With an eerie sneer and an unsettling smack of his gavel, Judge Dennis Prince proclaims with wicked glee, "Let the Shock-tober festivities commence!"
Our review of Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper (Blu-Ray), published October 2nd, 2010, is also available.
I love the dead before they are cold,
Mother and Father, do you know what your children are listening to?
"I don't really look at Alice as being a villain at this point. I see Alice as being some sort of, like, social Frankenstein. Sort of like something that climbed out of the garbage of America."—Vincent Furnier
Although he may seem a bit tame by today's standards (those that are sinking depravedly lower by the moment), there's no question that Vincent Furnier, aka Alice Cooper, is still riveting and rousing to behold. With over 30 years of performance, chart-topping hits, and numerous platinum albums to his credit, the Coop has proven he has the endurance to thrill and chill with his patented brand of theatrical "Shock Rock" album after album, year after year. No stranger to film, Cooper has done plenty of acting in his day, including cameos in 1978's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1980's Roadie, and 1984's Monster Dog (to name just a few). On the concert scene, some of his finest work has been captured on film as well, including 1975's Welcome to My Nightmare, 1978's The Strange Case of Alice Cooper, and 2000's Alice Cooper: Brutally Live. It's his concert films that are the most sought-after since it's Alice's show that has propelled him to rock-icon status behind which all imitators would yearn to follow. During the VHS and Beta heyday of the 1980s, many of Alice's filmed exploits surfaced to feed the world's newfound hunger for home video. Since those days, a few of the inferior tape releases have found their way to DVD while others have yet to be re-mastered. One significant film, however, has eluded all home video formats, much to fans' perpetual dismay…until now. Now, thanks to the sustained interest in Alice by new fans as well as old, the long sought-after film that captured the record-breaking Billion Dollar Babies tour of 1973 has finally been resurrected by the gleeful ghouls at Shout! Factory. And to this we say Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper!
Despite four very competent albums having been released between 1969 and 1972, the band known as "Alice Cooper" wasn't catching the mainstream's attention. Early followers and confounded critics were confused: was "Alice" the group's name or that of the gangly lead singer? It didn't matter because the band, formerly known as The Spiders, was barely surviving in the dungeon of freakish rock and roll. It wasn't until the brooding and boiling youth anthem, "School's Out," (from the album of the same name) hit the airwaves in 1972 that the band was propelled—like it or not—into the spotlight for all to see. Sure, the band was strange and their previous four albums were a then-crunching oddity that furrowed parents' brows. The pink panties that clung to the "School's Out" LP, which was contained in a clever fold-out school desk record jacket, had moms and dads rightly nervous. Whose panties were these in Johnny's room, hanging limply off the corner of his stereo phonograph? Were they Alice's and, if so, wasn't she a man? Trouble had come to Smalltown, USA.
Despite attempts to ban and belittle this spider-eyed singer and his irreverent band mates, the troupe's next album, Billion Dollar Babies, released in January 1973, took the country by storm. It ascended to the #1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart and spawned three Top 40 hit singles, "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "Elected," and "Hello Hooray." The freak show had come to stay, and, thanks to his increasingly outrageous stage antics, Furnier would emerge front and center and ultimately become known as Mr. Alice Cooper.
