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The Cramps: Live At The Napa State Mental Hospital (MVD) DVD Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Cramps: Live At The Napa State Mental Hospital (MVD) DVD Review

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    Released by: MVD
    Released on: February 10th, 2004.
    Director: Joe Rees
    Cast: The Cramps
    Year: 1978
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Cramps: Live At The Napa State Mental Hospital – Movie Reviews:

    You’d be hard pressed to think of a band better suited to give a free show at a mental hospital in 1978 than The Cramps.

    The band formed in an NYC apartment in 1976, shortly after lead vocalist Lux Interior picked up a hitchhiking female guitar player named Kristy Wallace, better known by her stage name: Poison Ivy Rorschach. Since then, Lux and Ivy stayed the only permanent fixtures in the band until Lux’s passing in 2009, as they'd go on to replace bass players and drum players numerous times. The lineup captured here at the Napa State Mental Hospital, where they performed a free show in front of the many patients, is widely considered the best. Accompanied by drummer Nick Knox and late, great guitar player Brian Gregory playing rhythm guitar, Lux and Ivy put on one hell of a show here, and the inmates... err... patients of the Mental Hospital are more than happy to take part in the fun.

    Their sound, (a deadly mixture of the most primal form of rockabilly, the dirtiest slice of blues, and a whole lot of punk rock attitude fused under a halogen glow lamp and smeared in the monstrous green slime of low budget horror and exploitation films), is instantly recognizable and way too easy to get into. And it's this easiness to get into that the patients latch onto as they join the band and ultimately take over the stage in this now legendary performance.

    As the band plays through its eight song set, totaling just over twenty-minutes in length, all manner of people hop up on stage with them and get into the act. Whether it be a strange patient wearing a fancy black suit who wants to stand on the stage and bounce up and down like a kangaroo or an overly enthusiastic woman taking the microphone from the illustrious Lux Interior and singing her own special song, it's painfully obvious that the audience is having a total blast at this performance, and as anyone who has ever laid witness to one of their concerts will gladly testify, it's for a good reason. To be totally appreciated, the band had to have been seen live.

    The complete run down of the songs performed is as follows: Mystery Plane, The Way I Walk, What’s Behind The Mask, Human Fly, Domino, Love Me, Twist And Shout, and finally, TV Set.

    If you're familiar with the band's discography you'll know that this was their most influential period - where they crawled out of that primordial New York City cesspool and onto the stages of local concert venues. The band continued until Lux’s death and continued to kick ass and chew bubble gum right up until their last days, but this concert, for sheer insanity (pun intended), can really not be beaten and is a certifiably mandatory purchase for anyone who truly wants to stay sick and turn blue.

    The Cramps: Live At The Napa State Mental Hospital – DVD Review:

    When Target Video put this bad boy out on the market on VHS oh so many years ago, one of the most annoying things about it was that there was a ‘Target Video’ bug on the bottom of the screen that showed up at the beginning of the show and stayed there until the very end. When this DVD was announced, expectations rose in hopes that that annoying bug would be gone and we’d get the concert in its entirety without its presence. Well, no dice. That bug is still there and while most would have liked kind of half expected it, it’s still a bit of a disappointment. In MVD’s defense, it may very well exist on whatever master they were given to work with, but the fact remains that it’s still there and it’s still annoying. As far as the quality of the video goes, it’s pretty rough. If you’ve seen the show before you know what to expect and the contrast levels and the clarity are both improvements over the tape, but it’s still a twenty six year old concert shot under less than perfect conditions on budget equipment and black and white analog video tape.

    The entire concert has been re-mastered in an all-new Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix (though it really doesn’t sound too different than the mono mix was on the VHS release). There’s hiss. There’s distortion. There’s background noise and sometimes Lux’s banter is slightly muffled as are his vocals, but it is cleaner sounding than what we had before on the VHS release and it’s a noticeable, if slight, improvement over that.

    Included on the DVD as extra features are a ton of promos for pretty much every other MVD release worth owning (well ten of the good ones at least), as well as a section entitled More Target Video that has clips from The Dead Kennedys releases, Crucifix, Flipper, Mark Pauline, Toxic Reasons, M. D. C., and Throbbing Gristle. Once these clips play, you'll find some Crime footage recorded live in San Quentin, some Target Video After Hours footage performed by Z'Ev. The whole More Target Video clip runs just over thirty-two minutes.

    The Cramps: Live At The Napa State Mental Hospital – The Final Word:

    Alright, while the audio and video on this release kind of suck (so did the VHS released by Target years back too, so no surprise there) the footage is amazing and any self-respecting fan of The Cramps who doesn’t already have a copy deserves a swift spiked heel to the groin. Essential!

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