Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #403
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: June 14, 1985
Sub-Genre: Monster Movie
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Larry Cohen
Producer: Paul Kurta
Screenplay: Larry Cohen
Special Effects: Bret Culpepper
Visual Effects: Jim Doyle
Cinematography: Paul Glickman
Score: Anthony Guefen
Jingles: Richard Seaman
Editing: Armand Lebowitz
Studios: Larco Productions, New World Pictures
Distributors: New World Pictures, CBS/Fox, Anchor Bay Entertainment
Stars: Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom, Danny Aiello, Patrick O’Neal, James Dixon, Alexander Scourby, Russell Nype, Gene O’Neill, Catherine Schultz, James Dukas, Peter Hock, Colette Blonigan, Robert Frank Telfer, Brian Bloom
Suggested Audio Candy
Anthony Guefen “The Stuff”
Humans are such easy prey. I freely admit that I have been seduced by advertising on more than one occasion; when I was just a boy I was hoodwinked by a marketing push for scratch and sniff stickers and promptly made my annual list for Santa, which consisted solely of anything bearing their moniker. My parents decided against honoring my wish and, when Christmas day arrived, I was left sorely disappointed by the lack of anything whatsoever that could be scratched and/or sniffed. I was devastated for a full hour before deciding that my Stretch Hulk wasn’t so bad after all and promptly forgetting about the new craze. However, others weren’t quite so fortunate.
Had The Stuff been doing the rounds at the time, then I would have to admit, that I would have been first in line for a tub of this delicious-looking delight. Even after watching Larry Cohen’s tribute to the B-Monster Movies of the fifties, I was still curious, even though I had seen the after effects of consumption first hand. It highlights two things to Keeper: firstly the power of cunning mass marketing campaigns and, secondly, that we’re all suckers for the new craze on the block. Anyone living in corporate America during this epoch will likely be nodding their heads right now as though I am giving some kind of sermon. “Yessiree, The Stuff is a mighty tasty treat” That it is, there can be no denying that it looks the part.
I never much cared for yoghurt if I’m honest. But ice cream, on the other hand, I couldn’t get enough of. If mattered not that Kathy took two armor-piercing bullets to her flat chest whilst queuing up for her vanilla twist in Assault on Precinct 13, or that Eddie Murphy warned us of the unscrupulous nature of ice cream vendors during his infinitely quotable Delirious stand-up routine. I was still first in line once that distant jingle chimed. Large corporations prey on young kids like me; they wait until the hottest day recorded since the 60’s, then lure us in with catchy slogans and a man parading about our screens in a full-size cornet uttering suggestions such as “It’s hot kids… damn hot… come and cool yourselves down with Walt’s Wondrous Whip… it’s a real thirst-quencher… aaah”. Little bastards like me never stood a chance.
When The Stuff literally bubbles through the slush on the grounds of an Alaskan petroleum refinery, naturally the miner’s first thought is to give it a taste and soon it has been branded as the new low-fat dessert sensation and is spreading through every store in America like wildfire. Saboteur David ‘Mo’ Rutherford (Cohen regular Michael Moriarty) is employed by rival organizations to dig a little deeper beneath the dubious veneer and uncovers some shocking facts in the process. Along with the woman responsible for marketing the product, Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci), a young boy whose family have already bought into the new craze, Jason (Scott Bloom), and the stupendously stigmatized ‘Chocolate Chip’ Charlie W. Hobbs (Garrett Morris), he sets out to take the nefarious corporation down and save the nation from this culinary critter before the whole population of America are stymied into stockpiling their refrigerators.
B-Movie extraordinaire Cohen (Q: The Winged Serpent, It’s Alive) is on familiar turf here and fashions a tale which works on two fundamental levels. As a wry dig on consumerism and mass marketing it succeeds effortlessly, to such a degree, that his sweet treat manages entrapment even when encouraging its victims to succumb to on-the-spot lobotomization then burst wide open in gelato geysers. However, should you have already clocked Romero’s subliminal message from Dawn of The Dead and been seduced by Dr Dan Challis’ persuasive plea against Silver Shamrock, then you’ve heard it all before and can enjoy this on its baseline terms also. It’s a monster movie at heart à la The Blob or Invasion of The Body Snatchers and has more than enough salacious soft whip to have us off to the local Price Chopper to pick up a couple of cartons. Either way, Cohen has us right by our short and curlies.
However, a lot has changed since I was a boy. I’m older, wiser, hip to such games. Plus, I kinda went off ice-cream a couple of years back so I can now read between the lines. The Stuff is a tub of fun for sure, but some way from Cohen’s apex and culpable of falling a little flat on occasion. The stop-motion effects are marvelously gloopy and there are numerous moments to savor but, when the true star of the piece is otherwise predisposed, we are left with a meandering affair. Thankfully, there is no dearth of comedy, and Cohen man-handles every opportunity to spoon feed us marshmallow fluff. A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips as it proves and occasionally we can’t help but gag akin to Bulemic llamas as The Stuff begins to grow a tad sickly.
Nevertheless, it’s fruitless to hate on The Stuff. 1985 was a bumper year for horror; with the roll call including Day of The Dead, The Return of The Living Dead, Demons, Re-Animator, Fright Night, Cat’s Eye, and Lifeforce amongst others. Cohen’s movie never quite located the upper echelons and falls short of The Blob for repeat viewing. But, three decades on, I still keep a little space aside in my refrigerator just in case The Stuff makes a comeback. With a little repackaging and fresh catchy slogan it could still win me over. Until it does, I shall carry on scouring eBay for scratch and sniff stickers and, should a packet of Garbage Pail Kids collectible cards become fair game, then I want dibs on Cheese Louise. But you can stick your Gremlins chewing gum where The Stuff don’t shine.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Gelato-Guzzlers: Buy The Stuff. Watch it ooze, a white blanket of peril which shows up unannounced via reflux and commences to turn its quarry inside out faster than Ebola. Buy The Stuff. I feel a twinge of sympathy for the cast as The Stuff in question consisted of shredded fish cartilage and stank to high heaven, causing them to flee to the riverbank and bathe off the stench between takes. Buy The Stuff. That genuinely tickles Keeper; the thought of Paul Sorvino, Danny Aiello, a rubber ducky and a loafer washing away the funk just amuses me. Had I mentioned that I’m somewhat easily amused? You should try it. Buy The Stuff…Buy… The Stuff.
Welcome kids to the new taste sensation that’s sweeping the nation
Under three thousand calories in every spoonful
More scrumptious than Häagen-Dazs
More moreish than Ben & Jerry’s
Slides effortlessly into your refrigerator door rack
It’s viciously delicious
The killer of all filler
The best thing since fuzzy felt
Keeper takes no responsibility for any ensuing constipation, mild nausea, or murderous outbursts.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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