GORE IN THE STORE
INTERVIEWS FILM BLU-RAY DVD & BOOK REVIEWS
SCHLOCK – **
Directed by John Landis. Starring John Landis, Saul Kahan, Joseph Piantadosi, Harriet Medin, Richard Gillis, Eric Allison, Amy Schireson. Horror/Comedy, USA, 80 mins, cert 12.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 15th October 2018.
Love him or loathe him, you cannot deny that filmmaker John Landis has left his mark on a generation of audiences with hits such as AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE BLUES BROTHERS and TRADING PLACES. However, it is his first film, the lesser-seen SCHLOCK, from 1973 that is now getting the Arrow Video treatment but does it stack up against the director’s better known movies?
Well, you’d be hard pressed to argue that the seeds of where Landis would go later with THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, his contribution to AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON and even AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON weren’t sown with this loving satire of ape-man monster movies that draws heavily from KING KONG – even down to the use of that movie’s final line of dialogue to create a dumb joke – and the 1970 Joan Crawford movie TROG, which was also comedic but for all the wrong reasons. Here Landis himself (inside a costume made by legendary make-up creator Rick Baker) plays Schlock, a missing link-type creature who leaves his Californian cave and goes on the rampage, leaving a trail of bodies for the local news to report about. Schlock then goes walkabout around the local area, encountering a blind woman who thinks Schlock is a dog, a blind musician who performs a duet on the piano with the monster, a screening of the Steve McQueen classic THE BLOB where various characters try and sit in front of him so he can’t see, and various other scenarios before the authorities, led by the crazy-haired Detective Sgt. Wino (Saul Kahan – INTO THE NIGHT) eventually catch up with him.
SCHLOCK is a movie with no real plot but rather a series of gags strung together by the simplest of simple narratives and ultimately feels like an elongated SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE sketch. Landis does prove to be quite amusing to watch as he wanders around the Californian countryside reacting to the people he encounters, his exaggerated movements looking very much like those of a professional mime artist and there are plenty of close-ups on his eyes to make Schlock feel like he is more than just a brainless monster running around with no real purpose, although essentially that is really what he is. Fun as he is to watch, it takes more than watching a man in an ape costume to make an entertaining movie, and SCHLOCK does have a fair few gags throughout it, but despite some potentially hilarious setups the jokes never really pay off.
Let us remember, though, that SCHLOCK was a debut movie from a 21-year-old director with no ‘proper’ actors to speak of (except for Harriet Medin, who had appeared in dozens of well-known movies in small roles) and so a lot of the dialogue is immature, the delivery stilted and the film itself just not very engaging overall, and thanks to the extremely low budget there are special effects so the dead bodies lining the streets are just people laying down with no obvious injuries or blood anywhere, which just looks odd considering there is a mad monster on the loose. The 4k restoration is fairly clean but quite unremarkable, although SCHLOCK is a movie that probably benefits a bit from looking a bit weathered and worn, like a tenth generation VHS copy. The extras include an audio commentary by John Landis and Rick Baker, an archival interview with cinematographer Bob Collins, a new interview with author/critic Kim Newman and, best of all, an interesting 40-minute Q&A interview with John Landis where the director talks about how he got into movies and the problems he had making SCHLOCK, but however much he talks it up SCHLOCK, despite being competently shot and an indicator of where the director would go next, doesn’t really hold up as anything other than a curiosity, with the interview in the special features being far more entertaining and engaging. Unfortunately, unless you are a John Landis completist, a fun 40-minute interview is probably not worth adding SCHLOCK to your collection for.
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