Alice Cooper: Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper [DVD]

Alice Cooper
Shout! Factory

This DVD promises to present Alice Cooper, rock’s original shock rocker, back during his early prime. In case you didn’t know, Cooper is hailed as the inspiration to such controversial contemporary figures as Marilyn Manson; mainly because he was one of the first artists to successfully express his love for gory horror movies over the beat of a blackheart-ed rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. Unfortunately, if you watch this program in its intended order, complete with its superfluous and mostly unfunny comedy bits, such an overabundance of variety may sour, rather than spice up your overall opinion of it.

The film opens with Alice dressed to the nines in a white tux, inhabiting a Hollywood soundstage, and ironically singing “The Lady Is a Tramp”. His band is right there with him, wearing bad toupees like he is, and looking altogether bored over playing this most un-rock ‘n’ roll music. Before he reaches the finale of this lame song, however, Cooper rips off his suit. With the enthusiastic help of his band, he completely demolishes the stage. A bulldozer strikes the finishing exclamation point by bowling over this whole cinematic façade after Cooper and band desert it.

The film should have cut straight from this silly opening bit, to the concert itself. But, sadly, it doesn’t. Instead, more bad comedy ensues when a German-voiced director, portrayed by Fred Smoot, decides to get revenge on Cooper for ruining his movie masterpiece. This leads to a seemingly endless series of chase scenes, where Smoot is joined by the fat Viking Baron Krelve (played by Jefferson Kewley). It feels like an eternity passes between these slapstick segments and actual Cooper concert songs. It’s quite literally a drag.

This project’s comedic devices suggest that Cooper wasn’t confident enough to let his music stand by itself. But what was he thinking? If you watch just the concert portion here — which is a highly advisable bonus feature on this DVD — you’ll be witness to some of the best rock music of the ’70s. After the relatively unremarkable “Hello, Hooray”, you get treated to “Billion Dollar Babies”, “Elected”, and “I’m Eighteen”, which add up to three certified classics in a row! The song “Billion Babies” is a perfect example of Cooper’s shock rock antics; “Elected” has sarcastic fun with the nation’s post-Nixon political vibe at the time; and “I’m Eighteen” may just be one of rock’s best coming-of-age anthems of all time. Had Cooper put just a little more faith in these core songs, and given his comedic screenplay to, say, The Monkees, this could have been quite the show.

Nevertheless, Cooper should at least be granted a little grace. This film, after all, documents the early part of Cooper’s career; a period that predates the artist’s more elaborate — as well as more successful — later theatrical tour efforts. In 1973, Cooper was already an exciting rock ‘n’ roller, but he was still a long way from mastering the acting craft. Later in his career, Cooper began to incorporate a little bit of a spooky Broadway feel into his concerts. Although he brings his snake on for a few brief moments during this particular show, there’s little that resembles what his shows would eventually become.

Speaking of Cooper’s succeeding career phases, Alice eventually faced up to his drinking troubles with the album From the Inside. But if you want to see what the drinking-Cooper looked like, he sure doesn’t appear to be sober during this 1973 performance. Granted, he sounds just fine. Yet he also moves hesitantly, like a man that’s had just a little too much. The camera even captures Cooper downing the booze while he’s singing, as if he didn’t even care what people thought of his habits. In spite of himself, Cooper still does a good job of retaining this audience’s attention throughout. At one point he tosses out Alice Cooper posters, of all things, to his audience.

His set list contains a bit of filler, but after just a wee bit of self-editing, this concert plays out like a live version of Cooper’s greatest hits. In addition to its great tunes at the beginning, this DVD also finds Cooper singing “No More Mr. Nice Gu”, “Dead Babies”, “I Love the Dead”, “Under My Wheels” and, of course, “School’s Out”.

It’s wishful thinking when the DVD booklet calls this, “The Film That Outgrosses Them All!” One doubts it made a bundle of loot, and one can be certain it won’t gross anybody out. It is, however, a collection of influential rock performances; ones which are sometimes obscured by multiple moments of poor comedy. Good to See You Again brings out the Darwinian side of Alice Cooper fans, because it shows this rock star’s earliest evolutionary stages.

RATING 6 / 10