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DVD SAVANT
Savant Guest Review:

Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper
Live 1973: The Billion Dollar Babies Tour


Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper
Shout Factory
1974 / Colour / 1.85:1 anamorphic 16:9 / 99 m.
Starring Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith, Fred Smoot, Jefferson Kewley, Pat McAllister, Mick Mashbir, Bob Dolin
Cinematography Ron Sexton
Art Director Jim Newton
Film Editors Ron Sexton and Lew Guinn
Written by Joe Gannon, Shep Gordon and Fred Smoot
Produced by Herb Margolis and Joe Gannon
Directed by Joe Gannon

Reviewed by Lee Broughton

By 1973, the Alice Cooper group were arguably the biggest rock act in the world. Some of the band's early album tracks possessed a film soundtrack-like quality and the visually arresting group were logical contenders for a film of their own. The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour and The Monkees' Head had previously set the template and benchmark for surreal rock forays into freaked-out musical movie making. Perhaps still mindful of the indifferent response that Magical Mystery Tour initially received from the public at large, Ringo Starr elected to juxtapose surreal MMT-inspired vignettes with no-nonsense concert footage when he produced and directed the T.Rex feature Born to Boogie for Apple Films. For better or worse, Joe Gannon chose to adopt a similar approach when putting Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper together.

Synopsis:

Sessions with a psychiatrist allow an eccentric film director (Fred Smoot) to mull over his disastrous attempt to make a movie with the Alice Cooper group (Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith). Angry that the band quit his project in order to embark upon their Billion Dollar Babies concert tour of America, the disturbed director recalls how a Nordic superhero, Baron Krelve (Jefferson Kewley), assisted him in his attempts to track the band down and exact some kind of revenge.

Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper is a pretty bizarre and sometimes frustrating film. Its narrative driven sequences get off to a reasonably good start with the film's prologue, in which the Cooper group - re-imagined as a lounge act - soberly perform The Lady is a Tramp for the film director. However, Alice snaps and the band wind up destroying a grand piano and the director's sedate film set before making their escape. A loose chase narrative is set in place here but the chase increasingly comes to involve only the chasers: Smoot (in a number of guises), Baron Krelve and an assortment of incidental characters played by Pat McAllister. What remains of the chase narrative eventually gives way to scenes featuring the director and his psychiatrist and other loosely connected vignettes. Smoot's director character is supposed to be a caricature of a mad German filmmaker but the actor is no Benny Hill and the director's ranting mispronunciation of English words fails to provoke many real laughs. In his commentary track, Alice Cooper likens Smoot to Robin Williams and Jerry Lewis while indicating that the actor improvised most of his lines here. The Nordic, tandem-riding superhero Baron Krelve vaguely brings to mind a blonde Ron Jeremy dressed in something like a home-made version of The Mighty Thor's outfit. Jefferson Kewley was actually a guitarist who went on to play for Cooper in the late 1970s.

A bit like Artie, the Strongest Man in the World from The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Baron Krelve mostly appears to be a regular if deluded human being who doesn't really have any discernable super powers at all. As with the director, Krelve's actions generally fail to provoke much in the way of real laughs. Having said that, when his super powers are eventually revealed Krelve gets the best laugh of the whole film: in a sequence where Smoot has become a kind of Lone Ranger character, Krelve makes to jump-mount his donkey, misjudges his own strength and winds up thrashing around in a water tower. When he jumps down from the water tower, he misses the donkey and ends up sunk in the earth up to his chest. Laurel and Hardy are brought to mind at the end of a reasonably well-played and slightly film noir-ish sequence that involves Smoot's avaricious security guard slyly convincing McAllister's box office manager that it would be a good idea to purloin the takings from an Alice Cooper concert: Krelve shows up in a supposedly super fast getaway car that promptly falls to bits when he hits the accelerator pedal.

