80’s Trash of the Week: Fletch Lives

Fletch was a huge hit; Chevy Chase took the newsman character from Gregory McDonald’s novels and amped up the laughs, and the sequel went even further and became a pure Chevy Chase disguise comedy. As a fan of the books I was cruel to it upon release, but co-worker The Mouth from the South and fellow blogger Dylan both defend this movie, so I wanted to revisit it.

“The spiders is good! They eat up the cockroaches!”

The first movie had lots of laughs, but the thriller plotline and Fletch’s desire to be a good reporter and ferret out injustice remained. The sequel goes more for laughs, and shoehorns in a plot involving toxic waste, which would be an early ’90s staple; in that way, Fletch Lives is again of its time. The story is, Fletch heads South to inherit his aunt’s plantation, tended by groundskeeper Calculus Entropy, played by Cleavon Little. He has a small part but is very memorable, as expected. He’s the real reason I watched this again, but if you watch it as just another Chevy Chase comedy, it’s actually one of his better ones.

Ben Dover

The minute Fletch shows up down South, his lawyer gal gets offed while they sleep and he’s the prime suspect in the eyes of the inept yet corrupt local police, who throw him in a cell with Randall “Tex” Cobb. Most famous for playing the incomparable Leonard Smalls in Raising Arizona, here he’s got eye make-up on and gives the film one of its funnier scenes, as he tries to introduce Fletch to the charming institution of prison rape. He gets to have more fun later as the leader of the biker gang the Nazis from Natchez, where Fletch pretends to be Ed Harley, of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. That scene works well too. Chase is just so ridiculous as an effeminate and nerdy dork walking into a biker bar that I had to laugh.

Ed Harley.

Later the Klan shows up, led by Geoffrey Lewis- Clint’s buddy from the orangutan films- and Fletch cuts eyeholes in a bedsheet to goof on them. Someone wants to drive him away and get his auntie’s land, and that leads him to TV preacher Jimmy Lee Farnsworth, played by R. Lee Ermey with all his bushy-eyebrow glory. Ermey plays the role straight, and we get our laughs from Fletch’s impersonation of Claude Smoot, a buck-toothed faith healer whose specialty is smacking the demons out of your forehead.
Better yet is how Fletch inspects the scene of the murder, by putting on a pompadour and driving his Aunt’s decrepit pink Cadillac as a sort of rockabilly exterminator. When the dumbass deputy follows him in, he tricks him into thinking a skitterbug, which reproduces by masturbation, has gotten into his ear and the only way to get it out is to get on all fours and squeal like a pig. It just wouldn’t be the ’80s if a comedy went South and didn’t goof on the Klan, slavery, Deliverance, the Civil War, evangelists and corrupt lawmen, and this one has its ducks all lined in a row. Set in Louisiana, they pronounce Pontchartrain right, and they eat Zapp’s chips. Not as bad as it could be.
Cutey Julianne Phillips tags along as a lawyer trying to get Fletch to sell the estate to an unknown client, and Hal Holbrook plays the genteel Southern gentleman. The last 15 minutes feel like they were scribbled on a bar napkin; everything gets resolved as quickly as possible. That and Fletch’s silly Song of the South dream sequence at the beginning sour an otherwise enjoyable comedy, which reminded me of just how funny Chevy Chase could be. Nothing against Uncle Remus either, but it just wasn’t funny, and would fit better in a Lampoon flick.

R. Lee Ermey and Julianne Phillips

Okay Blog Cabins and Mouth from the South- you got me. This one is better than I remember, and doesn’t deserve the crap it gets. But I still think Ghostbusters 2 sucked. Apparently they want to reboot the Fletch franchise, so who do you think will get it? Let’s hope it’s not Jim Carrey.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Could it be remade today? It will be…
Quotability Rating: Nice to meet you Ben. Victor Hugo.
Cheese Factor: smothered & covered
High Points: Biker bar scene
Low Point: Ending
Gratuitous Boobies: Victim of the 1989 boobie drought

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80’s Trash of the Week: Surf II

Let’s watch Eric Stoltz, Cleavon Little, Ruth Buzzi, Stork from One Crazy Summer, Holden from Blade Runner and super-nerd Eddie Deezen in a ridiculous beach horror spoof about a nerd who creates Buzzz Cola to turn surfers into vile metalhead zombies! And no, there’s no “Surf 1.”

