Cinemax Friday: School Spirit (1985, directed by Alan Holleb)

Though he’s clearly in his late 30s and doesn’t have much of a personality, Billy Batson (Tom Nolan) was the most popular student at Lavatoire University.  Not only did all of the ladies love him but Billy was also Hogmeister, the king of school’s annual Hog Day.  Everyone at the university loved Billy except for crusty old President Grimshaw (Larry Linville).  Sadly, Billy was killed in a traffic accident that was entirely his fault.  He had gone down to the local roadhouse to use their condom machine and he was so excited afterward that he dropped the condom while driving.  When he reached down to grab it, he took his eyes off the road and one thing led to another.  The lesson?  Safe sex kills.  That’s not a great lesson today and it was an even worse one in the 80s but what are you going to do?

Billy’s dead.

Or is he?

No, don’t worry, he’s dead.  At the hospital, his spirit rises out of his body and he’s greeted by his deceased Uncle Pinky (John Finnegan).  Pinky says that it’s time to go to Heaven but Billy wants just one more day so that he can oversee Hog Day and get laid.  Pinky says no way but then he gets distracted by a comely nurse.  Billy escapes from the hospital and returns to the campus.

Even though he’s dead, Billy still appears in corporeal form and everyone can talk to him.  The only special power that Billy has is that he can wave his hand over his head and turn invisible.  Billy uses his powers once or twice and there’s the expected trip to the girl’s shower but that’s really the extent of School Spirit‘s supernatural angle.  The movie doesn’t really seem to be committed to the idea of Billy being dead.  Also, at no point in the film does Billy Batson say “Shazam!,” and that really is unforgivable.

Billy wants to sleep with snooty Judith Hightower (Elizabeth Foxx) but then he gets distracted by Grimshaw’s wild daughter (Marta Kober) and also by Madeleine Lavatoire (Daniele Arnaud), who is visiting from France.  It doesn’t take long for Billy to realize that Madeleine is the one for him but how can he fall in love with anyone when he’s going to have to go to the afterlife at midnight.  Appropriately, it all ends with a case of deus ex machina.  The ending makes no sense but neither does the rest of the movie so give School Spirit some credit for being consistent.

School Spirit is a stupid movie and, with the exception of Larry Linville and Marta Kober, the cast is a forgettable.  This is the type of comedy that used to show up regularly on late night Cinemax.  What it lacked in laughs, it made up for in boobs and that was really what the majority of its audience was watching for.  People who stayed up late to watch Cinemax were not the most demanding viewers in the world.  Today, the film will mostly appeal to people nostalgic for 80s sex comedies.  Why they would watch School Spirit instead of something like Risky Business, I don’t know.  Maybe they needed a movie to review for a blog.

Tomorrow, I finish off my Police Academy reviews by taking a look at Mission to Moscow!

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.15 “Chopper” (dir by Bruce Kessler)

Tonight on Kolchak….

There’s a headless man riding a motorcycle, using a sword to behead members of a rival motorcycle gang!  And …. well, really what else do you need to know?  When a headless cyclists start killing people, you don’t worry about why.  There is a reason however and everyone’s favorite nervous journalist is going to find out what it is!

This episode originally aired on January 31st, 1975!


Horror on the Lens: The Night Stalker (dir by John Llewelyn Moxey)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have a real treat!  (We’ll get to the tricks later…)

Long before he achieved holiday immortality by playing the father in A Christmas Story, Darren McGavin played journalist Carl Kolchak in the 1972 made-for-TV movie, The Night Stalker.  Kolchak is investigating a series of murders in Las Vegas, all of which involve victims being drained of their blood.  Kolchak thinks that the murderer might be a vampire.  Everyone else thinks that he’s crazy.

When this movie first aired, it was the highest rated made-for-TV movie of all time.  Eventually, it led to a weekly TV series in which Kolchak investigated various paranormal happenings.  Though the TV series did not last long, it’s still regularly cited as one of the most influential shows ever made.

Anyway, The Night Stalker is an effective little vampire movie and Darren McGavin gives a great performance as Carl Kolchak.


Embracing the Melodrama Part II #43: The Stepmother (dir by Howard Avedis)

stepmotherJust looking at the poster for the 1972 film The Stepmother, I bet you think it’s a pretty scandalous and sordid film.  I mean, there’s a picture of a woman wearing a black bra and there’s a tagline that reads, “She forced her husband’s son to commit the ultimate sin!”


Well, perhaps not surprisingly considering that this is a Crown International film, The Stepmother‘s poster and tagline have very little do with the actual film.  Yes, the film does feature a stepmother and, during the final 20 or so minutes of the film, her stepson does finally show up and she does end up sleeping with him.  It’s consensual.  There’s no forcing involved.  And, as far as the ultimate sin part is concerned — well, her husband has been doing a lot worse.

The film itself is actually about the husband.  Frank Delgado (Alejandro Rey) is a wealthy architect who is also insanely jealous of his new wife, Margo (Katherine Justice).  Whenever he suspects that Margo is cheating on him, he ends up killing someone.  And, as a matter of fact, even when he doesn’t think Margo is cheating on him, he ends up killing someone.  Frank, of course, has to find a way to cover up all of his various murders.  It doesn’t help that Inspector Darnezi (John Anderson) is constantly snooping around.  And then, once he discovers that his stepson actually has slept with Margo (as opposed to all the people he killed just because he assumed they had slept with Margo), Frank is forced to decide whether or not to kill his own son.

The Stepmother is available in about a dozen Mill Creek boxsets and it’s fun in a 1972 sort of way.  Frank and all of his friends are decadent rich people so you could argue that the film is meant to be a portrait of the immorality of the 1%.  (That would actually be a pretty stupid argument but it’s one that you could make if you’re trying to impress someone who hasn’t read this review.)  Director Howard Avedis tries to liven up the plot by including a lot of artsy touches that don’t really add up to much but which are still fun to watch.  Occasionally, he’ll toss in a freeze frame for no particular reason.  As well, Frank has a habit of hallucinating.  He continually sees his first victim running across the beach in slow motion.  Make a drinking game out of it.  Every time it’s obvious that The Stepmother was trying to fool people into thinking it was a European art film, take a drink.

To be honest, the most interesting thing about The Stepmother is that it is the only Crown International film to have received an Oscar nomination!  That’s right!  The Stepmother was nominated for Best Original Song.  The name of the song was Strange Are The Ways Of Love.  You can listen to it below if you want.  Feel free to dance.

Anyway, that’s The Stepmother for you.  It’s not my favorite Crown International film but, as a historical oddity, it’s still worth watching.