Shock, M, 85 Mins
This multi-directed mixed-bag of skits and giggles from 1988 (or so) is less rude and crude than driving-force John Landis’ similar Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) and follows a theme-of-sorts, as we’re supposed to believe we’re watching late-night TV and flicking channels through low-budget movies, trashy ads and weird odds-and-sods directed at nerdy insomniacs. However, and of course, not all of them work, and a few are just embarrassing, and yet the ones that do click are surprisingly funny and have survived the test of time in cult circles. In the spirit of the thing, perhaps, you could just fast-forward through and catch them in isolation?
Onetime talk-show host Arsenio Hall appears first up for the scene-setting but only mildly amusing ‘Mondo Condo’, but pretty soon afterwards we’re into ‘Pethouse [sic] Video’, the bit everyone remembers, where soft-core star Monique Gabrielle (an actual ‘Penthouse Pet’, which adds to the joke) talks about the “awesome responsibility” of her role and winds up very naked beyond the studio.
‘Hospital’ is worth a look, with Griffin Dunne (star of Landis’ An American Werewolf In London) in crazy mode alongside Peter Horton (also one of the directors) and his then-missus Michelle Pfeiffer (!), and we also keep coming back to the cheesy ’50 sci-fi epic of the title, the credits of which change often and featuring action highlights that we perpetually miss, and which offers Steve Forrest and Sybil Danning (who frequently appeared in stuff just like this) and the ill-fated Lana Clarkson, who was the actress later murdered by Phil Spector.
Fans also fondly recall ‘Blacks Without Soul’, where B.B. King (!!!) asks us to give generously to this charity and David Alan Grier is a hoot as Don ‘No Soul’ Simmons cringingly singing Joy To The World and Blame It On The Bossa Nova, while Henry Silva pops at times to parody the ‘70s smallscreener In Search Of… with a program called Bullshit Or Not? (but was Jack The Ripper really the Loch Ness Monster?), and Ed Begley Jr. is also in fine, nutty form in Son Of The Invisible Man, which even looks like an old Universal monster saga.
And yet there’s plenty here that doesn’t work (‘Critic’s Corner’ leads to the interminable ‘Roast Your Loved One’) or now looks silly (‘Video Pirates’ – remember those?), although ‘Titan Man’ almost succeeds and offers Ralph Bellamy (from Landis’ Trading Places) alongside Kelly Preston just before she became Mrs. Travolta. And don’t turn off before the credits have finished or you’ll miss ‘Reckless Youth’, a delicious satire of hysterical exploitation movies of the ‘30s and ‘40s like the infamous Reefer Madness, which showcases late lamented cult type Paul Bartel (the guy who gave us Eating Raoul) and the also-late-lamented Carrie Fisher as a naïve Hollywood starlet who has contracted a (leeringly ogle the camera) “social disease!”