Surf II is one of those cheapo titty teen flicks like Joy Sticks (full review) and Student Bodies (full review) made for a quick buck. How Eric Stoltz and Cleavon Little ended up here after Blazing Saddles and Fast Times at Ridgemont High is beyond me, but here they are. Little is one of my favorite underappreciated actors, and here he plays Principal Daddy-O, ruling over a class of unruly surfer slobs that he trades “yo mamas!” with, and who race to the beach when he tells them two of their classmates died while surfing. The local radio station is “The Dildo, stickin’ it to ya as always, K-DIL!” and girls love to spontaneous flash their boobs at guys with surfboards on their roofs.

Cleavon, why?

The lead cop is Lyle Waggoner, Major Steve Trevor from “Wonder Woman,” who plays Chief Boyardie. His deputy is Inspector Underwear. Yes, it’s that kind of movie. And here at Pluck You, Too!, we like that kind of movie. There’s a sort of charm to this level of stupidity that oft gets overlooked. There’s nothing clever about it, but the audacity of dope required to make a movie like this and put your name on it, well I respect that. There is actual surfing in this movie, but this is no North Shore (full review); but it does have plenty of its own pluses. For example, Chuck (Stoltz) and his pals, including the fat party dude Johnny Big Head and Jacko- Judge Rheinhold-alike Tom Villard- all hang out at the arcade, so there’s plenty of ’80s video game nostalgia for you.

Johnny Big Head and Eric Stoltz, pre-Mask

Their rivals are some punks from L.A. who wear make-up reminiscent of KISS meets Goth, and can remove Buzzz Cola bottle caps with their eye sockets. They are transformed into zombie cola-guzzling monsters by Menlo the Uber Nerd in his underwater lair, which also mangles any surfers on the waves above it. Menlo is played by Eddie Deezen, probably most famous as the voice of Mandark from “Dexter’s Lab,” has made a career playing gangly whiny nerds in Grease, 1941, Midnight Madness and Wargames. In fact, I distinctly remember him playing a guy in a military uniform whose balls get attacked by a German Shepherd- if you remember that movie, put the name in the comments.
At the beach, the kids play volleyball and girls have this niggling habit of losing their tops. Oh, stuff like that just happened in the ’80s. Heck, when I was 13, I remember waiting in line for the rollercoaster at Great Adventure on a hot day and this chick was fanning her skirt, and not wearing any panties. She was probably inspired by movies like this. The beach is also infested by two Fat Guys- that’s their names in the credits, too- who don’t speak, but are just generally disgusting. When we meet them, they both fart so loudly it tears the backs of their wetsuits open, and we’re treated to a view of hairy ass-crack. If only their antics ended there…

Things begin go awry when Jacko gets a dose of Buzzz Cola and begins acting strangely. His eyes darken, and he begins guzzling motor oil like it’s Kool-Aid. See, this is all part of Menlo’s diabolical plan to ruin the summer surf contest and get his revenge on the surfers. His henchgirl Sparkle, played by Aussie cutie Linda Kerridge, is a nerdgirl that he’s made gorgeous with Science!!! and who does his bidding so she doesn’t revert to her former self.

He gives her blue hair and make-up like Pris in Blade Runner, and soon his monster cola zombies are eating frogs in science class, and eating the film at the movie theater. Jacko’s pals try to lure him back from the slob side, but it ends up turning into a contest of whether he or Johnny Big Head can eat the more disgusting stuff, starting with seaweed and dead fish that washed up on the beach and culminating in the Fatso Twins eating sub sandwiches covered in seagull poop. And farting, of course. It’s like one of the movies Jack Black’s character made in Tropic Thunder.

Sadly, Tom Villard gets little screen time while he’s not a zombie. He was one of the funniest parts of One Crazy Summer (full review) but tragically died of AIDS-related pneumonia in ’94, after performing in a Paulie Shore movie. Not sure which is worse. Lyle Waggoner is quite entertaining as the corny cop, Eric Stoltz is always good and doesn’t try to ape Spicoli, though it would be the perfect movie for it. Cleavon Little steals every scene he’s in as usual, but it’s not much of a victory here. The movie just drags on way too long.

Blue moon… I saw you standing alone… without a dream in my heart…

The gags mostly miss, but they come so fast that some actually hit. A kid glues his feet to his surfboard so he can’t fall off; Cindy Lou and Lindy Sue- the two plain girls with glasses who get passed over by Chuck & Jacko for busty beach babes, are constantly working a “I must increase my bust” exerciser or calling the cops when the boys are smoking weed with random bimbos. On the other hand, we’re subjected to frog races in science class put to “Chariots of Fire,” and guys eating birdshit sandwiches. Johnny Big Head jumping around like The Hulk, and the finale where Menlo reveals why he wants revenge- because he was spiked with a sex change drug- are just funny enough to make this turd watchable.

