TNB Night Owl–Get Crazy

Maasdam Swiss cheese. Photo by Arz.

It’s Malcolm McDowell month. Or month and a half. Or next few weeks. I’m not overly organized so I’m going to keep this going as long as I find links to my favorites of his movies. He makes me smile. Despite my fandom I hadn’t even heard of GET CRAZY (1983) The fact I missed near forty years of enjoying this movie is a travesty.

GET CRAZY isn’t a good movie, but it’s a fun one. The plot is simple–earnest stage manager must save an independent theater from a greedy, boring executive. It’s the “Let’s put on a show” trope made popular by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, but with more sex, drugs, and punk music. This one was put together by Allan Arkush, the director of ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979) another odd combination of rock music and cinematic silliness. From all accounts he’s a nice guy and a pleasure to work with, which might explain how he got so many people to work with him on a notoriously bad movie.

The stage manager (played by Daniel Stern, one of the criminals from the HOME ALONE (1990) movies) put together a great line-up of acts for their New Year’s Eve show. There’s hippie rock star Captain Cloud (Howard Kaylan from The Turtles), King Blues the Blues King (Bill Henderson), pop punk act Nada (including Lori Eastside of King Creole and Lee Ving from the band Fear). Eventually there will be art rock star Auden (Lou Reed) if his cab can ever find the theater. The headliner, though, the Mick Jagger of the show is played by McDowell. One would think he would be eclipsed by real rock stars, but he channels all the fantastic Rod Stewart/Steven Tyler prancing Rock Gods. Minor shenanigans happen here and there (Arkush himself admitted that the movie had “three thousand punch lines but only a thousand jokes) but it’s the performances you watch for. That, and the infamous “final McDowell scene”.

Along with McDowell and Stern, other actors include Ed Begley Jr, Gail Edwards, Allen Garfield, and cult stars Anna Bjorn, Mary Wornov and Paul Bartel. I assume he got them because he was such fun to work with, not on the strength of the script. McDowell told how, after reading a few pages of the script, didn’t have the heart to say “no” to Arkush, so instead he asked for a lot more money and to be able to sing his own songs. He tossed the script, assuming they would say no. They didn’t. So he showed up for work unaware his last scene would include a conversation with penis (the appendage stays off camera).

McDowell wasn’t the only person in the dark about certain aspects of production. Arkush himself wasn’t aware that the film’s backers planned on the movie failing in order to have a tax shelter, ala THE PRODUCERS (1967). Even though no one believed in the film, he turned out a fun, good-natured hour and a half of fun. It’s not art, it’s not going to change lives, but you’ll enjoy yourself laughing with them.

Question of the night: what was your favorite song to come out of the 1980s?

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