Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Trailer Tuesday: SCHLOCK! (1973)

Halloween is at the end of the month!

SCHLOCK (1973) written and directed by John Landis.

This is one of my favorite films... and you have never heard of it.

Directed by:John Landis.
Written by: John Landis.
Starring: John Landis, Saul Kahan, Richard Gillis, Eliza Rayfiel-Roberts,and Eric Allison.
Produced by: John Landis, George Folsey, jr, Jack H. Harris.
Music by: David Gibson.

First, a bit of background... In the 70s there were a bunch of skit comedy movies like THE GROOVE TUBE (with Chevy Chase and Richard Belzer and "Brown 25" - we make dolls out of it) and TUNNEL VISION (with Phil Proctor and Howard Hessman and Kissinger grilled on a Sesame Street type show about Viet Nam). And they were okay... and then came KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and it was 100 times funnier than the others. I saw KFM in my local cinema, and when I drove to Los Angeles I saw it in some funky old Hollywood Blvd cinema. That movie was made for me! I was alternating between short super 8mm thrillers and skit films, and KFM was the ultimate skit film. So much better than GROOVE and TUNNEL. Who directed it? Some guy named Landis.

I had a subscription to National Lampoon Magazine, which was huge back then, and they decided to make their first movie, called ANIMAL HOUSE. And who did they get to direct it? That Landis guy from KFM!

I landed a job managing a movie theater, part of a small chain that began as Jerry Lewis Family Cinemas, but that company went bankrupt and this guy bought all of the ones in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was managing one out in the East Bay, and my biggest problem was that the owner never booked a studio movie. He booked all kinds of weird crap, and then expected us to sell tickets to this junk! We showed a comedy spaghetti western called ONION BREATH about a cowboy who wasn't a quick draw, he just had really bad breath, starring Terrence Hill, and that was one of the *better* movies. We had a low budget horror movie with Christopher Lee that had the worst special effects I have ever seen. We had one bad film after another...

And then we showed SCHLOCK!

Directed by that Landis guy!

It was his first film, it had been sitting around on the shelf for years, and the guy who owned the cinemas made some sort of deal to show it for a week. The doorman in my cinema, who was an artist and drew some amazing pictures (I hired him because he was talented and needed a job), actually drew and inked the poster... because whatever poster there had been previously we didn't have access to. Tim drew this amazing poster, and they made copies, and that poster went from cinema to cinema around the Bay Area along with the single print of the film.

But the amazing thing - SCHLOCK was funny as hell! We had a college nearby, and I made up mini posters and put them up all over campus (did the same for my Halloween show of PSYCHO) and we packed the cinema every night. Because it played 3 times a day and 5 times on weekends, I could quote every single line of dialogue from the movie. And it was *funny*.

The film opens with a playground filled with at least a hundred dead teenagers - bodies on swings and other playground equipment in the silliest positions possible and covered with banana peels, as a diminutive detective (Saul Kahan) and his uniform cop sidekick (Richard Gillis) survey the carnage - another banana murder - and he says, "When I discover who or what is responsible for this... they're gonna be in *big* trouble."

My favorite part - after the ape kills a whole playground full of people, the coroner puts all of the body parts into Hefty Trash Bags to take to the morgue and try to put them together to figure out exactly how many victims there were... and the local TV news guy, a Ted Baxter type played by Eric Allsion, surrounded by dead bodies, smiles and says.... “The full body count so far is an amazing 239, although there is some disagreement on that depressing figure. It seems that several cadavers were so badly torn apart that it will be quite impossible to ascertain exactly how many individuals those pieces will come up to. From what I understand these grisly relics of death have been put into plastic bags or baggies, and are to be sorted out back at the morgue. The first viewer to send in a correct estimate on exactly how man individuals those baggies contain - could we have a shot of the baggies please? - will win a free Kentucky Chicken Dinner with all of the trimmings, and enough cola for a family of six. So be sure to send your entries right away to Body Count Contest, care of Joe Putzman, WAOH TV Channel 6, your community minded station. And be sure to watch the dinner time movie tonight at 6 on 6: Tonight its “See You Next Wednesday” starring Charles Laughton, Claudette Colbert, and Mickey Rooney. This is Joe Putzman saying, Have a happy!”

Later, the local TV New guy interviews Professor Shirley Shlibovitz (a bearded Emile Hamaty) who explains the entire concept of evolution, and explains that the banana killer is probably a "Homo Erectus".... and the TV News Guy's reaction is priceless. Shirley explains that his helmet (which is obviously part of an air conditioning or heating duct) was designed by a team of scientists... but he has no idea why he is wearing it.

Plus, there is a cute blind high school girl (Eliza Rayfiel-Roberts - who would go on to become Eric Roberts wife and Emma Roberts mom) who has been dating a guy for years and has just had eye surgery and when the bandages come off... will she like the way the guy looks? The killer ape tries to attack the blind girl, but she thinks he's just a big lovable dog and plays fetch with him... And the killer ape is less that happy to keep chasing the damned stick and giving it back to her. If she wants it back, why does she keep throwing it away? The whole thing is leading up to the big high school dance where the cute blind girl's bandages come off and she gets her first look at the guy she's been going out with for the past couple of years... and that's where the killer ape attacks, takes her hostage, and we get a parody of the end of KING KONG.

All kinds of other silly gags and little movie parodies are part of the story... anything that could be done for $60k (half of which was from Landis' pocket). Landis plays the killer ape in a Rick Baker costume and manages to pull off a great performance without speaking - I particularly liked the sweet scene where he terrorizes an ice cream parlor, steals an ice cream cake, sits on the curb to eat it... and two little girls come up, so he shares it with them and they have a little party. And the scene where the killer ape plays the piano with a bland musician and they really click.

Landis plays the killer ape, who is just misunderstood... and some dude named Rick Baker did the make up... his first credit! This film was made for pocket change, but is so packed with jokes it got Landis on THE TONIGHT SHOW! If you are ever wondering where the film SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY (from that line of dialogue in 2001) comes from, this is the flick. Because it's a cult film, it's now on blu-ray, but for a movie made by a group of friends for pocket change it has lots of laughs.

Not every joke hits (it may be around 50/50) but there are enough jokes that work and enough charm that it has a loyal following. I loved this film - it was the only thing we showed at that cinema that wasn't complete crap!

PS: All of those body parts in the baggies were assembled into 4 bodies, and the winner of the contest was the cute blind girl's mom who served the chicken dinner on the night of the big high school dance. This was a great way to segue from the Detective and Newscaster as protagonist to the Cute Blind Girl as protagonist.

- Bill

Emma Roberts Mom...

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