“You know what it’s like being the only guy on the beach with tits? It’s miserable!”

It does have a good ’80s soundtrack going for it, with Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded me with Science,” Talk Talk, Oingo Boingo, the Stray Cats, the Circle Jerks, plus surf music from the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, and the Nightriders. Apparently it was released, and it would be a fine score on vinyl, and probably would cost more than it’s worth. Sometimes you need a trip down memory lane to remind you that the good old days weren’t that great, and Surf II will remind you that everything looks better in the rear view mirror.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 3
Could it be remade today? not a chance in Hell
Quotability Rating: zero
Cheese Factor: fondue-riffic
High Points: Cleavon & Lyle
Low Point: Birdshit eating & hairy ass cracks
Gratuitous Boobies: Lost count!

All 68 entries in our ongoing series of 80’s Trash of the Week are here.

And your daily dose of healthy breasts are after the cut:

Hurray for boobies!
The girls respond to the mooning.

Fatboy gets knocked out by knockers.

The Arnold Project #12: Scavenger Hunt

After It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, ensemble road comedies became all the rage, but few if any captured the same magic. Scavenger Hunt is not one of them, but it manages to collect some of the best comic actors of the time and thus keeps a low buzz of enjoyment throughout. It’s a long way in before Arnold shows up as a gym instructor named Lars, and it’s a big step backward from his role in Stay Hungry– he just has a cameo, really, dragging Tony Randall into a fitness regimen when he just wants to steal a medicine ball.
Board game creator Mr. Parker (of Bros. fame) croaks one day while playing games with his sexy nurse, and wills his inheritance to the heirs who complete his challenge- a scavenger hunt! They have to solve the clues and collect the proper “treasures,” as the game goes. Vincent Price is the croaker- he dies playing an analog version of Frogger- and his heirs include:
His servants, with Cleavon Little as the chauffeur, James Coco as the chef, and of course a ditzy French maid and Roddy MacDowall as an effete Brit butler;
Tony Randall with geeky glasses and a gaggle of kids;

Two guys (including Dirk Benedict, “Face” from the A-Team) and their shag van, with an earnestly mourning gal in tow;

His mercenary sister (Cloris Leachman), her idiot son, and Richard Benjamin as her sleazy lawyer; they’re the bad guys if you can’t figure it out;

and Richard Mulligan of “Soap” fame as Dummitz the dopey cab driver.
They get their list and hit the road in Cadillacs, vans, cabs and convertibles, stealing everything from toilets to Jack in the Box heads, Rolls Royce grilles, beehives and carnival prizes. If Tony Randall annoyed you on “The Odd Couple,” you’ll be delighted to watch him try to snatch a beehive. This is the kind of movie where Richard Benjamin steals an old Indian’s dentures, and he shoots arrows at their Cadillac, and tracks them with a tomahawk the whole time.
Cameos are the bread and butter of these films, and that’s where Arnie comes in- along with Ruth Gordon, Scatman Crothers, Steven “Flounder” Furst, and Meat Loaf! The film is elevated by Cleavon Little, best known as Bart from Blazing Saddles, who always brought class to everything he did. It helps that this was directed by Michael Schultz, one of the most prolific black directors, who also brought us The Last Dragon (full review), Car Wash, Cooley High, Krush Groove and that insane Beatles cover musical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I can watch Scatman Crothers and Ruth Gordon in anything. Here they have a lot of fun, as a security guard who catches Dummitz in a bridal gown, and a saucy old gal with an arsenal full of weapons. Meat Loaf plays Scum, leader of a biker gang. The movie is actually pretty good, and I forgot I was watching for Arnold! Some of the humor is inspired, like when Cleavon & co. get trapped in a school, and try to set off the sprinkler- but the sprinkler catches on fire!
The ending is a bit weak, but all movies of this kind suffer once all the heirs or challengers come together. Mad Mad World topped it all with a crazy scene on a fire truck ladder where all the greedy goofballs got their comeuppance, but Scavenger Hunt opts for a lesson about sharing. It sort of fizzles out, but it’s satisfying to see the good guys win, even if they were thieves too.

Rating: You should not drink… and bake!
(low Arnold content, but otherwise an entertaining bit of ’70s nostalgia)

View all the entries in The Arnold Project

Currently only available on VHS or through questionable means
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