Dance Craze

UK 1981, 88 mins
Director: Joe Massot

Please note that this film contains a sequence of flashing lights which might affect customers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy.

In 1979 Jerry Dammers founded not only The Specials but the 2 Tone Record Label. Releasing their debut single Gangsters in July of that year, which spent 12 weeks on the UK singles chart, closely followed by the labels second single, The Prince by Madness. Over the course of the next 12 months, 2 Tone took over the UK, with more singles and album releases by The Selecter, The Beat and the The Bodysnatchers, along with two 2 Tone package Tours with these and other bands. Director Joe Massot (Led Zeppelin’s film The Song Remains the Same) and cinematographer Joe Dunton both witnessed these bands live and wanted to try an attempt at capturing the sheer force and energy of the movement. They filmed various bands at venues over the course of 1980 using the newly invented SteadyCam on Super 35mm film stock to make it look like the camera was dancing along with the beat of the music. The end film included 27 songs and captured a unique moment in time at the height of the ska revival.

The film has now been newly restored to 4K from an original 70mm print with brand new Dolby Atmos sound mix in collaboration with Chrysalis Records by the BFI.

Capturing the peak of 2 Tone in the early 1980s, Dance Craze remains unique in the history of the concert film. Showcasing live performances from The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, The Beat, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers, it’s a valuable time-capsule of the British genre that merged Jamaican ska with punk and new wave music. It also broke new ground for how to film bands on stage.

Many pop promos and concert films before Dance Craze’s release in cinemas in 1981 were shot on 16mm or early video formats, with occasional expensive exceptions, such as Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz (1978). Something else entirely, the groundbreaking visual concept of Dance Craze was devised by the now-legendary technical innovator Joe Dunton. Dunton’s main objectives were to shoot on 35mm and not make what he called a ‘third row’ concert film: unlike most up to that point, it wouldn’t be shot from the static viewpoint of the audience or the wings of the stage. Dunton wanted the camera to be a part of the performance; to be dancing, so to speak, with the members of the band.

He decided that the way to do this was to mount the heavy 35mm cameras on a Steadicam, a system invented by Garrett Brown, which had previously been used on Marathon Man (1976), Rocky (1976) and The Shining (1980). Attached to the operator on a Steadicam rig, the camera could glide around the performers with ease, fully immersing the viewer in the performances.

Not content with just one or two bright ideas, Dunton also decided that the film should be shot on Super 35. Unlike regular 35mm, Super 35 uses the entire width of the film emulsion, allowing for a larger frame size. Using Super 35 also allowed for the film to be printed up to 70mm stock, which not only produced a beautifully sharp image but also made room for powerful magnetic audio tracks on the prints.

When released in 1981, Dance Craze was distributed on both regular 35mm, with standard Dolby Stereo optical audio, and 70mm, with a glorious magnetic 6-track stereo sound mix (effectively three front speakers and one rear speaker).

The film was a big success, touring venues in the UK and colleges in the USA, where enthusiastic audiences were found singing and dancing in the aisles. Yet aside from a brief VHS release in 1988 and the odd screening over the years, it has rarely been seen since.

In the decades following that initial release, the original Super 35 negatives have gone missing, and only a handful of very worn 35mm prints still exist. But – thankfully – one of the original 70mm prints survives, belonging to Dunton himself. This has been carefully scanned and restored by the BFI at 4K resolution, with the help of R3store Studios in London. Extensive work has been undertaken to recover faded colour, stabilise the image and remove imperfections, such as the scratches and specks of dirt the 70mm print had picked up over the intervening years.

Chrysalis Records were also able to locate the original audio master tapes in their archive. These have also been fully remastered, under the supervision of The Specials’ Jerry Dammers, and given a new Dolby Atmos upgrade, ready for the film’s overdue return to UK cinemas, Blu-ray and DVD.

It’s been a long time coming, but Dance Craze was finally screened in its newly restored, remastered form for the first time at the 2023 Glasgow Film Festival. Once again, audiences were found singing and dancing along to this definitive audiovisual document of British ska.
Douglas Weir,, 21 March 2023

Director: Joe Massot
Production Company: Chrysalis Group
Producer: Gavrik Losey
Photography and Visual Concept: Joe Dunton
Camera Operators: Mike Delaney, Garrett Brown, Tony Coggans, Paul Hennessey, Dennis Kingston, Tony Pierce-Roberts, Bob Smith, Peter Taylor
Supervising Editor: Ben Rayner
Editor: Anthony Sloman
Assembly Editor: Stuart De Jong
Assistant Editor: Miriam Bagley
Music co-ordinator: Debra Daly
Music Producers: Clive Langer, Alan Winstanley
Sound Recording: Alan Snelling

Bad Manners:
Buster Bloodvessel (vocal)
Brian Chew-It (drums)
Andy Marson (saxophone)
Chris Kane (saxophone)
Winston Bazoomies (harmonica, vocal)
Martin Stewart (keyboards)
David Farren (bass)
Louis Alphonso (guitar)
Gus ‘Hotlips’ Herman (trombone)

The Beat:
David Wakeling (guitar, vocal)
David Steele (bass)
Andy Cox (guitar)
Everett Morton (drums)
Ranking Roger (vocal)
Saxo (saxophone)

The Bodysnatchers:
Nicola Summers (bass)
Miranda Joyce (alto saxophone)
Pennie Leyton (keyboards)
Jane Summers (drums)
Sarah Jane Owen (lead guitar)
Rhoda Dakar (vocal)
Stella Barker (rhythm guitar)

Mike Barson (keyboards)
Chris Foreman (guitar)
Lee Thompson (saxophone)
Chas Smash (vocal, MC, dancing)
Suggs (vocal)
Woods (drums)
Bedders (bass)

The Selecter:
Neol Davies (guitar)
Crommie Amanor (guitar)
Charlie Anderson (bass)
Charles ‘H’ Bainbridge (drums)
Desmond Brown (keyboards)
Gappa Hendricks (vocal)
Pauline Black (vocal)

The Specials:
Jerry Dammers (keyboards)
Horace Gentleman (bass)
John Bradbury (drums)
Roddy Radiation (guitar)
Lynval Golding (guitar)
Terry Hall (vocal)
Neville Staples (vocal)
Rico (trombone)
Dick Cuthell (flugelhorn, cornet)

UK 1981
88 mins

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