The Strange Case Of Alice Cooper (DVD)
Released: 2012, Shout! Factory
In October people start to get geared up for Halloween, the Heavy Metal holy day. One performer who epitomizes Halloween like no other is Alice Cooper. To celebrate the month of Halloween I decided to go back and review four of his live concerts; one from the 70's, (The Strange Case Of Alice Cooper) one from the 80's, (The Nightmare Returns) one from the 90's (Alice Cooper Trashes The World) and one from 00's. (Brutally Live). Feel free to enjoy all the reviews in this feature.
Before reviewing this DVD in 2015, I need to set the stage. Concert films back in the 60’s and 70’s were a big deal. It’s not like today when technology is plentiful land cheap and virtually any band can make a big production concert film with a modest budget. And make it look good. Back then, filming a movie was huge expense, let alone a high-risk proposition like a concert film with no avenue for viewing except theatrical distribution and with any luck a TV special. Only the world’s biggest bands could afford a concert films, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and…Alice Cooper.
THE STRANGE CASE OF ALICE COOPER was originally filmed in Dan Diego on April 9th, 1979 and went to VHS shortly after. Finally in 2012 it was issued on DVD. The DVD itself is just adequate, no booklet, no bonus features other than a commentary track by Vincent Furnier. It’s pretty short running 74 minutes long and apparently two songs were cut from the DVD from some reason.
I really enjoyed this. The video transfer is decent, the sound is OK as well. Filmed on his tour from his 1978 album FROM THE INSIDE the show chronicles his experiences at his brief stay at an insane asylum. The incredibly theatrical show defines pyscho-drama, in all it’s forms. It follows the narrative of Cooper’s descent in insanity from Alcoholism and so on. The stage at rimes is packed with bizarre characters and costumes, props and so forth. It’s amazing what Alice can do with a simple stage prop; a cane, a crutch, a sword, a bottle, as well as the more elaborate stunts such as the expanding car, the giant monster doctor (pre-dating Iron Maiden’s ‘Eddie’ by at least a decade) and the electric chair. At times it all gets stripped down especially for the medley of slow songs when it is just Alice Cooper crawling around on his knees on stage under a single spotlight. Effectively creepy. There are many, many characters populating the stage, it gets crowded at times! I swear at one point Alice gets accidentally hit in the head with a errant whip from one of the whip-wielding leather ’n’ lace dancers.
Alice’s new back-up band certainly has a more funky, rock style of delivering the tunes and they are altered in some cases to a significant degree, some are faster, some are slower and some are longer. The giant finale, ‘School’s Out’, originally ran for 3:30. In the concert as the encore it runs for over 15 minutes! After being executed by the electric chair Alice returns to the stage dressed in blue jeans, white tennis shows and a casual T-shirt, no make-up and kind of looking like Gilligan from the TV show, Gilligan’s Island. He drops the Alice persona and introduces the band and cracks some jokes and all five members get an extended solo spot. It was a cool way to the end the concert.
Looking back at this, it is easy to see why in the 70’s and 80’s, the establishment and the mainstream hated Alice Cooper. The scenes where he is slitting his own wrist with a broken vodka bottle or French-kissing his own decapitated head might turn the stomach of those with a delicate constitution! Shocking, controversial and more it was a superb show, perhaps only tainted by the fact that Alice was on his last legs as a mental and physical wreck his body punished by a decade of relentless abuse. He looks like a mess but that only heightens the experience…he really does look insane.
THE STRANGE CASE OF ALICE COOPER is the third (to date) in a trilogy of 70’s concert films that have been issued on DVD. They are a couple more VHS only shows that still have to be released on DVD. All of these concerts show him in various stages of what some argue was the height of his career. This is an important and interesting film for all fans of Alice.