Schlock is a legendary film for two reasons. First, it was the directorial debut of John Landis, which would start an extraordinary run of films that would reshape modern comedy over a period of 12 years. Second, it was also the young hotshot makeup artist Rick Baker’s first big credit. Baker would go on to perfect the art in the last few decades with other makeup artists, until he finally retired, because so much of this work is being done via computer now. The film itself is a mixed bag, but it has many low-budget charms.
Like any of Landis’ best films, it uses parody of other movies to great effect. Here it’s mostly monster movies, but Schlock targets plenty of other films, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey. The monster is Schlocktropus, the missing link, and it just causes great havoc around a small California town. The film doesn’t have much of a plot, and often feels like it’s a string of skits with the Schlocktropus as a recurring character. That’s hardly unsurprisingly given that Landis’s next film was the ultimate sketch movie, The Kentucky Fried Movie.
Landis wouldn’t perfect his filmmaking and storytelling until the double whammy of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, which are as good as comedies can get, and both have high replay value. It also includes the first appearance of the fake movie See You Next Wednesday, which appears in most of Landis’s films through various forms: there are two very different fake films with that title in Schlock alone. The title is a reference to a line spoken in 2001: A Space Odyssey by the character Frank Poole.
It’s not great by any means, and Landis himself says so, but at a little under 80 minutes it never outstays its welcome. Baker’s ape suit is great work for a film that was made on a shoestring. There are some rumours that Landis was involved in the famous Patterson–Gimlin Bigfoot film in some fashion, but I don’t buy it (Landis also said it was Planet of The Apes designer John Chambers behind the Patterson-Gimlin film, but that’s something Chambers always publicly denied). He does play a good Schlocktropus in the film, whatever the story may be.
The disc includes commentary from Landis and Baker, a 40-minute interview with Landis, a new appreciation from Kim Newman, an interview with cinematographer Bob Collins, along with various trailers and radio spots. The original pressing has a booklet with new writing by Joe Bob Briggs.