Embassy Home Entertainment's VHS cover
|Directed by||Allan Arkush|
|Produced by||Hunt Lowry
Herbert F. Solow
|Written by||Danny Opatoshu
Ed Begley, Jr.
|Cinematography||Thomas Del Ruth|
|Edited by||Kent Beyda
|Distributed by||Embassy Pictures|
|August 5, 1983|
The musical comedy depicts the fifteenth annual New Year's Eve concert at the fictitious Saturn Theater in Los Angeles, and satirizes the rock business along with many rock and roll stereotypes. The film is also a tribute to the Fillmore East theater in New York City, where Arkush once worked as an usher, and is a fanciful view of what that famed music venue might have been like had it survived into the 1980s.
The film's main conflict comes from an evil industry mogul who wants to tear down the Saturn for a high-rise office building. Among his assets, the mogul controls a 22,000-seat auditorium and an 84,000-seat stadium, the sort of oversized, low-quality music venues that Bill Graham railed against as "Woodstock Festival syndrome" when he closed the Fillmore East in 1971. In contrast the operator of the Saturn Theater, Max Wolfe (an idealized version of Graham), is established as the hero of live music fans everywhere when he sums up his credo this way: "I put on shows at the Saturn so that the kids can see the stage, afford the tickets, and hear the music."
It is December 31, 1982, and the Saturn Theater is preparing for its big New Year's Eve concert under the direction of owner and master showman Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield, credited as Allen Goorwitz), who has operated the Saturn since 1968. Assisting Max are stage manager Neil Allen (Daniel Stern), and visiting former stage manager Willy Loman (Gail Edwards). Also caught up in the wild activity is beleaguered stagehand Joey (Dan Frischman), temperamental lighting director Violetta (Mary Woronov), and Neil's younger sister Susie (Stacey Nelkin).
Max Wolfe holds a 30-year lease to the theater, but reptilian concert promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley, Jr.) has other ideas. Beverly offers to buy Max out of his lease with what seems to be a sweetheart deal at Beverly's concert auditorium and stadium, but Max refuses, ultimately becoming so incensed that he collapses of an apparent heart attack. Outside, Max's ingratiating nephew Sammy (Miles Chapin) informs Beverly that he stands to inherit the theater from his uncle, and Beverly offers Sammy the same deal he offered Max—if Sammy can get Max's signature on an agreement to transfer the Saturn's lease before midnight.
The various performers for the show are introduced:
- Captain Cloud (the Turtles' Howard Kaylan) and the Rainbow Telegraph, Max Wolfe's favorite band, arriving in an aging bus that is painted à la the Merry Pranksters' Further.
- Nada (Lori Eastside from Kid Creole and the Coconuts) and her 15-member band, an amalgam of many disparate styles of music that appeared on MTV in the early 1980s—part bubble-gum pop, part New Wave, part garage rock. They are joined by "Special Guest Star" Piggy (Lee Ving of the L.A. punk band Fear).
- Auden (Lou Reed), "metaphysical folk singer, event of the '70s, [and] antisocial recluse", a spoof of Bob Dylan. Auden, who initially complains of writer's block, is coaxed to appear thinking Max is close to death, but after blithely asking a taxi driver to take the "scenic route," he spends the majority of the movie on his cab ride, improvising lyrics for the song he intends to perform.
- Reggie Wanker (Malcolm McDowell), "20 years of rock and roll and still on top", a spoof of Mick Jagger; featuring his drummer Toad played by John Densmore of The Doors. Wanker is beset by a general malaise, unable to fully enjoy his lavish situation of easily available women and drugs.
King Blues opens the show, performing two of his "own" hit songs, "The Blues Had a Baby and They Named it Rock and Roll" (by Muddy Waters) and "Hoochie Coochie Man" (by Willie Dixon). Next the Nada Band take the stage and perform "I'm Not Going to Take It No More." Piggy leads the band in a viciously punk-rock version of "Hoochie Coochie Man," complete with stage dives and slam dancing. Reggie sings a celebration of egotism, "Hot Shot," then moves on to a version of "Hoochie Coochie Man".
As the show proceeds, Sammy tries to find ways to sabotage the theater, including fueling a fire in the basement and cutting the fire hose. Colin Beverly's henchmen, Mark and Marv (former teen heartthrobs Bobby Sherman and Fabian), give Sammy a bomb, which he plants in the rocket ship that Max will ride during the final countdown to midnight.
Willy overhears Mark and Marv talking about the bomb, and is captured by them and locked in the trunk of Colin Beverly's limousine. She escapes when the limo collides with Auden's taxicab, and runs back toward the theater. Only moments before midnight, Willy reaches the theater and tells Neil about the bomb. As the seconds tick away, the bomb is thrown from person to person out of the building, landing in Colin Beverly's limo just as it pulls up to the curb. The last second ticks away, the bomb explodes, everyone shouts "happy new year", and Captain Cloud leads the crowd in "Auld Lang Syne".
Quickly after, the crowd and bands exit the theater, just as Auden finally walks in. Max gives Neil the lease to the theater, saying he intends to retire. Neil offers partnership to Willy. The end credits roll while Auden sings "Little Sister" to the sole remaining patron, Susie. The final caption reads, "Thanks for the memories to the entire staff of the Fillmore East 1968–71."
