everything set up for the show. That joke I made about this band being about 15 years too late wasn’t too far off. Apparently Captain Cloud and the Rainbow Telegraph show up with a pass to play the concert, but CC thinks it’s currently New Year’s Eve 1968, not 1982. Woof.
The next bad to show up is the 15-member girl band led by Nada. They are basically meant to be a parody of a girl punk band. With them, is special guest Piggy, a Sid Vicious-like dude who wears barb wire like a bandolier. A nice touch on that is that he’s bleeding in some parts of his chest.
Another thorn in Daniel Stern’s asshole is the fire inspector, Connell O’Connell, played by the always fun Robert Picardo of Star Trek: Voyager fame. He’s laying down some pretty strict rules about smoke bombs, sparklers, fireworks, and so forth. He is not to be messed with – at least in his own mind.
The next band we meet is led by King Blues, the King of Blues. He’s at a funeral for his friend and manager, Howlin’ Blind Luther Washington. This might be the biggest laugh of the movie yet, and I’m fairly sure I should be scolded for laughing at a bunch of blind blues folks. This is like something out of a Zucker Brothers production. I can’t describe it with the level it deserves so just check out the scene below.
We’re still only 20 minutes into this movie and so much has already happened. I wonder if this is going to be the type of movie that will be mostly front-loaded. What I mean by that is that we’re going to have a lot of action in the first half where we meet the kooky crazy characters and bands. We get set up with some stuff with the eeeeevil Colin Beverly and the scheming Sammy. We’ll know who the performers are. We know there’s a love story blooming with Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards. We know there’s going to be some reason to bring Robert Picardo’s fire inspector guy back. We know there will be a rockin’ New Year’s Eve party with all the kids waiting outside to get in. Then, the back half of the movie is going to be performances and mostly just juggling all those stories into some sort of conclusion to all the loose threads.
But one more thing has come into play at the 20-minute mark: Neil Allen’s little sister, Susie, played by the always lovely Stacey Nelkin, is introduced. She wants to come to the big show, but their parents’ always poo-poo fun plans like that. Neil wants her to come anyway. Besides, he’ll be there! It’ll be fine. I’m sure there is no harebrained scheme that will potentially get her in trouble with their parents… Right?
Willy plans to take off to get out of the way of all the happenings going on at the theater. Neil wants her to stay because, you know, he’s got the hots for her and everything. Max wants her to stay too. He wants to recapture all the magic of rock and roll to help ring in 1983. He swears he’s going to get the reclusive Auden (played by Lou Reed) to come and play. Neither Neil or Willy believe him because Auden’s not been seen outside his glitzy apartment in six years. Max calls up Auden to offer him a deal he can’t refuse.
And it does seem as though Auden is so reclusive, he, his rock and roll babe, and everything around him is covered in cobwebs.
Auden believes he’s lost his edge. He’s got no tragedy in his life anymore. However, when Max tells him that he wants him to play the Saturn tonight as a special death bed request, Auden is suddenly reinvigorated and inspired. He thinks this could be the start of a concept album. He immediately decides to go straight to the theater to play which causes the entire town to get crazy about his return to the limelight…
Oh. Heh… Get Crazy.
Next up is Reggie Wanker, the 20-year veteran of rock and roll’s top of the charts. This is Malcolm McDowell, and if you think he’s not going to be a complete and total crazy ass character, you don’t know nuthin’ about Malcolm McDowell. Wanker is a riff on Mick Jagger. He’s just bored with all the bitches and drugs he can get at anytime. He just can’t seem to get any satisfaction out of life anymore.
His band is going nuts on their jet plane. They’ve got topless chicks all over the place. They’re destroying everything, spraying whipped cream on each other, doing blow all over the place, and so forth. You know, rock star things. One of them is so ripped, he storms the cockpit and takes over the plane from the pilot causing them to fly all over the place and upside down and what have you.
You know, normal rock star things.
Totally jazzed now to go see Auden and her fave, Reggie Wanker, Susie decides to put a plan into action. She’s going to pretend to go over to a friend’s place to help out with a party. She’s dressed like an innocent school girl all prim and proper – which she will soon strip off down the street to rock and roll. This whole scene is amazing because we learn that her and Neil’s parents are played by Jackie Joseph and Dick Miller, who would re-team in just a year’s time to play Sheila and Murray Futterman in the all-time greatest Christmas movie ever, Gremlins.
I think I love this movie.
