Tag Archives: John Landis

The Set of 400: #62 – My Favorite Dead-End Alley Parade

Today! Because as of this moment, they’re on double secret probation –

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

Directed by John Landis (x4)

Starring Tim Matheson (x2), Peter Riegert, John Belushi (x3), Tom Hulce (x2), Stephen Furst (x2), Mark Metcalf, John Vernon, Martha Smith, Karen Allen (x4), Bruce McGill, Donald Sutherland (x6), Verna Bloom, Mary Louise Weller, James Daughton, Doug Kenney, James Widdoes, Sarah Holcomb, Otis Day, Kevin Bacon (x5)

I think I liked the idea of Animal House more than the movie for a long time. Figure, I first saw this as a fairly young kid, and – as has been the case with many comedies of that time and before – I saw the severely edited television version almost exclusively for years. So while I loved the early Saturday Night Live from a pretty young age, I didn’t really get the appeal of Animal House. Come on, even edited to death it doesn’t have much resonance with a very young crowd, let’s face it. I was still watching lots of Police Academy and Look Who’s Talking – kid’s comedies masquerading as adult comedies. Animal House can’t possibly connect until you’re at least approaching high school, right?

Nonetheless, one of the first cassette tapes I remember owning was the Animal House soundtrack, which is a bunch of ’50s and ’60s songs plus that wacky “Animal House” theme, and I listened to it constantly. Sam Cooke’s “What a Wonderful World,” Paul and Paula, “Shama Lama Ding Dong” – I don’t know, even as a kid I was into old music, I guess. Why I would’ve gotten it in the first place, though, I can’t say, because again, it’s not like I watched the movie all that much. The same goes for The Blues Brothers – for the longest time, I considered myself a fan, and would’ve said so to my dumb grade school pals, but I didn’t actually see the film that often.

Hell yeah, cassette-heads!

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The Set of 400: #111 – My Favorite William Tell Overture (Chicken Rendition)

Today! Because you share a love so big, I now pronounce you Frog and Pig –

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Directed by Frank Oz (x2)

Starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz (x6), Dave Goelz (x4), Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson (x4), Steve Whitmire (x4), Juliana Donald, Lonny Price, Louis Zorich (x3), Art Carney (x2), Dabney Coleman (x2), Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers (x2), Linda Lavin, Gregory Hines (x2), James Coco (x4), John Landis, Karen Prell (x2), Brooke Shields, Frances Bergen, Ed Koch, Gates McFadden

The first Muppet film I saw in theaters – Time tunnel shoutout to four-and-a-half-year-old Joe! – The Muppets Take Manhattan was also the last big screen adventure for Kermit and the gang until 1992, and the last time they would appear as their established characters in film for 15 years. This is also probably the Muppet film I’ve seen the most – it being the newest one when I was a kid and it feeling very much of the ’80s gave it the slight edge over the two earlier films.

I never think of the first three Muppet films as a trilogy, even though I guess in some ways they are. I mean, plot-wise, they aren’t connected whatsoever – but they are still the same characters performed by the same people, doing very similar stuff. I mean, the Toy Storys build on each other a little bit, but they are all pretty separate adventures, too, and that’s definitely a trilogy. The first Muppet outing was an origin story, the second is the standalone journalism/heist caper, and this one sees them graduate from college and try to put on a Broadway show. That, in a lot of ways, feels like one complete tale. Hell, Kermit and Piggy get (sorta) married in the end! That’s a capper to the journey! Plus, Jim Henson lived another six years and didn’t get another film together – that tells me they wanted these to stand together as a trilogy. You know what? From now on, this is the first Muppet trilogy! Christmas Carol, Treasure Island, and weirdly From Space function as the second, very loosely cobbled together Gonzo-led trilogy, and we’re still one movie short of a third modern trilogy. Get it together, Disney!

This old Jerry Juhl/Frank Oz script is allegedly great and ready to go, Disney

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The Set of 400: #146 – My Favorite Hidey Hidey Hidey Ho

Today! Because they don’t have my address. I falsified my renewal, I put down 1060 West Addison –

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Directed by John Landis (x3)

Starring John Belushi (x2), Dan Aykroyd (x5), Carrie Fisher (x5), James Brown (x2), Aretha Franklin, Steve Cropper, Donald Dunn, Matt Murphy, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, John Candy (x8), Henry Gibson (x4), Lou Marini, Willie Hall, Kathleen Freeman (x3), Frank Oz (x5), Twiggy, Charles Napier (x3), Steve Lawrence, Steven Williams (x2), John Lee Hooker, Pinetop Perkins, Steven Spielberg, Alan Rubin, Tom Malone, Murphy Dunne

