directed by John Landis
starring John Landis, Harriet White, Eliza Roberts
Everyone has to start somewhere and director John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers) started with Schlock. John Landis went full Orson Welles for his first feature writing, directing, and starring in this parody/homage of B-Monster movies. Shot for $60,000 in 1971 Landis set out to skewer monster movies like Trog, Earth vs the Spider, and Eegah.
Schlock tells the story of the Schlockthropus – the missing link between Kong and man, so basically a bad gorilla suit, who gets revived after millions of year of hibernation and goes on a killing spree against humanity. The only thing that could possibly stop the reign of terror by the banana monster is true love. It is basically the plot of half the monster movies of the 1950s punched up with homages to other, better movies as well as straight up comedy bits the best of which are in the first act as the exposition is handled by a pompous Ted Baxter-esque TV reporter. Schlockthropus continues to terrorize suburban southern California until he meets Mindy (Eliza Garrett), a blind girl awaiting an operation to restore her sight , who bereft of sight thinks Schlockthropus is a dog. Jealousy erupts within the big ape when Mindy regains her sight and goes to the school dance with her hunky boyfriend. Schlockthropus shows up and long before the National Guard arrives, you know the night isn’t going to end well for the love struck simian.
The movie itself has a reputation better than it deserves. It doesn’t quite work as either an homage or a parody. It is merely amusing when it should be hilarious. Gags go on too long or simply aren’t set up well enough to get the pay off. The timing just isn’t there, especially for a feature length film. There are some bits that may have worked great in a sketch format like Landis’ second feature Kentucky Fried Movie. Everything about it feels like a first time filmmaker, and a 21 year old at that. Obviously Landis learned a lot from Schlock as he went on to be the dominant comedy director of the 1970s and ’80s. There are some fun cameos to look out for. The films costume creator and legendary SFX make artist Rick Baker appears at the school dance on crutches, Forrest J. Ackerman is in a movie theater (which is showing a double feature of The Blob and Dinosaurus, both movies distributed by Schlock’s distributor, Jack H. Harris), and Planet of the Apes make-up creator John Chambers.
Schlock is certainly a curiosity and does have its share of fans and this Blu-Ray is the best the film has looked. This edition is packed with extras including the rollicking audio commentary from John Landis and Rick Baker ported over from the 2001 Anchor Bay DVD. Both men are quite frank in their assessments of the project. The stories of the making of the film are honestly more entertaining than the movie itself. Other extras include a lengthy interview with John Landis, “I Shot Schlock”, an interview with cinematographer Bob Collins, and another fun and insightful chat from British horror icon Kim Newman.