We’re getting very close to the start of the show and the performers are showing up to adoring fans. Reggie Wanker and his devoted drummer, Toad (played by Mark Densmore formerly of the Doors), are the first to arrive. The next is King Blues. Meanwhile, Colin Beverly is being told by his goons that they don’t like Sammy. They think he basically sucks and can’t be trusted. Colin isn’t bothered by anything. But he meets with some international money guys who also look like a who’s who of bad guys that Frank Drebin would have to bring down at the beginning of a Naked Gun movie. He tells them how he plans to destroy the Saturn Theater and replace it with a big ol’ corporate Serpent Records high rise that represents the future of the corporate music industry.
But they may have to literally commit mass murder because the Saturn is open and the attendees are pouring in through the doors. While the ushers check for contraband like drugs, weapons, and booze, I guess they don’t prevent the actual anthropomorphized sentient joint that is attending with a Rastafarian buddy.
King Blues threatens to leave when his backup band arrives and it’s not a blues band, but a Jews band. Yeah, it’s a literal gang of Jewish kids. Neil convinces King to give the Jewish band a chance. Turns out the Jewish kids aren’t too bad. King Blues comes out and performs a couple songs.
And, I mean it… King Blues performs a couple songs. At this point, we’re in a nearly full-on concert film. It does cut into some of the other goings on back stage. Just as Sammy is about to get the lease signed over for Colin Beverly, Max’s doctor comes in to say it was the Egg Foo Yung he ate earlier that caused the problem. Sammy calls Colin and says he has until midnight. After they hang up, Beverly tells his goons to go to the Saturn and destroy it. However, before they get moving, Sammy found a little fire burning backstage and decides to throw some more kindling on it and cut up the fire hose.
Elsewhere, Reggie Wanker and Toad are looking for what they are going to wear on stage and hanging out. Not only is Toad played by Mark Densmore, not only is Lou Reed literally in this, not only is Howard Kaylan playing a part in this, not only is Bill Henderson (a former jazz man himself) playing King Blues, but those goons of Colin Beverly’s? They are played by former teen heart throbs Bobby Sherman and Fabian. So this movie is loaded with folks. However, the guy I would want to be is Mark Densmore because he is making out hot and heavy with Linnea Quigley.
Things ratchet up a notch with Nada. Nada is played by Lori Eastside who was part of a pop-fusion group of the time called Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Nada, while kind of having the attitude of an ass-kicking punk band, is a little more bubble gum style chick rock bands like the Go-Go’s or possibly even the Runaways. Nada’s special guest, Piggy, is also a real life punk performer, Lee Ving. Piggy starts crowd surfing and demands people in the balcony to dive down and be caught by the people rocking out on the floor. It’s chaos. It’s just absolute chaos.
While they play, Neil and Willy go off to have a beer and make out a little bit and discover the fire that Sammy fed. They can’t put it out because the hose is fucked. The good news is that they are able to re-route the hose and get water from the men’s room. There’s a funny little visual joke here. Neil goes into the bathroom that is ankle deep with gross water. There’s one of the Rastafarians in a stall going to town on ganja. There’s a guy with a giant needle sticking out of his ass. Also, there’s a shark swimming around.
Elsewhere, Nada and crew get a visit from the magical drug fairy robot, Electric Larry.
Reggie Wanker goes on next. There’s something that’s been building this whole time that I’ve only tangentially touched upon. I brought up Robert Picardo and his fire inspector guy. He’s still running around trying to put out any fires that start. EVERYone is lighting smokes, joints, matches, and lighters as part of their partying in the audience. What’s more, Reggie Wanker uses fireworks in his performance and he told Neil to basically get fucked when Neil tried to tell him about the inspector man’s stick up his ass about fires. And there was that whole fire thing earlier that did get put out. But the funniest thing is that human joint we saw earlier? He’s being chased by the fire inspector and begging for help because he’s being put out.
This is a VERY funny movie. The issue with trying to write about it is that a lot of these jokes are physical or sight gags. You need to see them play out to fully appreciate them. Like, I can explain how a human joint is being chased by a fireman but it just sounds like I’m having a stroke and just typing everything and anything that fires off in my neurons. I can tell you how the third act starts with a third act break up because Wanker’s main squeeze, Chantamina, has wet fingernails and loses her eyelashes down between her tits and Neil is caught by Willy trying to fish it out. When she demands the stage door be opened to let her out, a gang of hopefuls trying to get in punch the bouncer out at the door and yell “Happy New Year!” and bum rush the backstage area. I can explain all these things, but you can’t really get the full appreciation of the true hilarity of the gags.
But I digress. This crowd who gets in thanks to Willy storming out include Colin Beverly’s goons. They deliver a bomb to Sammy. They say it’s just going to make the place smell like dogshit and force everyone to leave early. Sammy is concerned. Yet, he doesn’t really want to pass up the chance to get in good with Colin.
The bomb is set to go off at midnight. It’s currently 11:15 and Reggie Wanker is rocking ass on stage. I want to point out something… His cod piece. Yeah. I’m looking at his dick. Why? Because it’s like a glam rock version of his piece from A Clockwork Orange.
