Movies Till Dawn: The Saturday Morning Strange Gets Crazy (Epic-Sized Edition)

Get Crazy” (1983, Kino Lorber) The stage crew of the Saturn Theater (played by the Wiltern in the midst of its 1980s renovation) works overtime to deliver a New Year’s Eve concert to a frenzied crowd while also contending with oversized rock star egos, LSD in the drinking fountain, and a bomb placed in the building by venomous rock promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley, Jr.). Frantic music comedy by “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” director Allan Arkush – who loosely based the film on his own experiences at the Fillmore East – shares that movie’s “Mad” Magazine/Looney Tunes/Marx Brothers anarchic energy, but also finds time to affectionately lampoon both the rock and roll lifestyle and the highs and lows of those in its orbit. The music is where movies about rock and roll fall flat, but “Get Crazy” pulls off the rare feat of delivering funny parodies that also sound great: Malcolm McDowell (backed by a very funny John Densmore of the Doors, along with Coati Mundi, Jonathan Melvoin, and Derf Scratch) throws himself headlong into a self-impressed stadium rocker, while Lori Eastside leads a platoon of crack female players through some high energy New Wave tunes before giving way to Lee Ving’s Iggy-esque roomwrecker. Lou Reed, of all people, gives one of the most amusing performances as an addled Dylan type, and delivers the bittersweet “Little Sister” (the soundtrack also features songs by the Ramones, Sparks, Marshall Crenshaw, and Adrian Belew). The cast, led by Daniel Stern, Allen Garfield (playing a Bill Graham carbon), and Stacey Nelkin, keeps pace with the gags admirably, and there’s amusing support from Fabian and Bobby Sherman as Begley’s flunkies; blink and you’ll miss “High School” alums Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Dick Miller, and Clint Howard. Dismissed during its release and long unavailable on home video, Kino’s Special Edition Blu-ray offers a 2K restoration and loads of extras, including a lengthy retrospective featurette with Arkush and most of the cast and crew; Arkush is joined by Eli Roth and filmmaker Daniel Kremer on the commentary, while the No Dogs in Space podcast crew spin fictitious bios for the movie’s music performers. Music videos for Sparks’ title track, the original version of Eastside’s “Not Gonna Take it Anymore” and a new version featuring most of the original band, round out the disc.

“Get Crazy” screens on a double bill with “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” at the New Beverly Cinema on January 2, 2022. A Q&A with Allan Arkush, moderated by Allison Anders, follows the screening.

“Pufinstuf” (1970, Kino Lorber) Feature-length origin story for Sid and Marty Kroff’s Saturday morning series of the same name, with Jack Wild again teaming with cowboy-hatted dragon H.R. Pufnstuf (voiced here by Allan Melvin) to battle the berserk Witchiepoo (force of nature Billie Hayes) for possession of Wild’s talking flute. Much ado has been made about the lysergic qualities of “Pufnstuf” (and other Krofft series), which are heightened considerably by the broad scope of a theatrical release: virtually all of the bizarre inhabitants of Pufnstuf’s home, Living Island, get a moment of screen time, as do three new characters, including Billy Barty’s Googy Gopher and Witchiepoo’s henchman, a Nazi rodent (really) named Henrich. The Owsley-inspired color scheme and frantic action (no character can appear onscreen without colliding with another) is either enthralling or exhausting, depending on your patience for Krofft aesthetics, but “Pufnstuf” ups the psychedelic overload by adding Cass Elliott (the Mamas and Papas) as Witchiepoo’s rival, Witch Hazel, who gets the film’s standout musical number, the freak-flag pop anthem “Different,” and Martha Raye as Boss Witch. Pure sugar-coated nostalgia for some and unfettered absurdity for others; Kino’s Blu-ray includes a hi-def theatrical trailers.

Werewolves Within” (RLJE Films, 2021) The small New England town of Beaverton already has its share of problems – a proposed pipeline has divided its handful of residents along political and cultural lines – but the arrival of what appears to be a hairy, hungry man-beast (maybe) during a blizzard complicates tensions to new levels. Amusing horror-comedy by director Josh Rubin and writer Mishna Wolff (based on the virtual reality game of the same name) breaks no new ground in either genre (or combinations thereof, like “The Howling”), but remains breezy and buoyant by virtue of Rubin’s energetic direction and a very likable and funny cast. Chief among them is Sam Richardson as the town’s self-esteem-challenged ranger and Milana Vayntrub (of the AT&T commercials) as its assertive postal carrier; there’s excellent support from Michaela Watkins, Cheyenne Jackson, Sarah Burns, and Glenn Fleshler, among others. This one deserved a wider theatrical release than it received; RLJE’s Blu-ray is widescreen.

