Release Date(s)1973 (October 16, 2018)
Studio(s)Gazotskie Productions/Jack H. Harris Enterprises (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C+
Laying waste to everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to King Kong, Schlock is a predecessor to films like The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. Released several times to theaters, in particular when National Lampoon’s Animal House became successful, the film was co-produced by Jack H. Harris, who also had in hand in The Blob, Dinosaurus!, Equinox, and Dark Star (among others). Despite being John Landis’ first film, and one of his most notorious, it’s also been out of the public’s hands for most of its home video life.
In a nutshell, Schlock features a gorilla-creature called a Schlocktopus, a prehistoric animal that is loosed upon modern society, terrorizing and killing people along his way, but also walking into various comedic situations. A similarly campy film from this time period would be Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, which I would argue is actually the better film by comparison. While both films are inherently silly, at least Tomatoes feels like it has some sort of narrative, ridiculous and corny though it may be.
I’m personally not a big fan of Schlock, despite my usual leanings toward this kind of material. It’s outrageous, through and through, with almost a complete lack of sincerity, but it tends to be completely random. On the other hand, there's certainly aspects worth appreciating, including John Landis’ performance as Schlock. While he tends to do a lot of mugging for camera, he actually brings an oddball character to life in a way that feels, at the very least, partially authentic. Schlock finds himself in one situation after another, with folks either acknowledging that he’s a wild animal on the loose, or treating him like a normal person, or both. None of it really matters though in a film featuring a scene in which a gorilla finds himself in the backyard of a blind girl who mistakes him for a dog and tries to play fetch with him – if you get my point.
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of Schlock comes with a transfer sourced from “a newly-restored 4K master provided by Turbine Media Group.” The film was also recently released in Germany on Blu-ray, meaning that this is likely the same transfer. For a film of its vintage and its low budget qualities, it looks remarkably good, mostly due to it being shot on 35mm film with a proper director of photography. Grain levels are solid throughout with excellent depth and detail. Colors are robust when given the opportunity, while skin tones seem quite accurate. Black levels are deep with good shadow detail, while contrast appears suitably adjusted. It’s also a mostly stable presentation, although during some extended static shots, minor instability tends to creep in. There are also no major leftover instances of damage or evidence of excessive clean-up. The audio, which is presented in the original English mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH, isn’t quite as up to snuff as it’s video presentation, but still provides an ample amount of aural support. Dialogue is mostly clean and clear throughout with good separation for sound effects and score, although because of its low budget source, it tends to be a little choppy in spots. It’s also fairly clean with a lack of heavy hiss, crackle, and distortion.
Bonus materials include an audio commentary with John Landis and Rick Baker from the film’s original Anchor Bay DVD release, which is an entertaining listen as the two reminisce and joke about making the film; Schlock Defrosted, a new 18-minute interview with author and film critic Kim Newman, who talks about how the film came into being, including its ties to Equinox (another film in dire need of a Blu-ray release – I’m looking at you Criterion); Birth of a Schlock, a 42-minute Q&A with John Landis recorded for Turbine Media in 2017, discussing various aspects of how he got into filmmaking and how the film got made; I Shot Schlock!: Bob Collins Remembers, an archival 8-minute interview with the film’s cinematographer; a set of promotional materials, which includes the film’s 1972, 1979, and 1982 Banana Monster theatrical trailers (all in HD), as well as 4 radio spots; and last but not least, a 16-page insert booklet with the essay “I Know, It's Horrible:” The Enduring Appeal of Schlock by Joe Bob Briggs, as well as restoration details. Missing from the aforementioned German Blu-ray release is a Trailers from Hell commentary by Landis and a German theatrical trailer for the film.
Schlock is definitely for a very specific audience of folks who can appreciate absurdist humor. It’s nothing but pure lark, and you have to go into it kind of knowing that in order to get anything out of it. If that’s your cup of tea, then by all means, gather around a group of like-minded friends and give Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release of the film a spin.
- Tim Salmons