While Alice Cooper himself appears in a few bizarre dramatic sequences on his own, the Cooper group per se appears in just one of the surreal interludes. It's a pretty silly sequence that involves the band fleeing from the director and Krelve: when they come across Animal Road, the band need to find an animal on which to traverse the road and make good their escape. Not surprisingly, the group is much better represented during the expertly shot concert footage sequences. Huge split-level stage sets might be the norm today but they were pretty uncommon in 1973 and the band's Billion Dollar Babies stage set was a real spectacle: a series of interior-lit Perspex steps led to a number of ramped areas where Cooper went about his theatrical business. The highest ramp at the back of the set housed Smith's gigantic drum kit. The other band members were kind of encased in boxed off areas that they intermittently emerged from while a giant arrangement of vertical and horizontal lighting strips framed the centre of the stage. Augmented by a third guitarist, Mick Mashbir, and a keyboard player, Bob Dolin, the band whipped up a really full-sounding live representation of highlights from their back catalogue on this tour.

Dressed here mostly in a grubby white leotard-cum-jump suit and sporting thigh-length leopard print boots and smudged mascara, Cooper certainly knew how to push the moral majority's panic buttons: romps with naked mannequins and snakes, mock fist-fights, swords, mock inebriation, a guillotine, displays of patriotism, giant audience-bound balloons filled with dollar bills and an assault on Richard Nixon (actually a look-alike actor called Richard M. Dixon) were all worked into the Billion Dollar Babies stage show. But the show's most impressive theatrical sequence was saved for the song Unfinished Sweet: a sadistic dentist (James Randi) sets a giant drill to work on Cooper's mouth before the singer grabs an oversized toothbrush and toothpaste tube and sets about scrubbing a giant dancing tooth (Cindy Smith). For a portion of this number, the concert footage is replaced by a filmed segment that comes on like a cross between one of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's experimental films and something from Candid Camera: the giant tooth is seen walking around Houston's city centre streets while Cooper, wielding the giant toothbrush, follows on behind, much to the astonishment of the general public.

Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper is a rarely seen film that has existed in two equally baffling forms. The original version (as reviewed here) was canned before release and it was an alternate version that slipped out for select screenings on the midnight movie circuit during 1974. Both versions of the film featured the same concert footage but the alternate version replaced all of the surreal dramatic interludes featuring the band, the director and Baron Krelve with random clips from vintage newsreels and vaudevillian comedy shows starring the likes of Shirley Temple. The original version was reportedly dusted down for a limited theatrical run in the late 1970s but this Shout Factory DVD marks the film's belated home video debut. The original Alice Cooper group split in 1974 and a solo Alice Cooper turned his attentions towards less confrontational and more pantomime-like schlock-horror stage theatrics. His impressive 1975 TV special with Vincent Price, The Nightmare, a fun guest-spot on The Muppet Show and numerous appearances on the pro-celebrity golf circuit eventually assured the American public that the fiendish Alice Cooper was only a stage persona affected by one mild-mannered Vincent Furnier. As such, the concert footage sequences of Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper remain an interesting record of the original group in action and Cooper at his most provocative. But we're left wondering whether a tighter script, and more involvement from the band in the film's narrative-led sequences, might have helped this show transcend its rock 'n' roll oddity status.


Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper enjoys a decent presentation here. The print used suffers from outbreaks of scratches and speckling and some of the film's colours occasionally appear slightly muted during the narrative driven sections of the feature. That said the show is in good shape for the most part. The disc's sound quality is very good too, bar one or two odd crackles. Cooper's commentary track adds some interesting details about the show's production process and stars. He goes momentarily quiet during some of the narrative-led sequences, giving the impression that he's both completely engrossed and somewhat flabbergasted by their crazed and undisciplined content.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper rates:
Movie: Narrative sequences: Fair + / Good +, Concert sequences: Very Good
Video: Very Good -
Sound: Very Good +
Supplements: booklet, trailer, alternate edit of Unfinished Sweet, band biographies, image gallery, deleted scene and an audio commentary by Alice Cooper.



Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: April 12, 2007



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Text © Copyright 2007 Lee Broughton
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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