Movie fans know well the name of John Landis. From the seventies to the nineties he made some of the funniest films ever created. While we all may recognize movies like ANIMAL HOUSE, THE BLUES BROTHERS, TRADING PLACES and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, few know the very first movie Landis made when trying to break into the business. That film was available in some truly bad releases on disc and to my knowledge never on blu-ray. That's all about to change.
Back in 1971 a young Landis, discouraged by the Director's Guild, went to see a bad movie called TROG. Thinking he could make a similar movie but better that's what he set out to do. Two years later the film was done, he found a distributor and SCHLOCK! was unleashed on the world.
The movie opens to a town filled with dead citizens and a trail of banana peels. It's the work of the dreaded "banana killer". Tracking clues the police find...nothing. The local on the spot newsman reports from the scene ending his piece by telling folks to stay tuned for today's afternoon movie "See You Next Wednesday".
Local teens walk the area where the banana killer was last seen before heading to the local dance that night. They discover a cave and search it only to confront the banana killer, an ape of some sort. Two escape with their lives and bring back the police as well as a local professor who hypothesizes that this isn't the work of a killer but the missing link that's been sought for centuries, the schlockthropolus.
I could provide more of the plot but that's pretty much all you need to know. Yes this movie is a spoof of all of those long gone monster on the lose films combined with the ape movies that were prevalent at one time. It's a formula that Landis would go on to use to perfection with his next film KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE. He was responsible for the script here and many of the laughs show his love of old movies using plenty of slapstick style comedy in scenes as well as some witty dialogue.
Made for just $60,000 it shows but that was his intent as well. He wanted to show that he could direct a movie on his own having been working in the business for several years at this time. The production value for being such a low budget film is better than many that have long since been forgotten by directors with much less skill. That Landis could pull this off is a feat in itself.
The film also served as a kick off to a friendship and working relation that lasted for a vast number of Landis films. Looking for someone to create the man like ape for him he couldn't afford anyone he knew in the business. A suggestion sent him to a home where a young man was living with his parents and also trying to break into the business but in make-up effects. His name was Rick Baker. The same Rick Baker who would transform David Naughton into a werewolf for Landis in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
Landis has said that the movie isn't very good and that more than anything it was a learning experience for him. But the fact is it's better than he might recall. No, it's not a blockbuster film by any means but it has its moments. More importantly when placed in viewing order with his other films you can see the burgeoning talent that is there as well as watch the progression of his abilities from one film to the next starting with this one.
This new version of the film is being released by Turbine Media Group in an exclusive dual-format mediabook Blu-rayDVD worldwide-playable combo set limited to 2000 copies. Not only are they releasing it in blu-ray for the first time but the extras are as interesting as the movie itself. They include an exclusive new introduction by Landis, a newly shot interview with Landis that's informative and entertaining, vintage audio commentary by Landis and Baker from the 2001 Anchor Bay DVD release, Landis take on the film from Trailers From Hell, the original trailers for the film including its re-release title BANANA MONSTER, the original radio spots and an informative booklet with text and photos. The film also is a bilingual edition in both English and German.
So if you're a fan of Landis work you'll want to rush out to buy a copy before they're gone since the print run is only 2,000 copies. If you love movies you'll enjoy this as much as his fans will. It's a lot of fun and reminiscent of a time when mavericks could pull together enough money to make a name for themselves with something like this before making major films. Alongside movies like ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, SCHLOCK will be one to remember.
Review by Mark Turner from the Internet Movie Database.