By 1973, Alice Cooper had become one of the most popular touring acts in the country, and one of the most reviled. Critics hated the group for getting rich doing a dumbed-down version of the cut-vein hard-rock pioneered by fellow Detroiters The Stooges and The MC5. Parents hated Alice Cooper because its concerts were notorious for sexual innuendo and graphic violence. But the kids ate Cooper up, and spread rumors throughout high-school cafeterias and parking lots about the band’s depravity on- and offstage. Animal sacrifices, gender-bending satanic orgies, epic drug binges—all the apocryphal tales of rock ’n’ roll excess were necessarily titillating, given that Alice Cooper’s actual music wasn’t so extreme. The band played steady-chugging bar-rock with lyrics inspired by B-movies and art-school classes, but did it with style.
The 1974 concert film Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper was shot on the tour for Billion Dollar Babies, the band’s biggest album, and it captures Alice Cooper at its peak of macabre theatricality. Lead singer Vincent Furnier—who took the name “Alice Cooper,” and continued to use it after he went solo—parades around the stage in torn, stained longjohns, occasionally clipping grotesque toys to his crotch. He interacts with dismembered mannequins and baby dolls, and at one point spits a huge gob of saliva on a dress-form, then lies beneath it to let the fluid drip back into his mouth. He drapes himself in a boa constrictor, and stages his own beheading with a guillotine. He tosses posters into the crowd to watch the fans fight over them, and baits some audience members into taking a swing at him. At the end of the show, the band hoists an American flag, sings “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then beats up a Nixon impersonator. In old-timey showbiz parlance, these kids had themselves an act.
Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper isn’t an ideal way to experience that act. The lighting and sound are poor—doing a disservice in particular to the monster riffs of guitarist Michael Bruce, the band’s unsung hero—and roughly 35 minutes of the 100-minute film are taken up by interminable, unfunny sketches about a pretentious movie director who’s frustrated with the progress of the picture. (The midnight movie has many sins to answer for, but none greater than the addition of goofy story sequences to concert films.) Still, in some ways, the whole “last known footage” vibe given off by the cruddy presentation works in Alice Cooper’s favor. The band members were dismissed as phonies by much of the rock press at the time, but between the appealingly thudding music and the juvenile shock tactics, it’s easy to see why the members of the Sex Pistols named Alice Cooper as one of the few bands they liked. In a few years, punk rock would recycle a lot of Cooper’s moves, but play them straight.
Key features: A silly, unrevealing commentary by Cooper (the man, not the band), some deleted footage, and—thank the dark lord—an option to watch just the concert and skip the filler.