One night while still living in Scranton, with then-girlfriend Sarah’s brother and his then-girlfriend visiting, we all became gripped with the idea that we needed to acquire a copy of The Blues Brothers, immediately. As I’ve written somewhere before, I have something like 1800 movies on DVD, so not having The Blues Brothers was simply insane and unacceptable and needed to be remedied post haste. So we loaded into this Oldsmobile Achieva I was driving at the time and went to the only place still open at this late hour that might possibly sell a copy of the SNL classic – Wal-Mart. You’d be right to warn against the sorts potentially encountered at late night Wal-Mart, but that evening, I think those deviant sorts were us. We were rolling frozen concentrated orange juice down the aisles and causing general mayhem – and I’m honestly not sure if they even had The Blues Brothers. We ended up with a copy eventually, but I’m not sure if it was that night.

(Incidentally, this was also the night the gas pedal on the Achieva somehow got stuck down, and for a few seconds I was convinced we were going to die. There are some indications that we possibly did all fly into a coma that night, and that everything that has happened since has been some crazed dream, what with all the Red Sox World Series championships and the current occupant of the White House. Shit, is he still president in February of 2020?! This was like the summer of 2004, I think, so maybe brain-damaged induced fantasy would’ve run out of logic, chronologically and otherwise, by this point.)

Like, this really happened, didn’t it?

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The Set of 400: #218 – My Favorite Feel-Around Theater

Today! Because I’m not wearing any pants – film at 11 –

The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

Directed by John Landis (x2)

Starring Donald Sutherland (x5), Henry Gibson (x2), Bill Bixby, George Lazenby, Victoria Carroll, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Barry Dennen, Marilyn Joi, Tony Dow, Manny Perry, Stephen Stucker, Michael McManus (x2)

The earliest of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker films – albeit one they didn’t direct, The Kentucky Fried Movie, just by the nature of the film, is hugely hit and miss. Instead of wrapping sight gags and shocking jokes around a plot – like Airplane!, Top Secret!, or Police Squad! – they got their start with an 83-minute bundle of movie and commercial parodies, surrounding the main feature concept “A Fistful of Yen,” which is the one bit that goes on far too long and delivers the lowest payoff.

But The Kentucky Fried Movie is more funny than not across its run time, and has always tickled me. I’ll admit – I’ve still never seen The Groove Tube, often credited with creating this feature length concept of a collection of sketches, so for me, KFM has always been the gold standard. From the wacky newscaster teasing the nightly broadcast – “Rams plagued by fumbles as earthquakes rock Los Angeles. Film at eleven.” – to the thrilling features of Samuel L. Bronkowitz – “If you were thrilled by The Towering Inferno, if you were terrified by Earthquake, Then you will be SCARED SHITLESS at the Samuel L. Bronkowitz production of That’s Armageddon!” – I’ve always really liked most of this movie, which I know is a weird endorsement.

The mark of quality!

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The Set of 400: #331 – My Favorite Punchable Child Character

Today! Because he’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of the national debt –

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Directed by Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg

Starring Dan Aykroyd (x2), Albert Brooks (x2), Vic Morrow, John Larroquette (x2), Steven Williams, Scatman Crothers, Selma Diamond, Bill Quinn, Murray Matheson, Kathleen Quinlan, Dick Miller, John Lithgow, Donna Dixon, Burgess Meredith (x3), Abbe Lane, Bill Mumy, Nancy Cartwright, William Schallert, Patricia Barry, Kevin McCarthy, Jeremy Licht, Priscilla Pointer, Martin Garner, Helen Shaw, Charles Hallahan, Doug McGrath

A wildly uneven movie, which is to be expected considering the basis, the highs in Twilight Zone are pretty damn high, while the lows are only mediocre – this is a wall-to-wall watchable movie, even if on paper it seems like it shouldn’t have worked at all. Bringing in the high profile quartet of directors was certainly a good first step – with the only one I tend to skip being Dante’s “It’s a Good Life.” I don’t know, it’s not an episode I particularly enjoy either, so I’m not blaming the way they execute it, I’m just not a huge fan of that asshole kid. It’s pretty meh.

But the other three – pretty solid. The only original story of the group – the Landis directed “Time Out” is a bit heavy-handed, but effectively lead by Vic Morrow (famously killed on the set of this film, requiring a different ending to be concocted). Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” is schmaltzy, but has always been my favorite segment, with its sadly sentimental senior citizens getting one night to be young again. But clearly they saved the stand-out sequence for the finale, as George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” surpasses the episode it’s based on (the best episode they chose to adapt, too) and gets a dynamite performance from Lithgow as the tortured passenger, seeing a monster on the wing of the plane.

Lithgow is largely not doing well

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