Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare Special Edition DVD Review: Highly Recommended

A welcome addition to the collection of any Alice Cooper fan.
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Vincent Furnier was the lead singer of the band of Alice Cooper and also went by the name Alice Cooper. After seven studio albums and the band starting to fracture, Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper and became a solo artist with the release of the concept album, Welcome to My Nightmare, about the nightmares of a child named Steven.  It was supported by a tour, of which two shows at London's Wembley Arena on September 11-12, 1975 were recorded for the concert film of the same name, which Eagle Rock Entertainment has released and paired it with the DVD debut of the TV special Alice Cooper: The Nightmare, which originally aired on April 25, 1975 by ABC.

David Winters produced, directed, and choreographed both the stage show and film, which offered the entire album performed live, although with the running order changed for some reason, along with four classic Alice Cooper songs.  More Broadway show than rock concert, the performance was very theatrical with the shock-rock elements Alice Cooper was known for toned down.  His backing band (Jozef Chirowski - Keyboards, Dick Wagner - Guitar, "Whitey" Glan - Drums, Prakash John - Bass, Steve Hunter - Guitar) played on the album.

After the opening credits and filmed material of Cooper in a graveyard plays over "The Awakening" and would later be seen during 'Escape," the live concert starts with Cooper singing the title tracks as a dancer dressed like a bat flits about the stage.  Cooper picks up and starts to brandish it during 'No More Mr Guy," which gets the first big audience reaction. Wagner steps to the front and lays done a wonderful guitar solo on "I'm Eighteen". Before "Some Folks," the four dancers dance to an instrumental medley dressed as skeletons with top hats and canes.  

Even if playing characters in the songs, it's uncomfortable watching him engage in violence towards women during two songs.. "Cold Ethyl," which has a cool groove from the rhythm section, finds him beating up a female dummy because "she's cool in bed".  He pretends to smack around a female dancer during the ballad "Only Women Bleed." Even though Ethyl is possibly dead and the latter song is about a woman in a violent marriage, other choices could have been made.

During "Devil's Food," a giant web rises from the floor two dancers come out dressed like black widows.  Wagner and Hunter come out to the front of the stage during an extended instrumental portion and deliver awesome guitar licks, but seems to be cut too early.  A portion of Vincent Price's narration about "The Black Widow" from the album starts the song.  During "Escape," the most impressive stage effect is shown as Cooper and other dancers appear on a film projected on a screen and through slits in the screen appear to jump off and back onto it.

The TV special is a long form video for the entire album, again out of order, and also includes "Ballad of Dwight Fry" from the Alice Cooper (band) album Love It to Death.  Cooper plays Steven and Vincent Price appears as The Spirit of the Nightmare who guides him through the night.  Some of the costumes and the choreography are the same as the concert, like "Welcome to My Nightmare" and "The Black Widow," but there's a lot of new visuals in terms of production design, costumes, and video effects.  During "Escape," a montage of the previous videos is shown. 

The soundtrack is the album so in addition to the musicians that went on tour also hear performing are album producer Bob Erzin - Keyboards, Tony Levin - Bass on "Welcome to My Nightmare" and "Escape," and Johnny "Bee" Badanjek - Drums on "Welcome to My Nightmare" and "Escape."

In the liner notes, it warns that "the original source material of the TV broadcast is of variable quality" in terms of the sound and picture, which is certainly true, but the film also suffers a bit in those areas.  The film looks like it was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm because the image lacks sharpness.  Also doesn't look like it was lit for the film.  The smoke doesn't help and causes posterization. The film's audio is Dolby Digital and the music sounds a bit muddy.  The audio for the TV special is Mono, but is taken from the album so it has a better sound quality.  The video hasn't aged well and there's a soft focus, staircasing, and other digital artifacts present.

Still, I would much rather have a copy with substandard a/v qualities of these historic Alice Cooper performances than not having them at all.  Highly recommended for Alice Cooper fans.

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