Color, 1982, 80 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Alfred Sole
Starring Tom Smothers, Carol Kane, Candice Azzara, Marc McClure, Judge Reinhold, Teri Landrum, Debralee Scott, Miles Chapin, Paul Reubens
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Few American directors had a career stranger than New Jersey filmmaker Alfred Sole, who went from the controversial arty hardcore film Deep Sleep to the horror classic Alice, Sweet Alice and on to the baffling tropical erotica of Tanya's Island. His fourth and final theatrical film to date before his move to becoming a mainstream production designer was Pandemonium, part of a bizarre wave of horror spoofs in the early '80s including Student Bodies, Wacko, National Lampoon's Class Reunion, Full Moon High, and Saturday the 14th. In this case, the film aims for an Airplane! approach with gags jammed as much as possible into every scene and a truly crazed cast of Hollywood hams popping up in cameos throughout. Thanks to its PG rating and broad comedy approach, this one ended up playing afternoons on HBO where it earned a bit of a fan following after its extremely modest theatrical run from United Artists. For some reason it seemed to drop off the face of the earth for decades after its cable heyday and an early oversized VHS release from MGM/UA, but now it's back in action from Vinegar Syndrome in all its ridiculous glory.
In 1963 Indiana at It Had To Be U., four cheerleaders are murdered after practice by a high-speed javelin that shush kebabs them with some oversized prop veggies. More murders follow and shut down any kind of cheerleader activity in the vicinity until Bambi (Zara), a Brooklyn transplant and put-upon classmate of the original victims, decides to open a new cheerleader camp. The new recruits are a colorful bunch: Candy (Kane), a naive girl who possesses telekinetic powers; Glenn Dandy (Reinhold, sporting a peroxide 'do); best buddies Andy (Chain) and Randy (McClure); perky dental health obsessive Mandy (Land rum); and picky hitchhiker Sandy (Scott). Meanwhile a lunatic has just escaped from the nearby asylum, and law and order falls into the hands of Canadian Mountie Cooper (Smothers) and his disgruntled deputy, Johnson (Reuben, at the start of his Pee-wee Herman days). Of course, it's just a matter of time before the murders begin again and dark secret from the past comes to light.
Unapologetically stupid and so jammed with gags that a few are bound to make you crack up, Pandemonium is an odd blend of slasher spoof and variety sketch show with a slew of guest appearances that seem to be aimed at a much older audience. Popping up in quick appearances are such faces as Tab Hunter, Donald O'Connor, Kaye Ballard, Pat Ats, Edie McClure, Richard Romans, David L. Lander, and even Phil Hartman, among others, though the best bits go to Eileen Brennan (doing a mean impression of Carrie's Piper Laurie in a scene with that film's Sydney Las-sick) and Eve Arden as a prison warden being held hostage. Along the way you get some very random throwaway bits riffing on everything from werewolves to Catherine the Great, Ronald Reagan, and Godzilla, and everyone seems to be having a good time all the way to the surprise ending (which is actually a pretty amusing twist that plays fair).
In 2020, Vinegar Syndrome brought the film to Blu-ray as a limited slipcover edition featuring a 2K scan from the 35mm inter positive. The transfer looks very impressive (especially considering we haven't had anything better than a fuzzy VHS version for ages); apart from some inevitable and very obvious dirt baked into optical like the opening credits and scene dissolves, the element is in great shape and makes for a very pleasing viewing experience. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono audio is also free of any issues, and optional English SDH subtitles are provided. The main extra here is a new interview with Sole (14m41s), who chats about working on his first studio film, apologizing to Eve Arden for "killing her with a fart," being offered Lust in the Dust by Hunter, and the extensive improve on the set. A promotional still gallery (37s) is also included.
Reviewed on August 30, 2020