The Road to Salina” (1970, Kino Lorber) Feckless drifter Robert Walker, Jr., spills his guts to the cops about the awful thing he’s done, which sends us into the flashback machine for heady identity games involving a deluded Rita Hayworth, who believes that Walker is her long-lost son, and her daughter, played by ’60s favorite Mimsy Farmer, who’s more than happy to resume her illicit relationship with her brother (or someone like him). Sun-dappled European oddity from French director Georges Lautner freely mixes favorite arthouse tropes (a dash of noir, a pinch of psychosexual thriller, a shake or two of ’60s Pop Art, and a liberal dose of ennui) and layers the whole thing with gorgeous photography and locations (the Canary Islands), sets by Jean d’Eaubonne, and a delirious faux-Floyd score by US-UK group Clinic, composer Bernard Gerard and French singer Christophe (you heard tracks in “Kill Bill Vol. 2”). Depending on your perspective, its self-conscious artiness and overripe plotting coalesce into cool or camp; Kino’s Blu-ray includes very enthusiastic commentary by Howard S. Berger, Nathaniel Thompson, and Steve Mitchell, and a “Trailers from Hell” episode featuring Larry Karaszewski.

“Zombies of Mora Tau” (1957, Arrow Video) Treasure hunters led by crooked salvage ship owner George Harrison (Joel Ashley) dive for a wreck beneath the waters off the African coast which holds a fortune in lost diamonds protected by the reanimated bodies of its undead crew. Entertaining B horror from Edward L. Cahn, who delivers the same mix of ragged but right chills and thrills he brought to his sizable cv of low-budget genre pics like “Creature from the Atom Brain” and “Invisible Invaders,” both of which are featured along with “Zombies” in Arrow’s fun “Cold War Creatures” box set. Those expecting the modern interpretation of zombies may be slightly disappointed by the creatures presented here, which resemble the staff of a hardware store in various states of dishevelment, and the low budget requires the diving scenes to be shot sans water (the actors mime slow movement), but the film also has some arresting scenes – a taxi driver mows down a zombie without blinking, and notes that he’s “one of them” – and the one-two punch of Allison Hayes (“Attack of the 50-Foot Woman”) as Ashley’s venomous wife and Marjore Eaton (a member of the Taos art colony and contemporary of Diego Rivera) as the feisty grandmother with a connection to the zombies (her house and its surroundings are played by the LA County Arborteum and Queen Anne Cottage). Arrow’s Blu-ray includes an introduction by Kim Newman, commentary by Kat Ellinger and an video essay by Josh Hurtado which details the mix of science and superstition inherent to this film and many others by producer Sam Katzman.

Invaders of the Lost Gold” (1981, Severin Films) The lost gold of the title is not particularly lost – there’s a map that leads right to it, in fact – and the invaders are a shambling pack of middle-aged men (Stuart Whitman, Woody Strode, Edmund Purdom) and trophy girlfriends (Glynis Barber and Black Emanuelle herself, Laura Gemser), who navigate the jungles of the Philippines with the same degree of care applied to a last-minute family camping trip. This pulp/serial-style adventure from veteran exploitation producer Dick Randall (“Pieces”) and Kiwi director Alan Birkinshaw was apparently written on the fly, which explains the frequent forays into left-turn logic and visual non-sequiturs (what DOES happen to Laura Gemser after taking a swim?). Such aesthetic choices will undoubtedly endear “Invaders” to cult/junkfilm fans, who will be rewarded by half-hearted animal attacks, battles with disinterested indigenous tribes, and the sight of Strode battling fellow senior citizen Harold “Oddjob” Sakata. Severin’s Blu-ray includes commentary by Birkinshaw, who details the patchwork production; he’s also featured in interview outtakes (from the documentary “Machete Maidens Unleashed”) with Randall’s wife, Corliss, which further underscore the film’s kitchen sink qualities.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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