Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Favorite Movies: BONUS – Student Bodies

I’ve spent years trying to explain Student Bodies to people.

For a long time, it was pretty tough. I’d bring up the name, and people would go, “Is that a…” and they’d look around, trying not to talk too loudly.

And I’d go, “No, it’s a kind of spoof comedy. Of horror movies.”

Then came Scary Movie, and people would say, “Like Scary Movie?”

And I’d go, “No, because Student Bodies is actually funny, stars no one famous, and is mostly forgotten.”

To my surprise, the last few years have been kind to Student Bodies. At one point, it was pretty much impossible to find. Barely released in 1981 in theaters, one of the producers took an alias as their credit rather than own up to producing it, last released on video in 1987.

Impossible to find to rent. Most of the time.

But here, again, was a flick that was sort of a USA Up All Night staple. It wasn’t the 10 PM movie, though. Or the midnight movie. It was the 2 AM movie, just like The Evil Dead.

When EBay became a thing and I wasn’t living a totally broke life, I actually bought an unused copy of Student Bodies for 15 bucks. This was after DVD had arrived, but before everyone started tossing their videotapes into the trash and re-buying their favorite movie on shiny discs.

I sort of figured I was would never own a copy of Student Bodies on DVD.

Then it came out. In 2008. Crazy.

I bought it for my birthday, and sat down to see it in widescreen with actual audio mastering. I could hear the words! Words I never knew before!

I quite literally planned to watch 5 minutes. Then 10. Then the credits were running, and I went upstairs and went to bed.

It was a beautiful thing.

So what’s it about?

Tricky to say. It’s about a girl named Toby who plans on keeping her (ahem) innocence, and encourages her friends to do the same.

They don’t, and because this is a horror movie, they end up dead.

And that’s it.

There are no direct spoofs of scenes from other movies. There are no stars, though I just learned that the old woman in the movie apparently had along career on stage and screen. Which is strange, because she looked REAL old in 1981, and kept working until 2005. There’s even a documentary about her.

So what makes the movie great?

Probably just one thing:


Seriously. That’s it. The movie looks terrible, even after re-mastering. The sound is sketchy in spots.

The acting… well, there’s a reason most of these people never worked again.

Most of the cast isn’t even terribly attractive, which was usually how you sold el-cheapo movies like this to cable.

The movie kind of makes fun of this – there is no graphic person-on-person action. Most of the violence is implied. No one removes all their clothing.

To get an R rating, they literally have to pause the whole movie and let a guy drop an F-bomb.

And much of the slapstick is… a little too slappy. Too obvious, and often too overdone.

But the dialogue!

Where did you learn to speak English? A zoo?

Ms. Van Dyke: What makes your voice sound so funny?
The Breather: I'm disguising it.
Ms. Van Dyke: How?
The Breather: By talking through a rubber chicken.
Ms. Van Dyke: I thought it sounded like you were speaking through a rubber chicken.

Toby: Who could have done these murders?
Hardy: I don't know. It could have been anybody.
Toby: Well, it can't be ANYbody. It's gotta be somebody.
Hardy: Of course it's somebody, but that somebody could be anybody.
Toby: Well, look, we didn't do it, right?
Hardy: Right.
Toby: So you can't say it could be anybody. WE'RE anybody.
Hardy: True, but we're also somebody.

The Breather: [on the phone] I'm gonna kill next at the football game. Click.
Ms. Van Dyke: Did you hang up?
The Breather: No, I just said "click".

(Confession: I use the zoo line on people ALL THE TIME.)

If there’s another lesson to take away from this movie, I don’t know what it is. This flick was long-lost and forgotten, except by a chosen few, which was enough to get it released on DVD.

And then, so help me, on Blu-Ray.

The movie? On Blu? Looks awful. If they spent any time re-mastering it, it doesn’t show.

But the flick is so much fun, and even history couldn’t kill it.

So maybe that’s the lesson, here:


So write a movie worth discovering three decades later.


  1. Hi, I play Charlie. To clear things up, Michael Ritchie knew he was going to have to use a different name going in, because he was a famous member of the Directors Guild, and knew it was being filmed during a strike. It is as simple as that and if you think it through, there can be no other explanation.

  2. Michael Ritchie knew going in he would use a different name. It was shot during a strike so he had no choice, and knew that ahead of time. He was a prominent member of DGA (Bad News Bears) and knew it would be a funny added joke.

    Simple as that. I played Charlie in the beginning so I know how it all came down. (Sounds crazy, but I didn't know of any SAG union at the time having played clubs and casinos, as a comic-ventriloquist. Seriously, it wasn't until a year after filming that I learned there was a union for screen actors. Having been raised in Dallas, the movie filmed in Houston, unions didn't get much press there. )