Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Cool Ass Comedies: Saturday the 14th (1981) review
SATURDAY THE 14TH 1981
Richard Benjamin (John), Paula Prentiss (Mary), Jeffrey Tambor (Waldemar), Severn Darden (Van Helsing), Kari Michaelson (Debbie), Kevin Brando (Billy), Roberta Collins (Cousin Rhonda)
Directed by Howard R. Cohen
It gets bad on Friday the 13th...But it gets worse on Saturday the 14th
The Short Version: New World horror spoof made in the wake of the far superior LOVE AT FIRST BITE from 1979. Possessing a funny moment here and there, it's mostly a missed opportunity in this haunted house hokum. It's worth revisiting for purposes of nostalgia, but most others will want to "get out of this house".
A family inherits a big, spooky estate and finds an over-sized volume entitled 'The Book of Evil' hidden within. Upon opening the book, monsters featured within its pages magically come to life and wander the grounds terrorizing the residents and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Meanwhile, a vampiric couple who are searching for the book, ultimately match wits with a man named Van Helsing, now working as an exterminator.
Howard R. Cohen has done some monumentally monotonous movies such as the infrequently diverting SPACE RAIDERS (1983), the incredibly anemic DEATHSTALKER 4: MATCH OF TITANS (1990) and an incredibly boring and unfunny sequel to the film in question under the title SATURDAY THE 14TH STRIKES BACK (1988). SATURDAY THE 14TH is one of those movies you remember from your childhood that appealed to you then, but upon seeing it again years later, you ask yourself just what in the hell the big deal was. That's not to say there aren't some funny moments here. Actually, as the movie progresses, it becomes mildly amusing peppered with a few funny gags here and there.
I assume with this coming close on the heels of the AIP hit, LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979), New World was hoping for a similar reaction. This was likely the reason Richard Benjamin was chosen for the head of the haunted household since he was key to the funny business in that George Hamilton disco vampire opus. Benjamin is cast alongside his real life wife, Paula Prentiss as the wholesome husband and wife who moves into this cobweb entrenched domicile with their two children; pseudo hilarity ensues. Maybe hilarity is too strong a word? The animated opening credits sequence gets things started off right with its coughing wolf and bat that keeps bumping into things (he's blind as a bat, get it?).
There's bats in the belfry, the television only plays 'The Twilight Zone' and something with enormous hands has been washing the dishes late at night. One of the best and funniest moments (probably the most well known sequence in the film) involves the daughter, the pretty Kari Michaelsen (Katie from GIMME A BREAK and who possesses one of the most shrill banshee screams ever), taking a bath only for a fin to appear swimming around beneath the bubbles as the JAWS theme plays on the soundtrack. Emerging from the soapy depths is the creature from the bubble bath while subtitles reveal that the out-sized flounder just wants the big book of spooky stuff.
When Van Helsing (played with subdued, kooky zeal by Severn Darden) enters the picture, the minor league laughs become more frequent. They decide to have a ghoulishly gala house warming party with the monsters as uninvited guests. It's then revealed that Van Helsing is the unlikely bad guy who then squares off against the vampire couple in a childish, second rate AIRPLANE! finale that recalls the superior duel of wizards from Corman's THE RAVEN (1963).
There's a nice little nod to both Corman's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) and Polanski's ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968), Jeffrey Tambor as a vampire named Waldemar, a police officer who tries to get the Gill Man to get his hands up and Benjamin making a Scooby Doo sandwich with every meat and cheese known to man and topped off with peanut butter. Also, the MONSTERS have a MAD PARTY in the kitchen late one night and Richard Benjamin finds a pair of eyeballs in his coffee (Is this a "sight" gag?). These are some of the funny and not so funny moments in this horr-ible spoof that hearkens to the old monster and haunted house pictures of old. You'll even spy some occasional product placement such as Coca Cola, minute maid and good ole' Count Chocula.
Far from being a good movie, I still have an affinity for it mostly from a nostalgia perspective. It's possibly the funniest of New World's horror spoofs including this films sequel and also the later star-studded TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 (1985). Proceed at your own risk as watching may bring the viewer bad luck.