I got no friends 'cause they read the papers,
The ensuing Billion Dollar Babies would prove to be one of the most elaborate and expensive stage shows of its day, also giving birth to the notion of "stadium rock" events. Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper captures performances from the April 28 and 29, 1973 shows performed in Dallas and Houston, Texas, respectively. Under the working title of Hard Hearted Alice, the film was never intended to be just a concert show. Rather, it was to include an intertwined saga of Alice Cooper, a man on trial for his indiscretions as a rock and roll miscreant. That thin plotline almost immediately unraveled, giving way to an almost completely spontaneous and unscripted lark where Alice and the "Cooper Gang" bust up the lush and lavish film production of "The Lady is a Tramp" at the horror of the thickly German-accented Herr Direcktor. The band levels the stage set—literally—and heads off to do what they do best: shock and satisfy the hordes of concert goers who are eager to experience the band's unique brand of Sick Things first hand. Meanwhile, as the band plays on, Herr Direcktor and his portly sidekick, the helmeted Baron Krelve, fruitlessly attempt to intercept the singing sickos. Herr Direcktor ultimately winds up sprawled on the sofa of psychiatrist Dr. Fenton Norvel to tell his tale of woe to the analyst who remains obscured in the shadows of his office. But the band continues to brutalize the audience with its unyielding and unapologetic barrage of screeching guitar chords, thumping bass lines, and wailing vocals…and the audience loves it…to death.
Yes, it is good to see this film again. Long time fans of Cooper can finally discard their gray-market bootlegs of this formerly unreleased epic and lap up this excellently mastered DVD with wild abandon. The source print is quite rough in that it exhibits plenty of film dirt and scratches; oddly and perhaps fittingly, that adds to the overall texture and grittiness of the Alice Cooper experience. The print appears to be complete (save for either a rough splice or a poor edit in a portion of the "Billion Dollar Babies" performance) and includes the original interspersed skit pieces (these were replaced briefly by newsreel and other vintage film footage during the film's brief theatrical run in 1974, mostly to midnight-movie gatherings). Rescued from oblivion, Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper is presented in a new high-definition transfer that looks much better than the blurry and frequently incomplete bootleg tapes of the past. Given the film's obscurity, the transfer looks great, yet do expect to see plenty of grain and frequent softness that marks the often haphazard production value of a 1970s concert film not backed by major studio funding. It's an anamorphic transfer that's framed at the film's original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, to boot.
The audio comes by way of a remarkably restored 16-track master tape soundtrack, mixed competently to deliver a perfect balance between the band's impressive musicianship—that of the excellent original lineup of Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce, Neal Smith, and Glen Buxton—and Cooper's appropriately-competent vocals. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is well blended and well managed to provide an enveloping soundstage that puts you in the middle of the flailing crowd. While the skit segments are prone to occasional shrillness, the live performances never top out.
This is a dream—or a nightmare—come true for all Alice fans. It's about time.
But don't rush out and buy your copy just yet, not until you've heard about all the bonus features here, anyway. They begin with a very welcome audio commentary by Mr. Nightmare himself, Alice Cooper. He begins by proclaiming the lead-in ratings band, "PG…for Positively Gross," and provides a steady offering of comments, observations, and perspective on the whole affair. Although he lapses into viewing in silence quite often, he maintains a decent amount of input throughout his un-moderated screening. Next up, you'll find an unedited version of the "Unfinished Sweet" performance where Alice gets "dental" with a drill, a giant tube of toothpaste, and a dancing tooth. Then there's a deleted skit-like scene of Alice and the band fighting off a group of unlikely assailants on an airport tarmac. If you want to skip all of the skit sequences, you can choose to view a concert-only presentation of the film. The original theatrical trailer is here along with a still gallery of original promotional materials. Band biographies are next and there are some well-hidden Easter eggs for you adventurous types. Lastly, the animated menu screens—three of them—each offer an audio track that features original promotional radio spots heralding that the decay and depravity has come to your local theater.
In all, it's like manna from Heaven to find Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper in your DVD tray. Thanks to the loving restoration by the team at Shout! Factory, Alice fans can stop gnashing their teeth and can bite into this juicy new release that's sure to offend your grandma. Then again, don't be too surprised if you learn she was pumping her fist decades ago to the shock and spectacle of it all. Grannies gotta rock, too, y'know. And, if Shout! Factory is truly up to the task, fans can hope to see follow-on re-masterings of The Strange Case of Alice Cooper and television's highly-acclaimed Alice Cooper: The Nightmare.
If Billy Sunday would have hated it…you know it has to be good.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• Audio Commentary by Alice Cooper
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