Shout! Factory // 1973 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // October 2nd, 2010
"Whatever you do, don't tell them you didn't do it." -- Frank Zappa to Alice Cooper (on false press reports that Cooper had bitten the head off a chicken during a live performance)
Let's get one thing straight: Alice Cooper was originally the name of a band and the stage name of the band's singer, Vincent Furnier (when the band broke up, Furnier cut a deal with its members that he would pay them for the right to use the name in order to maintain his stage persona for solo projects). The Alice Cooper band was an early glam rock outfit that consisted of guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, drummer Neal Smith, and Furnier on vocals. The boys got their big break in 1969 when they were signed to Frank Zappa's independent Straight Records label. They made two mediocre records for Zappa before Warner Bros. bought out their contract. Having made the leap to a major labor, Alice Cooper released a string of four platinum selling records, beginning with 1971's Love It to Death and culminating artistically and commercially with 1973's Billion Dollar Babies. The band's success was built on catchy tunes, extravagant Halloween-style stage shows that included guillotines and giant monsters, and Furnier's grungy, androgynous stage persona. Their lyrics, which dealt with dark subjects like necrophilia and dead babies as well as standard teen angst, were designed to shock straight society, though they were delivered with a dark humor and playful absence of pretension generally lacking in modern Alice Cooper knock-offs like Marilyn Manson. Sure, the Alice Cooper band put on a ghoulish freak show, but it was all in good fun, the rock 'n' roll equivalent of a Saturday night schlock horror television host.
At the peak of their success, the band made Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper, a theatrical feature that was one part ill-conceived comedy, one part concert film. It debuted theatrically in a redacted form in 1974, and then promptly disappeared for over three decades until Shout! Factory resurrected it on DVD in 2005. That DVD has now been ported over to Blu-ray. The movie opens with the Alice Cooper band decked out in white tuxedoes and bouffant wigs, performing "The Lady is a Tramp" on an angelically white soundstage. Being rock 'n' roll iconoclasts, the boys tire of the squareness of it all, trash the set, and exit the soundstage in favor of a no-holds barred stadium concert. This enrages Herr Director (Fred Smoot, Beware! The Blob), the jodhpurs-wearing German filmmaker who was shooting their performance of the Sinatra tune. After sending his minions, Baron Krelve (who dresses like the proverbial operatic fat lady) and masked cowboy the Lone Person (also played by Smoot) after the band, Herr Director spends the rest of the flick on a psychiatrist's couch ranting about Alice Cooper's lack of respect. Meanwhile, we're treated to the band running through 13 songs recorded in Texas and Oregon during the Billion Dollar Babies tour.
The movie's scripted comedy bits are beyond ridiculous and not the least bit funny. Thankfully, the concert footage alone is worth the price of admission -- and then some. Most available Alice Cooper concert footage and recordings are from Furnier's more elaborate and carefully staged solo career. It's a genuine treat to see the looser, sloppier, more dangerous rock 'n' roll vibe of the original band on full display (there's even some spontaneous and fairly confrontational interaction between Cooper and fans in the front row during the show's encore). The concert still has its fair share of boa constrictors, lifeless baby dolls, and dismembered mannequins, but there's also the sense that the entire band is at least as focused on the musical performance as the theatrics. And the selection of tunes is excellent. The band rips through eight of the 10 songs on Billion Dollar Babies, plus choice hits from Love It to Death, Killer, and School's Out. Capping things off in proper early '70s fashion, the show ends with a schmaltzy version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the band flogging a dude in a Richard Nixon mask.
The disc's 1080p/VC-1 transfer presents the movie with a minimum of digital fuss, which is to say the image is occasionally muddy and almost constantly grainy, but seemingly faithful to the picture's original low-rent aesthetics. The concert footage is on the rough side, but in keeping with the show's anarchic vibe. Shot with handheld cameras, compositions are sometimes tight and often shaky. The 16-track audio recording of the performance is superb, capturing all of the instruments with surprising clarity given the concert's age. The default audio option on the Blu-ray is a well mixed linear PCM track with punchy bass and solid midrange. There's also an optional DTS-HD Master Audio mix in 5.1 surround that is well imaged overall and definitely more dynamic than the PCM option, but tends to allow the instruments to step on the vocals a bit. It's a tough call to make, but I think I prefer the stereo mix.
The movie is accompanied by a healthy set of supplements. Alice Cooper delivers an audio commentary that consists mainly of observational one-liners and gaps of silence. It's no great shakes, but it's fairly entertaining. For those who just can't stomach the comic stylings of Fred Smoot, there's an option to watch only the concert portions of the movie.
An uncensored version of the band's performance of "Unfinished Sweet" (3:57) is presented in a hazy 480p format and consists mainly of a static long shot of the band, but also features footage of Cooper not only chasing a dancing molar around the stage with a giant toothbrush, but also humping it. A two-minute deleted scene features the band acting zany as they arrive at an airport in their limo and prepare to board a private plane. There's no audio for the scene, so it's set to the band's live performance of "No More Mr. Nice Guy."
A truly old school extra includes text biographies of each of the band members. There's a photo gallery that plays as a nearly 3-minute slideshow that scrolls through a ton of vintage Alice Cooper concert posters as well production shots from the movie. It's set to "Under My Wheels."
Finally, there's a theatrical trailer for the film.
* "Hello, Hooray"
* "Billion Dollar Babies"
* "I'm Eighteen"
* "Raped Freezin'"
* "No More Mr. Nice Guy"
* "My Stars"
* "Unfinished Sweet"
* "Sick Things"
* "Dead Babies"
* "I Love the Dead"
* "School's Out"
* "Under My Wheels"
Though hampered by cringe-inducing comedy, Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper is treasure for its inclusion of live performances of 13 tunes by the original (and best) Alice Cooper band. On a musical level, it's easily better and more enjoyable than any other Alice Cooper concert movie.
Review content copyright © 2010 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Concert-Only Option
* Deleted Scenes
* Photo Gallery