Color, 1973, 79 mins. 4 secs.
Directed by John Landis
Starring John Landis, Emil Hamatay, Eric Allison, Saul Kahan, Eliza Garrett, Joseph Piantadosi, Richard Gillis, Tom Alvich, Walter Levine
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), Turbine (Blu-ray) (Germany R0 HD), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

A Schlock12-day wonder shot in L.A. Schlockby a group of creature feature-addicted youths, Schlock is one of those tiny productions that wound up having ripple effects for decades to come. Its first-time director and star, who funded half of the production from his own savings, was John Landis, an enthusiastic 21-year-old movie buff who had been working gigs on productions like Kelly's Heroes and Once Upon a Time in the West. Though this film barely received any attention upon its initial release, it managed to have a long life through various reissues (including one under the title The Banana Monster) after Landis struck it big with one of the best horror films of the 1980s, An American Werewolf in London, and a string of hit comedies that frequently referenced Schlock, most obviously Kentucky Fried Movie and Trading Places. On top of that the gorilla suit worn by Landis was an early creation by Rick Baker, a disciple of the legendary Dick Smith and a future collaborator on many Landis films including American Werewolf, the first winner in the Oscar's regular Makeup category (with many more awards to come).

In a quiet California suburb, some "ghastly thing" is preying on the local population and leaving banana peels at the scene of the crime. Ascot-loving reporter Joe Putzman (Allison) is covering the mayhem and trying to get to the bottom of the mystery along with scientist Shirley Slivowitz (Hamaty) and Detective Sergeant Wino (Kahan), while the locals end Schlockup Schlockbumping into "the banana killer." As it turns out the culprit is actually the Schlockthropus, a prehistoric ape who scopes out the neighborhood and falls hard for a blind girl named Mindy (Garrett). How long can Schlock survive in this wild new environment before the military decides to step in?

Complete with nods to everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to King Kong to Robot Monster and Trog (as well as the first appearance of Landis's ongoing See You Next Wednesday gag), Schlock is a shaggy grab bag of jokes that's so endearing you won't care when a gag or two don't quite land. It will probably look like an alien broadcast to younger viewers who didn't grow up watching people in monster suits on TV or in theaters, but as a snapshot of a certain Famous Monsters-loving mindset, this is a tough one to beat. Nowhere is that more evident than the movie theater sequence in which our title character discovers the joys of a concession stand, takes in a screening of The Blob, and quickly discovers the joys and pains of being an audience member. Baker's work is the real star here with a suit that still holds up with the best of them, and surprisingly, Landis proves to be a winning physical performer, imbuing the creation with a lot of personality and a bit of a counterculture spin.

SchlockSchlock made its DVD debut in 2001 from Anchor Bay, complete with a good widescreen transfer and a fantastic audio commentary Schlockwith Landis and Baker riffing on the film's distribution (Landis managed to keep the rights at great expense), the various friends and family members wandering around, the movie in-jokes, the attempts to hire John Chambers and Don Post for the film, the visual trickery that turned Laurel Canyon into a cave, and plenty more. Also included are a trailer and TV spots. After that it was a long wait for Schlock to return with that DVD soon fetching insane amounts of money, and in early 2018 it popped up on Blu-ray in Germany from Turbine with a gorgeous new 4K-restored transfer from the original camera negative, the Landis/Baker commentary, three U.S. trailers (one as Banana Monster), two German trailers, a Trailers from Hell version, radio spots, a Landis intro, and most significantly, a new Landis interview, "Birth of a Schlock" (41m27s). Essentially a thumbnail account of what's in the commentary with another 17 years of hindsight, it's a lighthearted account of how he channeled limited funds and some genre connections to create this goofball farce. It also opens up with a sweet account of how he fell in love with movies thanks to 7th Voyage of Sinbad and became a rabid consumer of everything from art films to exploitation (including shout outs to Spirits of the Dead and Mark of the Devil!). That edition comes as a combo mediabook with a DVD that also throws in a German-only video commentary using the multi-angle option.

SchlockLater in 2018 (timed for Halloween), Arrow Video brought Landis' fur-covered debut back to the U.S. and to the U.K. as well with an Schlockeven more elaborate special edition. Again featuring that fantastic restoration and looking like, well, almost a million bucks, the disc is a real treat for monster movie fans with the movie looking as fresh as the day it came out of the lab. The LPCM English mono audio is also in prime shape, with optional English SDH subtitles included. The audio commentary, three trailers, radio spots, and "Birth of a Schlock" are all carried over here, while the new "Schlock Defrosted" (17m51s) features Kim Newman putting the film in context as an early entry in the '70s generation of horror-loving filmmakers (also including the likes of Joe Dante) and a cousin of sorts to films like Equinox, also released by Jack H. Harris, by way of the sensibilities of MAD Magazine. The archival "I Shot Schlock" (7m34s) with cinematographer Bob Collins profiles the award-winning future lenser of numerous films and TV programs as he recalls his start in the industry and the strange experience of working with a director wearing an ape suit. Featuring the reversible sleeve with both the poster art and a new design by Graham Humphreys, the disc also contains (in its first pressing only) an insert booklet with new liner notes by the one and only Joe Bob Briggs.

Reviewed on October 7, 2018.