One of my encyclopedic friends declared this the most amazing and disturbing punk-rock footage of all time: Lux Interior, surrounded by mental patients, strutting and wiggling like a can of electrified worms. Belting out the hits, as they say.
The oddest thing about this DVD, which simply records a 1978 Cramps concert in the tiny recreation area of a home for the mentally challenged, is that it doesn’t look too much different from a regular punk rock concert. Guitarist Poison Ivy seems insanely unflappable. The odd outfits, the wacky dancing, the stage rushing, audience members grabbing the microphone, etc. fit right into the weirdo, drugged-out vibe of a punk show. But… there are a tad more housecoats, there’s a certain institutional tension, and the hair is slightly messier.
It’s a strange thing indeed to behold, and the presence of the video camera seems to hint at a sinister purpose. Though these mentally-whatever folks are sure having fun, and the band is knocking themselves out, it seems obvious that the counter-culture edge of “playing to the crazy” was meant to give the band some badass cachet. It works; in fact, despite real-life history, I kept expecting someone to lock the room up and keep The Cramps in there forever, just to prevent this weird collision of psyches from infecting the rest of the world. It also reminded me of the “Entartete Kunst” shows which the Nazis put on: comparing Picassos and other expressionist paintings with photos of deformed mental patients, in the attempt to connect modern art with insanity.
On the production side, Target Video (who shot the vid way back when) has taken the right approach, for whatever reasons. Video cameras were clunky and lame back then, but they were still cheaper than film, and the aesthetic of black-and-white tube cameras will never be surpassed as a means of evoking a period. It looks like available light, one camera, and there are no edits… just cheap chiron titles that come up at the beginning of each song, and a computer-font “©Target Video 1984” logo across the bottom, all the way through. Even if this no-frills format contains its own pretensions, that matters not one whit.
The DVD also has a giant sample reel of other Target videos: performance art, punk rock, etc. etc… and I mean etc. My favorite was another one-camera shoot, this time in outdoor daylight, of the band “Crime” playing at a prison. Why the prisoners hold up Crime posters whenever the lens is on them, God only knows, but I bet the band thought it was gold.