From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Recently, there’s been a surprise return for one of our favorite movie monsters: King Kong. It’s like he has to come back every ten years or so. First there was Toho’s version of King Kong (technically it’s King Kong Vs. Godzilla) back in 60’s. In 1976 Dino De Laurentiis brought us his King Kong (which I haven’t seen in 13-14 years, but I remember it’s okay). Then after a short storm of Kongsploitation in the late 70’s with films like A*P*E and Mighty Peking Man, it returned again in the 80’s with King Kong Lives. Unfortunately, King Kong Lives was heavily panned and if you want to know what critics thought about it, find the Siskel & Ebert review of it on YouTube. After Peter Jackson made another King Kong movie in 2005, nobody thought it could make a comeback since it seems dated for the younger generation and the latest Hollywood trend was either superhero films or remakes of well-known flicks. Luckily, Kong: Skull Island proved to us that Kong could indeed rise again at the box office.
So what am I doing here? Well, there’s another Kong that seems to be forgotten. To be honest, it’s not THAT kind of a Kong you’re familiar with, but at least the tagline says “A Love Stranger Than King Kong”. That's right, this is Schlock, the first film from the famous director John Landis (The Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, The Blues Brothers). This one is not only a comedy, but also a spoof/tribute to other films as well.
The plot is straight-forward and simple. A pre-historic apeman called Schlock (John Landis) who has been frozen for 20 million years is alive again and going on a rampage across a small town in Southern California. He kills people, eats bananas and creates chaos everywhere. One day, he meets a blind girl and falls in love with her. Unfortunately, she thinks Schlock is just a dog. She tries to get away from him after her eyes start working again while Schlock tries to find her.
That’s 90% of the plot! The rest is a series of sketches about how the citizens in the town react to ol Schlock. This is also the highlight of the film since it doesn’t focus on dialogue or the plot, but on the peoples' reactions. Now if you think this is going to be 78 minutes of people running around screaming, you may be wrong. What makes this film so unique is that it’s completely unpredictable. We have no idea how Schlock or someone in the town will react to each other. Sometimes the people think he’s human or they stand still or have some ridiculous interaction with him.
Here are my favorite scenes that sum up Schlock...
While the people are watching the police and scientists investigate the scene of a crime, Schlock sneaks behind the crowd and watches it as well. One of the people stares at him but instead of running away, says “Why don’t you get a haircut? Why don’t you get a job?”. The police chief sees Schlock in front of him but he doesn’t look scared at all and tries to handcuff him while reading his Miranda rights. Unfortunately, our Schlock breaks the handcuffs so the police chief blows a whistle. It doesn’t work well. Finally, he uses the same “Look! What’s that?” trick that we know from Marty McFly (Back to The Future) in order to escape.
Schlock then walks into the local school’s baseball field. Every kid runs away from him except the one at bat. This brave kid who’s still standing there “fights” Schlock by doing a raspberry. Schlock gets pissed off, breaks the boy’s bat and roars. How does the kid react? Another raspberry! This goes on for a while until Schlock gets sick of it and throws him into someone’s swimming pool. After that, Schlock makes a raspberry face! It’s so weird and over-the-top. This is my favorite scene from the movie.
So that’s how people react to Schlock, but how does Schlock behave with them? Well, it ranges from him being very violent to extremely friendly. One minute he can throw random citizens around, but then he'll eat cake with some kids or go see a movie! One of my favorite reactions is when a car almost hits him. He tears the car’s door off, rips a seat apart, grabs the driver out of the car and then wrecks the car! It’s so funny because the driver just sits in his seat and does nothing. It reminded me of old silent movies.
This film also pays homage to B-movies of the 50’s & 60’s. It features many cliches in monster films from that period, from teenage parties to an army that hunts down the monster. Most of them are elements that we love from this kind of movie. If you are still not sure about it, the film features 5 minutes of highlights from The Blob! It's either because John Landis loves the film or the fact that it shares the same producer (Jack H. Harris, who recently passed away). It fits the tone of the film perfectly. Moreover, it has many references to well-known films too such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (there’s a parody of the famous bone smashing scene here) and the original King Kong. Pay attention to the final scene, it reminded me a lot of the climactic scene in the classic Kong.
Overall, Schlock is a standout cult film due to its weirdness and a kind of comedy that’s rarely seen nowadays. I can’t even explain most of it since it has to be seen to be believed. Highly recommended.
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.