Malcolm McDowell is killing it as this narcissistic, egotistical rocker. Also… Look at this. Stacey Nelkin just gettin’ down with her freak self.
This pisses Neil off something terrible. I mean, he was already shit on by Wanker. Then the guy’s girlfriend made him fish out her eyelashes from her tits and made Willy run away. Now, this guy is making his little sister thrust her crotch at him.
Because this movie knows the rules of comedy, Electric Larry, the drug robot man who delivers the goods whenever they’re needed, shows up to spike the water cooler to get the fire inspector off everyone’s case while also making Sammy mellow out to give up possessions and capitalism. Outside, Willy hears Colin’s goons talk about the bomb going off and blowing up the Saturn, but when they realize she heard them, she gets kidnapped by Colin to keep her from telling anyone.
So yeah, this isn’t just a stink bomb. it’s a bomb bomb.
What’s really interesting about this movie is that this is a love letter to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s almost hedonistic with all three while not really laughing at anyone for indulging in any of the three pillars of awesome times. This is a movie that feels like it’s made in the 70s, but I’m not sure anyone would have made it then. It’s brazen about drug use. It’s constantly horny. It’s a concert film as well. You get these scenarios in which the blues guys are smoking dank weed with the guy from the Turtles and it’s just accepted this is going to happen backstage. You have groupies just throwing themselves at performers. You have this gorgeous Icelandic woman who is Wanker’s girlfriend who gets pissed to see him being attacked and fucking literally seven groupies at once when she wanted to get ass too. What does she do? She finds the stagehand who has a massive crush on her and wants to fuck him for part revenge and part fun. It’s gloriously 80s but not really sophomoric in its humor. It’s mature and it’s not treating the sex or drugs or rock and roll like children’s material. It’s just saying this is the shit people get up to at a concert. It’s kind of marvelous in that way.
All this and we’ve still not gotten Auden to the show. He got himself ready. He got a cab. He got his guitar to work on new songs for this new album. Yet… He’s still on the way to the show.
Luckily, Auden asking the cabbie to step on it which leads him to drive like nuts leads to an accident with Colin and his goons. This pops the trunk and allows Willy to escape.
Reggie’s babe, Chantamina, is part of yet another third act break up. Reggie, crawling out of a room of bare ass and bare tittied women, goes looking for Chantamina because she really loves him for who he is and not what he is. He finds her fucking the stagehand next door. Apparently, that kid has a massive hog too and she can’t get enough. This breaks Reggie’s brain because he cannot believe that he’s been betrayed by her (never mind he was fucking everything in that other room).
Anyway, back to more pressing shit – a bomb. It’s less than ten minutes to midnight and that bomb is still ticking away. Willy makes her way back to the theater and tells Neil about the bomb. She goes looking for Sammy while Neil tries to evacuate the attendees. However, Sammy is high off his ass and the attendees just kind of thinks this is extra rad. They eventually get Captain Cloud to translate and he tells them that he put it in the rocket that Max is riding toward the new year. Max finds the bomb and a game of hot potato breaks out and the bomb eventually gets tossed outside and into Colin Beverly’s car where it blows the bad guys up into the sky.
Everyone celebrates the new year and all things come to a happy ending for our cast of weirdos. Max decides to retire and hands the deed to the theater over to Neil who convinces Willy to be his partner. In a sweet way to have the credits play, Auden, who finally arrived at the theater as everyone was leaving, plays one of his new songs about loving a baby sister for an audience of one – Susie.
I really liked this movie a bunch. Like I said, it’s for grown ups but it has a lot of fun too. The jokes are silly but funny. However, like a good comedy like some of the best of the Farrelly Brothers or from the best era of The Simpsons, you can have big laughs, but the ending lands with some serious heart. Just watching Lou Reed perform only for Stacey Nelkin is just kind of touching and a lovely quiet end to this raucous movie. It’s kind of a cherry on this sundae.
And that’s kind of what really gives this movie the chance to become this cult classic of sorts. It’s a feel good movie. The jerk bad guys get what’s coming to them. The people we like get good things. We celebrated New Year’s and Lou Reed just knocks it out of the park at the end. What fun was had watching this movie. Sometimes that’s all you gotta have to make 90 minutes feel like time well spent.
And that’s a great way to enter into these final couple days of 2022… Looking back and hoping that what we did was time well spent and, as always, hoping for a better year ahead. I certainly wish everyone a happy, safe, and warm New Year. We shall meet again on the other side of the calendar with the first installment of an entire month of David Winters movies with the 1986 skater classic Thrashin’!
Take care of yourselves and let’s all tell 2022 to get lost and welcome 2023 with open arms.