It is no secret around the palatial F This Movie! offices that I am no fan of the original Friday the 13th from 1978. You can read that column here. This is the column that kept getting comments, both for and against, years after I wrote it.
It is also no secret that I am the only F This Movie! staff member who can remember seeing the comic send-up Student Bodies, in a theater, in 1981. I am old. Back then, I was just 19 years old. I had just finished my freshman year of college. My roommate thought the “horse head bookends!” stuff was the funniest thing he had ever seen. More on that later.
INTERESTING PRODUCTION HISTORY RUMOR: Supposedly Michael Ritchie (Downhill Racer, The Bad News Bears, and Smile) was hired by the money men to serve as a “back-up director” should first-timer Rose prove not up to the task. Rumor has it that Ritchie never had to step in, but was unhappy enough with the finished film to have his producer credit changed to Allen Smithee.
Although ostensibly a parody of slasher films, Student Bodies owes a lot to the previous year’s Airplane! with its Mad magazine vibe and onslaught of jokes. Both Airplane! and Student Bodies all but shout at their audiences, “Don’t like that joke? Here are ten more.” Admittedly, Airplane! has the better average of good jokes to bad, but considering that Student Bodies is almost 40 years old, a surprising number of its gags still produce laughs.
Plenty of stuff in the movie doesn’t work: The “Body Count” and “Clue” subtitles flashing on the screen wear out their welcomes quickly. The all-amateur cast performs in what could be an educational film about the importance of timing in a comedy (and how deadly it can be when that timing is off). A late-in-the-film tip-of-the-hat to The Wizard of Oz seems stolen outright from 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie. Oftentimes, the film is so interested in gags over narrative that all sense of story sense will be thrown out the window to fit in one last reference to Carrie.
The best joke in the film (and I suspect the filmmakers knew it) involves the wood shop teacher Mr. Dumpkin. Dumpkin is obsessed with horse head bookends. It is the only wood shop project his students ever work on. Actually, to say Dumpkin is obsessed with horse head bookends is an understatement. At one point in the film, an HHB is used as a murder weapon, yet stroking one is the only thing that can calm the high-strung Dumpkin. This is the one joke in the film that gets funnier with each repetition. Because I saw this in college with my roommate, I got to be there at the very beginning of what would become one of his favorite jokes of all time: randomly shouting “Horse head bookends? Horse head bookends!” for no reason whatsoever over the course of the next 39 years.
Maybe the film doesn’t date exceptionally well. Maybe the film isn’t the funniest. Maybe the authentic ‘80s fashions are no longer fashionable. You know what IS the funniest and will never go out of style?
Horse head bookends.
I think I got JB's DVD copy of "Friday the 13th" when the site did a physical media giveaway a few years back. I still own it, even though I've moved on to a Blu-ray copy when rewatching the original "Friday."ReplyDelete
The same way "The Oscar" is responsible for no movies after '68 being able to license the statuette's likeness, I'm convinced "Student Bodies" is responsible for the MPAA not letting its ratings trademarks be available for in-movie content because of THIS SCENE. The first time me and a friend watched this movie in college we had to pause it for 5 minutes after this joke because we were literally on the floor laughing so hard we were about to pass out. No repeat viewings since have matched that, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for "Student Bodies" because of that scene. :-)
One of the better jokes in the movie, though it’s no “horse head bookend!”Delete
One of my favorites. Definitely some things don't work in the movie, but the ones that do are great. So many conditioned response quotes of mine come from this movie. Anytime Lauren and I see eggplant on a menu, I'll say "Eggplant, you hate eggplant", and while she does, I assume she is the only one around that knows what I'm talking about. Also can't tell you how many times I've said "Click" to end a phone call. Glad to see some movie love for this classic.ReplyDelete
Hollow bulls get me hot.Delete
Wow I remember that movie I just so happen to have that thought pop in my head so I Google 'horsehead bookends' and that took me straight to that movie I also remember a statement that one of the characters said that 'he sleeps with horse head bookends between his balls!' that was so hilarious at the time. I also thought it was from another movie during that time 'pandemonium' maybe I should go and watch both before I comment but hopefully some will relate and blogg backReplyDelete
HA! Your posting brought me here. And you managed to reference not one but two childhood favs. Sometime just before cable TV hit big in the early 80s there were pay tv channel options. The Student Bodies and Pandemonium were on those and in heavy rotation. Me and my friends watched them all the time and laughed endlessly. A few years later both more or less disappeared and had virtually no representation in physical media. (I actually ended up buying a bootleg dvd at one point).Delete
That being said, i dont think either of these flicks are particularly good and probably wouldnt hold up well to recent revisits. Alot of that comes down to the fact that borth are perfect examples of movies you love as a kid but dont hold up to the nostalgia and memory. Another reason is that parody is SO tough to pull off. At the time these came out there was very little parody out there and so they could coast a bit on the coattails of Airplane and throw in enough humorous bits to sustain (paperclip weapon scene..hilarious). Also both were kind of absurdist in nature...kinda like living cartoon characters..and that humor really connected with kids. But im not trying to get too critical as i cherish the memories of discovering this gem as a kid and laughing at it..a LOT.