A misunderstood ape-like creature (filmmaker John Landis, An American Werewolf in London and The Blues Brothers), called the “Schlockthropus,” creates havoc in a small American community.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Can’t you guys discuss the haircuts later? That thing’s got Mindy!”
To my surprise I found this admittedly silly, cheesy, dumb and cheap film quite delightful and completely satisfying — Schlock (aka The Banana Monster) is an endearing spoof of classic monster movies (e.g. Frankenstein, King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, Godzilla and Creature from the Black Lagoon).
Directed and written by John Landis (this is his very first movie!), Schlock is a zany Valentine to fans of monster movies. This is also a textbook on how to make the most of a limited (I mean extra limited) budget — If only directors like Michael Bay would learn that having a good story is better than having expensive visual effects!
Schlock is a sweet little film that offers a glimpse at the themes that Landis would explore in his subsequent films. Humor and horror seem to be an odd mixture that Landis obviously finds irresistible. For example, An American Werewolf in London is a full-blooded horror film that has a remarkable sense of humor and Into the Night is a comedy with horrific serious undertones.
Similar to Tim Burton, Landis has created a style that is all his own doing. Schlock contains tiny sparks of his genius as a writer and director — how many directors out there can take $61,000 and make something good enough to stand the test of time? It seems that limited money really stimulates the creativity of the most talented filmmakers, and Landis is no exception.
Especially good is the last part of the film (which takes place at night), where Landis cleverly spoofs the “monster-on-the-run” clichés. Many of the gags are obvious, but you can’t help but giggle with great delight. The lack of any sophisticated technology only adds to the film’s good vibes — it’s a charming movie!
Schlock marked the first teaming of Landis and make-up expert Rick Baker (Harry and the Hendersons, The Nutty Professor and How the Grinch Stole Christmas), who created the ape suit. Eventually Baker became Hollywood’s most successful make-up artist. Their collaboration on this film is years before both men achieved international success in their respective fields, but this fact doesn’t stop them from creating an endearing and entertaining viewing experience.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Schlock gives “guerrilla filmmaking” a good name. Although this film is not for all tastes, it is worth a look. There is never a dull moment in the movie. Overall, this is a nicely realized homage that succeeds in creating an irresistibly goofy atmosphere throughout the duration of the film. Color, 80 minutes, Rated PG.