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Dance Craze (DVD + Blu-ray)

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Shot in 1980 by Joe Massot, who directed the psychedelic and absurdist Wonderwall in 1968, Dance Craze is a concert footage film rather than a documentary although, around the halfway mark, it’s broken up with some old Pathé news reports on dance crazes such as the Locomotion and the Madison, and a man from Harrogate attempting a world record for playing the piano longer than anybody before had managed (a marathon endeavour aided by ‘eggs, glucose, tea and brandy’ together with a hundred cigarettes a day. Don’t try this at home, folks).

The concert film Dance Craze is a high-energy record of a series of concerts performed from Portsmouth to London and from Coventry to Liverpool, as well as in the US. It was filmedin 1980 and released in cinemas for fans of The Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, The Beat and The Bodysnatchers. Outtakes (1980, 17 mins): a selection of rare clips, many previously unseen, featuring the bands from the film The Specials’ Too Much Too Young is as thrilling as ever, and as ambiguously angry and contemptuous: “You’re married with a KID/When you could be having FUN WITH ME,” they snarl, adding the despairing Alf Garnett insult: “I’d hate to have the same name as you/You silly moo.” Rhoda Dakar of the Bodysnatchers is a live wire; Buster Bloodvessel of Bad Manners is a genuine English eccentric, doing that odd thing with his tongue; Madness’s cover version of the Swan theme from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is very weird, and the Beat’s Twist and Crawl and Mirror in the Bathroom are still compelling. A must.

Shot on Super 35 with Steadycam allowing total mobility, it enables us to experience the concerts from the stage. We are up there with the performers rather than watching them from the perspective of static cameras safely anchored in the stalls.

The layers of archival treats on this DVD/Blu-ray release include a BBC Arenathat sent NME "cub reporter" Adrian Thrills to the chaotic offices of the record label in Coventry, where Jerry Dammers, the founder of The Specials, and the rest of the band were in fine form. The DANCE CRAZE film, shot throughout 1980 and released in cinemas in 1981, brilliantly captures the cultural phenomenon that was the 2Tone movement and represents an important social document of the times. Directed by Joe Massot ( The Song Remains the Same) and filmed by Bafta award-winning cinematographer Joe Dunton, it showcases the very best of the British Ska phenomenon, with exclusive live performances from The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, The Beat, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers.Massot intercuts the bands’ live performances withnuggets of archaic 1950s newsreels, complete with cut glass-accented observations about British pop music and dance crazes. It’s an ingenious way to break up the documentary and set the 2-Tone bands in a historical framework. Espousing the message of racial unity, the sharp suited band combined choppy Jamaican rhythms with the rawness and high-voltage energy of punk. With help from Chrysalis, they set up 2 Tone Records and just as, say, Glasgow’s Postcard label would worship at the altar of The Velvet Underground, the Coventry imprint adopted Jamaica’s Prince Buster as their patron saint. There’s live performances by The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, The Beat, The Bodysnatchers and Bad Manners (the latter being the only featured band never to have signed to 2 Tone) and the film flits between these six acts for a song or two at a time. Massot and his cinematographer Joe Dunton capture the kinetic energy on display inventively, with Dunton even sharing space with the musicians onstage as they play.

The movie doesn’t get many screenings, and it hasn’t had a release on either DVD or Blu-ray. Until now. The BFI has produced a dual-format edition that works as both a DVD and Blu-ray. Newly remastered in 4K from original film materials, DANCE CRAZE is presented here by the BFI and Chrysalis Records on Blu-ray and DVD (Dual Format Edition) for the first time, more than 40 years on from its theatrical release.Because 2 Tone was massive. For a short period of time at the turn of the 1980s, it seemed like the biggest thing on the planet. Or at least, on the schoolyard. While the gigs might have been lively, for many kids, they weren’t exactly on the doorstep, and Dance Craze was the ideal substitute. Often topping the wants list of many people, a Dance Craze movie Blu-ray release has now been confirmed by the BFI.

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