• Schlock (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: October 16th, 2018.
    Director: John Landis
    Cast: John Landis, Eric Allison, Saul Kahan, Susan Weiser, Emile Hamaty
    Year: 1973
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    Schlock – Movie Review:

    John Landis’ 1973 feature-length directorial debut film was…. Schlock! It’s a goofy, low budget throwback to the monster movies that so clearly had an effect on Landis as a kid and it serves as both a peek at things to come in his career and a love letter of sorts to his influences. The end result? A whole lot of fun.

    When the movie begins, local newscaster Joe Putzman (Eric Allison) telling the viewers at home about ‘the banana killer’ that has been active in the small town where all of this takes place. The news camera surveys the latest carnage – a bunch of bodies strewn about with banana peels all over the place. Shortly after that he interviews noted scientist Professor Shlibovitz (Emile Hamaty as E.G. Harty) who puts for the theory that the banana monster is in fact a Schlock, a prehistoric apeman who has been preserved for years and is now running amuck.

    As luck would have it, Shlibovitz is right, much to the dismay of Detective Sgt. Wino (Saul Kahan), the top cop on the case trying to keep the town safe. As he and the rest of the boys in blue do what they can to catch the creature, the Schlock (played by Landis himself in a monkey suit designed by none other than Rick Baker) falls for a beautiful blind girl who mistakes him for a dog named Willie! When she finds out the truth about the beast, he goes on a rampage, stops in to catch a screening of The Blob, and then goes back on a rampage again. Can anything stop Schlock?!?!??

    Schlock is never less than completely ridiculous and never less than completely entertaining. Played very much with a wink and a nod to the camera pretty much at all times, the movie is a complete blast thanks primarily to the monster himself. This guy does it all – he gives TV interviews, he plays piano, he tosses cops over buildings, he stomps on his opponents and he even cops a feel! Landis is clearly having a blast under the faux-fur and rubber mask, performing the role with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and making the movie all the better for it. At the same time, it also works really well as a tribute to the creature features that clearly inspired it in the first place. Obviously, we get nods to King Kong and The Blob but there are also references to Frankenstein in here and 2001: A Space Odyssey as well. The sight gags are fairly constant, though the first half of the movie is more heavily populated with humor than the last, and the picture moves at a good pace.

    Clearly the film was made for little money. Even in 1971 (which is when it was shot), $60,000 wasn’t a lot of money for a feature film. But the energy and the creativity on display make this work, and credit where it’s due, that monkey suit is really nicely done (it’s no surprise that Baker went on to become one of the best in the effects business). This isn’t Landis’ best movie, nor his funniest, but for a first effort it’s pretty damned entertaining. It’s eighty-minutes of top-notch nonsense!

    Schlock – Blu-ray Review:

    Schlock looks fantastic on Blu-ray on a 50GB region free disc framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in a transfer that seems to basically mirror the Turbine Media Blu-ray release that came out earlier this year (although to be fair, the Arrow transfer gets 24+ GBs of space while the Turbine disc gives the feature just over 23GBs of space). Detail is excellent and the source material used for the transfer in great shape. There’s very little print damage here to discuss while the image retains a naturally grainy look to it. Color reproduction is excellent and black levels are nice and deep. There’s nice depth and texture throughout and the image is free of any digital manipulation like noise reduction, edge enhancement or artificial sharpening. The feature is given a strong bit rate to keep compression artifacts out of the equation and all in all, the picture quality here is quite strong. This is a substantial upgrade over the previous Anchor Bay DVD release (which looked quite good in its own right for the time).

    The English language LPCM Mono track is also fine. While range is, understandably, a bit limited the dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable throughout the feature. There are no audible problems with any hiss or distortion, the track is quite clean. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring John Landis and Rick Baker, in English with German subtitles, taken from the old DVD release. They talk quite candidly about making the film together back in 1973, about what it was like working on a miniscule budget, how and why various participants were cast in the film, and of course, the importance of the gorilla suit to the picture. It’s a fun track that’s delivered with a good sense of humor, quite easy to listen to and also genuinely interesting.

    New to this release is an interview with Kim Newman entitled Schlock Defrosted. Here Newman speaks for eighteen-minutes about Landis’ feature, what makes it stand out, how it was part of a ‘generation’ of monster movie fans coming into their own as filmmakers, the obvious influences (and less than obvious influences) that work their way into Landis’ picture, and some of the films that came from this group in Schlock’s wake. He also talks about the importance of MAD Magazine on these pictures and the genre spoofs that came from this group (Airplane is cited as an obvious example), the enduring appeal of monster movies, Rick Baker’s contributions to Schlock, the depiction of the police and other authorities in the picture and more. As is typical of Newman’s featurettes, he comes across as both informed and likeable, presenting both information and opinion with wit and humor. Good stuff.

    I Shot Schlock! is an archival video interview with cinematographer Bob Collins that chimes in at just under eight-minutes in length. We learn how he earned various awards for cinematography throughout his career after getting an early gig doing Schlock (where he also played a bartender), what it was like working with Landis (who he describes as a ‘kid’ with a ‘lot of spunk and a lot of energy’) and how he was one of the more experienced crew members on the production. He then talks about how lucky Landis was to get the producers that he had on this project, working on the beginning of Kentucky Fried Morning, the makeup that was required on Schlock and quite a bit more and how weird it was taking direction from a man in a full-sized monkey suit.

    Up next, and carried over from that Turbine Media disc, is a forty-one-minute featurette entitled Birth Of A Schlock that is essentially a comprehensive interview with Landis. He covers some of the same ground here as he does on the commentary track but it’s still worthwhile to check this out as he also covers some additional ground. The piece is well-shot and edited and a nice companion to the commentary.

    Rounding out the extras is a 1972 trailer for the feature, a 1979 trailer for the feature, a Banana Monster reissue trailer, a few radio spots, animated menus and chapter selection.

    Schlock - The Final Word:

    Schlock is a kick and the Blu-ray release from Arrow Video is a great way to appreciate it all over again. The presentation is gorgeous and the disc itself is stacked with extras. The movie itself remains a genuinely fun tribute to the B-movies that came before it – recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Schlock Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Toyboy's Avatar
      Toyboy -
      That chocolate cake looks really good.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Toyboy loves his cakes.
    1. paul h.'s Avatar
      paul h. -
      sweet and grainy!