Oh my friends. You must see Schlock! - streamable for free on Tubi - especially if you are at all a fan of John Landis. Not only is it his first film, and the first film he made with Rick Baker, who later did the practical effects for Landis' greatest film accomplishment, An American Werewolf in London, but it has echoes throughout his later career, the resonance of which - when viewed from the point of view of someone who has SEEN a bunch of Landis - make the movie really delightful. A few of these include:
1. All the See You Next Wednesday stuff here, a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey that appears in some form in many (or all?) of Landis' feature films, which my friends and I, back in the 1980s, delighted in spotting every time we watched a new Landis, in much the same way that my parents' generation delighted in spotting Hitchcock in a Hitchcock movie. It is even better to see it rooted in a film that explicitly attaches itself to 2001, which none of those other films did, making the reference increasingly gnomic. Schlock! is the river from which all future See You Next Wednesdays flow. It enriches Landis' later practice, makes it even more fun.
2. The start of the "Shirley" joke? Now, I have not untangled the whole history here, but the "Shirley" joke will be a familiar groaner to those who have seen Airplane! (Wait for Lesley Nielsen - clip takes a minute to get to it), and Zucker/ Zucker/ Abrahams, who wrote and directed Airplane!, got their start with Landis and The Kentucky Fried Movie. Is there a Shirley joke in The Kentucky Fried Movie? I barely remember it, can't even tell you where its See You Next Wednesday is. But there is a Shirley joke - not the same one - in Schlock! Again, it will be more fun to view it in light of Landis' later career than it would have been when the film was initially made, but the river Shirley's headwaters turn out also to be in Schlock!
3. Not only did Forrest J. Ackerman write appreciatively of the film in Famous Monsters - calling attention to the scene mentioned in point five - he actually appears in the film!
4. The ending of An American Werewolf in London is practically a remake of the ending of Schlock!, but minus the reference to King Kong. It may even improve the ending of An American Werewolf in London - which is my least favourite part of the film, an abrupt bummer that doesn't really do justice to the fondness you feel for David and his doomed relationship with poor, sweet Alex (Jenny Agutter). It rips a hole in the viewer that it doesn't prepare you to expect, and leaves a lingering wound, really: "Gee, why did it have to end like THAT?" Schlock! may or may not improve that experience, but it definitely provides some context.
5. There is one scene in the film - I think it will be funnier if you watch it in context of the whole film - where Schlock! - a caveman, sure, but not a stupid one - that is a comedy classic, involving a blind girl who mistakes Schlock for a doggie. This scene is on Youtube, but is actually funnier if you watch it with no expectations whatsoever. It is possible that even my alerting you to this scene - as Forry did with Famous Monsters readers all those years ago - will serve to lessen its impact. But it must be mentioned, so...!
6. And while I am not actually a huge Blues Brothers fan (!) - I must acknowledge that its madcap keystone cops carchase stuff starts in Schlock!, too.
Schlock! is a very, very funny movie, very silly but very effective, though it probably requires you to be a Landis fan, to have seen a bunch of his other movies, and to have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey as well, before you will be able to appreciate it. Also, I assume Landis and his compatriots were all as stoned as Kevin Smith must have been when he made Tusk - that that's what Landis means when he says on the commentary that "it's a sixties' movie" - so it may be even more fun to watch in an altered state, if you're into that sorta thing; it may be less fun if you prefer your comedy stone-cold sober.
It probably isn't the best movie Landis ever made - I'd go for An American Werewolf, I think, for that - but it may just be the funniest (I need to re-watch The Kentucky Fried Movie to really speak confidently there).
Those of you who must see Schlock! are now prepared to do so. Those of you who remain unconvinced probably can afford to skip it. I am shocked more of my friends haven't seen it!