- Malcolm McDowell as Reggie Wanker
- Allen Garfield as Max Wolfe (credited as Allen Goorwitz)
- Daniel Stern as Neil Allen
- Gail Edwards as Willy Loman
- Miles Chapin as Sammy Fox
- Ed Begley, Jr. as Colin Beverly
- Stacey Nelkin as Susie Allen
- Bill Henderson as King Blues
- Lou Reed as Auden
- Howard Kaylan as Captain Cloud
- Lori Eastside as Nada
- Lee Ving as Piggy
- John Densmore as Toad
- Anna Bjorn as Countess Chantamina
- Robert Picardo as Connell O'Connell
- Bobby Sherman as Mark
- Fabian as Marv (credited as Fabian Forte)
- Franklyn Ajaye as Cool
- Paul Bartel as Dr. Carver
- Dan Frischman as Joey
- Mary Woronov as Violetta
- Clint Howard as the Head Usher
- Denise Galik as Nurse Gwen
- Linnea Quigley as Groupie (uncredited)
- Jackie Joseph as Susie's Mom
- Dick Miller as Susie's Dad
- Chuck Hanson as Savage Beast
- Susan Saiger as Buffy
- Barry Diamond as Stagehand
Arkush later said that everything based in the film was "based on real stuff, and I wish I could remake it as a realistic movie. But the only way I could get it made at the time was to do the Airplane! version of it. My second film, Heartbeeps (1981), had been a complete failure, and I was desperate to do a movie about something I really knew and cared about." He claims that producer Herbert F. Solow "was pretty much of a jerk. Whatever I’d suggest, he’d counter with another suggestion. It was just the way he was: everything he heard, he said “no” to… but he would take the germ of what you said, and put his own spin on it." In particular, the director claims he wanted to cast Mariska Hargitay, Jerry Orbach and Tom Hanks in the parts ultimately played by Stacey Nelkin, Allen Garfield and Daniel Stern, but Solow refused.
Concert scenes, as well as exterior shots of the marquee, were filmed at the historic Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The theatre had been poorly maintained for years prior to filming, and was about to undergo a major restoration to return it to its former glory. According to Malcolm McDowell, "We trashed it just before they restored it. They knew we were going to do it, so they didn't mind."
All actors performed their own vocal tracks, although none (except Lou Reed) wrote their songs. Malcolm McDowell specifically requested that he be allowed to sing as a condition of his contract.
A few actors featured in the 1982 film Eating Raoul also appear in Get Crazy, including: Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Susan Saiger and Ed Begley, Jr., as well as the stunt crew Bruce Paul Barbour and Rick Seaman.
Get Crazy was released on August 6, 1983 to mixed reviews. One of the kinder reviewers was Janet Maslin of The New York Times who called it "hip" and "good-natured" and wrote, "[It] isn't for everyone, but those well-disposed toward rock will find it energetic and funny." Box office sales were tepid as well: its domestic gross totaled US$1,645,711, and its theatrical run was brief.
Arkush said that "the scam they came up with to release it was to sell the shares in it to some Wall Street tax shelter group, and then put it out so it would lose money… just like The Producers (1968)! So nobody saw it—on purpose! It was so horrible to work so hard on something, and then see it just thrown away. The audiences that saw it didn’t get it. They didn’t understand how there could be a rock concert with all these different kinds of acts. My take on it? It’s a movie with three thousand punch lines, but only a thousand jokes. There’s too much zaniness, and not enough human comedy. It’s just too bizarre."
Nowadays, although Get Crazy is far lesser known than director Arkush's previous film, Rock 'n' Roll High School, it is a small cult favorite among fans of rock and roll movies; some critics consider it to be "one of that genre's best outings."
Get Crazy is not currently in print. Embassy Home Entertainment released the film on VHS in the 1980s, but no DVD edition of Get Crazy has been released as of 2013. Director Allan Arkush has stated that a DVD release is unlikely, due to issues with the sound elements.
The Embassy Home Entertainment VHS release is a full screen transfer using the open matte technique. As a result the video shows (nearly) the full width of the theatrical release but occasionally reveals overhead boom microphones and other items that would be hidden when projected to a standard 1.85:1 ratio.
- "Get Crazy" – Sparks
- "You Can't Make Me" – Lori Eastside & Nada
- "Chop Suey" – The Ramones
- "It's Only a Movie (a.k.a. "But, But")" – Marshall Crenshaw
- "Little Sister" – Lou Reed
- "I'm Not Gonna Take It" – Lori Eastside & Nada
- "Hot Shot" – Malcolm McDowell
- "The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock & Roll" – Bill Henderson
- "Hoochie Coochie Man" – Fear
- "Starscape" – Michael Boddicker
- "Auld Lang Syne" – Howard Kaylan & Cast
- Graham, Bill. "A Letter From Bill Graham". The Village Voice, 6 May 1971. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- 'Do You Wanna Dance? Allan Arkush Remembers ROCK 'N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL' The Hollywood Interview April 30, 2009 accessed Jan 2, 2012
- Thrawn, Alex D. "Malcolm McDowell Tribute: Get Crazy". MalcolmMcDowell.net. Archived from the original on 2006-03-06. Retrieved 2007-03-14.
- Maslin, Janet (1983-10-14). ""Get Crazy," Rock". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-14.
- "Get Crazy (1983)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-03-14.
- Guarisco, Donald. ""Get Crazy" Review". Allmovie. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- "The End Is Always A New Beginning". Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur.
- "Soundtrack Listing: "Get Crazy"". SoundtrackCollector. Retrieved 2007-03-14.