Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983, directed by Bob Clark)

The teens of Angel Beach, Florida are back!  They’re still trying to get laid, they’re still playing pranks on each other, and, this time, they’re …. FIGHTING THE KLAN!?

Porky’s II continues with the first Porky’s mix of raunchiness and social commentary.  While Pee Wee (Dan Monahan) tries to get back at his friends for spending the whole previous movie making fun of the size of his dick, the other members of the large ensemble cast thwart an attempt by the Klan to keep them from putting on a Shakespearean showcase.  The Klan is upset that a Seminole has been cast as Romeo so they burn a cross and do everything they can to sabotage the production.  Also trying to keep the show from going on is the hypocritical Rev. Bubba Flavel (Bill Wiley) and Mrs. Balbricker (Nancy Parsons), who both consider Shakespeare’s plays to be obscene.  When Wendy (Kaki Hunter) discovers that one of the county commissioners has been lying about supporting the play, she humiliates him in public by pretending to vomit in a fountain and accusing him of impregnating her.  It’s slightly funnier than it sounds but just slightly.

The first Porky’s took a stand against anti-Semitism while the second Porky’s takes a stand against censorship and the Klan.  That’s actually pretty cool when you consider that both of these films are usually just thought of as being dumb sex comedies.  Just like the first film, Porky’s II may be raunchy but it has a conscience.  That was due to director Bob Clark, who obviously meant for the Porky’s films to be about more than just T&A.

Unfortunately, Porky’s II is never as funny as the first Porky’s.  Too many of the jokes are recycled from the first film and the cast’s habit of laughing at their own “humorous” lines is even more grating the second time around.  Even the film’s most famous scene, where Wendy humiliates the duplicitous commissioner, goes on for too long and doesn’t have as much of a payoff as it should.  The best scenes in the film are the scenes that were lifted from Hamlet, Romero & Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  You wouldn’t expect the ensemble of Porky’s to feature that many Shakespearean actors but apparently it did.  Fans of A Christmas Story, which was also directed by Clark and which came out the same year as Porky’s II, will especially want to pay attention to the MacBeth sword fight scene just because the famous holiday leg lamp makes an appearance.

Porky’s II is nowhere near as good or memorable as the first Porky’s but its heart is in the right place.  While not as big of a success as the first Porky’s, it still did well enough to lead to Porky’s III, which I’ll review tomorrow.

Horror Film Review: The Crazies (dir by George Romero)

Ah, The Crazies.  The original Crazies.

This 1973 film is one of George Romero’s best non-Dead films, though it never seems to get the respect that it really deserves.  Even today, the original is often overlooked in favor of the remake.  And don’t get me wrong — the remake of The Crazies is good and it features several effective jump scares.  But the remake is a slick Hollywood film and, watching it, you always have the safety of knowing that you’re watching a slick Hollywood film.  The original, though, is rough and low-budget and it looks and it feels real.  As a result, it sticks with you long after the haunting final scenes.

The storyline is simple but effective.  People in a small Pennsylvania town are going crazy and murdering each other.  Usually, it’s impossible to tell who is infected until they’re already attacking you.  The infected are just like the zombies from Night of the Living Dead with one key difference.  The crazies may be as relentless as the Dead but they’re also human beings.  They think.  They plan.  They scheme.  And when they die, they die like humans and we’re reminded that, just a few short hours ago, they were friendly and, more or less, harmless.

The government, of course, shows up in the town and tries to contain the outbreak.  The main image that most people will carry away from The Crazies is of men in white hazmat suits, walking through small-town America and killing almost everyone they see.  As is typical for a Romero film, the so-called solution often seems to be worse than the problem.  We also get the typical conflict between the scientists and the military.  The  military wants to destroy the infected.  The scientists want to cure them.  The film is bleakly cynical as the one man who knows how to cure the disease is ignored and finally killed in a stampede of quarantined citizens.

The film follows six people as they attempt to escape from the town and avoid getting sick themselves.  Needless to say, it’s not as easy as it sounds.  The characters who everyone seems to remember are Artie (Richard Liberty) and his daughter, Kathy (Lynn Lowry).  What happens to them is perhaps the most disturbing moment in a film that’s full of them.  The other members of the group can only hope to survive, even as they slowly lose their grip on sanity.

It’s a disturbing film, precisely because it’s not slick.  The actors are not movie star handsome and the attacks are not perfectly choreographed.  The grainy cinematography gives the entire film a documentary feel and serves as a reminder that Romero made industrial films before he revolutionized the horror genre.  The Crazies works because it feel like it could be happening in your community or your back yard.  And, ultimately, it offers up no solution.  Mankind could save itself, Romero seems to be saying, if only mankind wasn’t so stupid.

Needlessly to say, a film as bleak as The Crazies was not a hit in 1973.  But it’s lived on and continued to influence other horror makers.  It’s one of Romero’s best.