Blu-ray Review: Schlock

You often hear stories about scripts that bounced around Hollywood for ten years or more before getting made into a film. But what about a bonus feature that takes 17 years to be a part of its movie? I never believed that was real until it happened to me. Luckily the story of the lost bonus feature ends with the Blu-ray release of John Landis’ Schlock.

Around the year 2000, I was working at the North Carolina School of the Arts in the massive film archive. The school had a few instructors with decent credits. I was taught how to use a camera from the director of photography on Disco Godfather. But one day Bob Collins showed up and I found myself in complete awe of his career. He won an Emmy for shooting the pilot of Miami Vice. Collins set the tone for the show that revolutionized how cop shows would be shot for decades. He worked on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. I was in completely starstruck as he talked about sitting in the Monkeemobile shooting the Monkees on tour episode. I was thrilled he was on staff. I’d ask him about working on Octopussy during my breaks. One day he asked me if I could hunt down a copy of a film he made with John Landis called Schlock. I could have searched on eBay, but smartly I used the hunt as an excuse to call up John Landis. Instead of just speaking with his secretary, I found myself talking to the director of Animal House and The Blues Brothers. He could send me out a tape, but he told me about a program the Oscars runs that pays to send their members to visit film programs. A few weeks later, John Landis dropped by my office with a VHS tape, reviewed the student projects and enjoyed a retrospective of his films on our big screens. It was a grand time.

The VHS tape of Schlock he provided turned out to be from Troma when it was called The Banana Monster. He mentioned that Anchor Bay was in the process of making a DVD. He suggested we make a bonus feature about Bob Collins to include on the disc. I called up Anchor Bay and spoke with William Lustig (the director of Maniac). He said they’d consider it. I recruited my classmate Brett Clark and begged Collins for a time when he could sit down and talk about working with a young director that wore an ape suit for the shoot. We sat down for a fun chat that including him telling us an Orson Welles story involving terracotta tile installation. Brett did a fine job editing the piece together and we used footage from the Troma tape to illustrate Bob’s tales of the shoot. We sent the tape to John Landis to get his approval. This went weird since John swore Bob was wrong about certain details including who played the dead body on the playground. Since John was back in Los Angeles, we had fun superimposing John’s reactions to what Bob said. I had never seen a bonus feature that dared to question his subject. We packed our VHS tape up nicely and sent it out to Anchor Bay We waited to hear back as to what we’d need to provide for final delivery. We had dreams that this could lead to a career of making bonus features for DVDs.

This led a few months of silence. Maybe we did it right on the first try? One afternoon while browsing at Borders bookstore, I got into a chat with the clerk and mentioned the DVD. He told me the disc for Schlock had just arrived. He handed it to me. I looked at the back cover. There among the list of bonus features was not our piece on Bob Collins. I put it back on the shelf and headed home. I called Lustig and asked was there a problem with our bonus feature. He said he liked our interview with Bob, but the footage we used from the Banana Monster tape just didn’t look as good as their new transfer so they had to pass. I hung up and felt crushed for days. I didn’t even buy the DVD.

Landis had told us on his visit that with the death of laserdiscs, studios were going to stop creating bonus features for DVDs. It felt like we had completely missed the boat.

For years the bonus feature just sat on a VHS tape in my house. After Bob died in 2008, I found out that Brett had put the short on Youtube. But what good is a bonus feature if it isn’t with the movie?

Back in March I stumbled across an article that Turbine Media Group in Germany was coming out with a Blu-ray of Schlock. I immediately wrote the company asking if they’d be interested in our bonus feature and sent the link. The response was fast. They did want it. They only had two issues. They had no money to pay for it and it was the last day of production for the master so we’d have to be an Easter egg. We didn’t want any money for the piece. It was all about getting Bob in the right spot. We wanted Bob’s memories to rest in the proper place. All though we did ask for finished copies. When they showed up from overseas, it was a thrill. Turbine Media had included a note on the back of the box that Bob was hidden away as an Easter Egg so it wasn’t a complete surprise.

Holding the imported Blu-ray, there was a moment of joy. It’s like when you scatter a loved one’s ashes in their special space. We had finally completed the promise made when Bob sat down with us all those years before. And while the disc was only released in Germany, it felt good to me too since I had spent my childhood on US Army bases in West Germany. My voice was once more back in Darmstadt if someone from Darmstadt had bought the Blu-ray and found the Easter egg. But it turns out this story wasn’t over.

Arrow Video teased their October disc announcement with a picture of a monkey. The big guess was they would put out 13 Monkeys. But they went completely ape and included their own version of Schlock too. I contacted Arrow and found out that they would be using our bonus feature. Since we weren’t last minute, we’d even be visible on the bonus feature list! This feels good that anyone who worked with Bob or studied under him can get a chance to finally hear his tales and see his work on John Landis’ film. Nearly two decades later, our bonus feature is a bonus feature.

What about the film? The movie is still funny with the tale of a missing link creature terrorizing a Southern California town. The ape-like creature is tearing apart the citizens and eating all their bananas. Scientists determine it is a Schlockthropus or Schlock that has risen from a lost cave. So much of John Landis’ style of comedy is getting worked out out in the film that would evolve into Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House and The Blues Brothers. This is the birth of the “See You Next Wednesday” joke. The movie mixes his ability to do the goofiest jokes with extreme physical humor. During a live TV broadcast, the reporter speaks of how many of the ripped off body parts are being placed in bags. He follows this up by announcing a station contest to guess the number of bags. It’s a fine send up of Trog starring Joan Crawford and more entertaining. This was one of special effects wizard Rick Baker’s first major gigs and he makes the film seem as expensive as Trog.

Schlock is a fine flick for people who enjoy a goofy night of terror.

Video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer looks sharp as you see the nasty actions and the detail of Rick Baker’s work. The audio is DTS-HD Mono. The levels are really good for a low budget film. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary with John Landis and Rick Baker is from the Anchor Bay DVD. The fun opens when Rick points out that Landis still owes him for the film. Landis mentions how he eventually got the rights back to the film from the distributors.

Schlock Defrosted (17:51) interviews author Kim Newman talks about how it was part of the revolution of filmmakers who were influenced by Famous Monsters of Filmland and Shock Theater.

Birth of Schlock (41:27) sits down with John Landis in what appears to be a hotel lobby. Landis talks about how the first movie that had an impact on him was the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. He saw as many films as he could as a kid to get a sense of what it takes to be a director. He misses the days when you could see a film without having a clue about it. He’d go to triple features. This was made by Turbine Media for the German Blu-ray.

I Shot Schlock! (7:34) is an “archival” interview with Bob Collins. He talks about how he got involved with John Landis. This seems to be the only bonus feature that includes behind the scenes photos. If you watch only one bonus feature in your life, let it be “I Shot Schlock!” I’ll be extremely grateful.

Trailers from 1972, 1979 and 1982 when it was renamed “Banana Monster.” Remember that this was before home video so the distributor was eager to get back into theaters as John Landis was on his hot streak. The 1982 trailer is the only one to point out Landis directed Animal House. It is funny when they cut into “Banana Monster” title card.

Radio Spots (2:19) wants to get you off the road and into the theater to see the primal weirdness.

Arrow Video presents Schlock. Directed by Franc Roddam. Screenplay by: Lloyd Fonvielle. Starring: John Landis, Saul Kahan, Joseph Piantadosi & Bob Collins. Rated: Rated PG. Running Time: 79 minutes. Released: October 16, 2018.

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