Thursday, May 14, 2015

It Came from Hollywood

Oh, do I love this film. It’s probably a sign of a mental disorder on my part, but I seriously love this film. It just tickles the goofiest, weirdest, and likely dumbest funny bone that I have in my body. I think it also helped screw up my personal taste in some genres of film in a way that still makes my wife suffer greatly on the occasional movie night.

There were two things that were primarily responsible for my becoming a junkie for the so-bad-it’s-good genre of horror (and occasionally other genres) where my movie watching over the years is concerned. One I spoke about here, that being my discovery of horror host Count Gore de Vol and his Creature Feature program in my early and mid teens. The other thing was a movie from around that same time. It was a movie that showcased some of the worst that Hollywood and others had produced over the years, but did it in such a loving way as to make the films it featured seem irresistible. It was also my first real introduction to names like Ed Wood being discussed as something other than names to look for on a cover in order to avoid a film. The film in question was 1982’s Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Gilda Radner, and Cheech & Chong hosted It Came from Hollywood.
It Came from Hollywood landed in theaters in the period of years in between The Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon. As such, I’ve met some people who remember it and want to put it in with those two as a complete series. However, while nicely rounding out the other two to make a perfect goofy comedy film trilogy, it’s actually unrelated to those films. It had different people behind it, and the concept, essentially a glorified clip show of the worst films they could find VS original comedy shorts, was different as well. However, if you know and love either Amazon Women on the Moon or The Kentucky Fried Movie, you will love It Came from Hollywood. Hell, you might like it even if you don’t like the other two films. I know a number of people like that.

The basic concept of the film was a simple one. They gathered up just under 80 minutes of clips from various bad movies spanning decades of film history and organized them by subgenre. They then created skits for the above listed hosts to perform as bumpers to introduce the segments as well as having whoever did the skit do the odd voice-over zingers and commentary in that segment.

The individual segments covered things like ape films, giants, youth gone wild, the refer madness films, and, getting his own segment, Edward D. Wood Jr. himself. The clips used were chosen mostly for their comedy value, strung together for maximum comedy effect, and given the occasional narration where they had fun with them as often as they made fun of them.

The skits and narration…

Gilda Radner was great in most of her bits, and Cheech & Chong did their segments to perfection, but Dan Aykroyd and John Candy absolutely own their segments. We’re talking about the era where both men were hitting their crazy comedy primes and could have likely read straight from a page out of an algebra textbook and still had an audience captivated and rolling in the aisles. Fortunately, they had a lot more to work with in the form of crazy characters, silly gags at the expense of things like hair and wardrobe continuity in films, and, of course, well written quips for the voice-overs on the film clips themselves. Trust me; you really have not cinematically lived until you see Dan Aykroyd in drag on what looks like a WWII surplus motorcycle with sidecar reenacting with John Candy the pivotal scene from Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda before riding off into the sunset together.
It Came from Hollywood, if I had to find something to compare it to that most of you who haven’t heard of it before now would recognize, almost feels like a precursor to Mystery Science Theater 3000. You don’t get the silhouettes, there’s no overriding story arc in the “hosted” comedy segments, and, obviously, it’s not sticking with a single film to throw zingers at. But, yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a chunk of the MST3K crew were fans of this film at one point or another.

I never saw It Came from Hollywood in theaters, but I more than made up for that when it hit The Movie Channel back in the day. That actually might have been a good thing. It’s a bit like Army of Darkness and AoD fans in that it’s a film stuffed with silly, quotable lines, and fans who find each other and start talking about it will be throwing silly lines at each other. The more you see it, the more the quotable lines in your head tend to multiply, the funnier/goofier they all become, and, of course, they make absolutely no sense whatsoever to anyone else in earshot unless they’ve seen the film.

You can apparently even see those “Huh?” moments in action with industry folks. Years ago I was listening to the greatly missed Fangoria Radio broadcast on SiriusXM one Friday night when one of their listener email bits of the evening was asking people to tell them what single film they would want to have with them if stranded on a desert island. My answer, still being pre Not Quite Hollywood’s release, was that I would kind of cheat and take a movie that was itself made up from many other movies and named It Came from Hollywood as my choice. One of the guests that night (Mick Garris if I recall correctly) suddenly, and quite loudly, broke into a pitch perfect imitation of Aykroyd’s “Brains!” bit to the apparent great confusion of show co-host Debbie Rochon. He gave her a quick explanation of what the film was about and explained my last line of the email to her as well. The last line was my lamenting that it would be the only way that I would finally see a copy of the damned thing as a proper DVD.

I do have a DVD copy, but the only reason I do is because I was able to take an almost 30 year old VHS copy that was itself recorded off of television and copy it onto a DVD-R. While it did receive a VHS and laser disc release back in the day, it has never been released on DVD. It was advertised as a DVD release back in 2002 or 2003, and a few copies even apparently went out as they later showed up on sites like eBay for around $200 a pop. However, the actual release of the film on DVD was scuttled at the last moment due to rights issues over some of the clips used that had come up since the original release of the film. At this point, it seems like the likelihood of ever seeing a proper home video release is slim to none. It’s also never popped up on any pay streaming service (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc.) that I’m aware of. As such, if you haven’t recorded a copy of this film already, there are only three ways that you’ll be able to see this film.

1- Find a friend who has a copy.

2- Look over the television listings relentlessly and hope to catch one of the ever more rare broadcasts of it on cable.

3- Turn to YouTube.
There are usually several pretty good copies up on video services like YouTube, most of them clearly taken from the old, store bought VHS tapes. Even after Google bought YouTube and they got really serious about copyright issues on the service, this film seems to slip through the cracks; possibly because the studio doesn’t care overly much about a film they can’t really make any money on. Whatever the reason might be, the only time it seems that a copy disappears is when a user’s entire account is suspended.

If you liked some of the old SNL crew, if you liked MST3K, if you liked or still like a few of the so-bad-they’re-good films, or if you just like goofy humor in general, you should check this film out. In my experience, this is a love it or hate it film, and you’ll know where you stand on that line about 20 minutes in. You kind of have to give it that long because the opening, the apes segment, is, in my opinion, the weakest segment of the bunch. If you don’t like it, you’re not out much. If you do like it, it’ll become a film that you find yourself revisiting with roughly the same regularity that you find yourself needing to scratch that MST3K itch.

Jerry Chandler writes. He also does conventions. He’s looking forward to ConCarolinas at the end of the month. After that, he’s going to be in full on panic preparation mode for Labor Day weekend and Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia.

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