ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

JER'S TURN- WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO DIRECTOR: JOHN LANDIS?

John Landis is SCHLOCK
JER: It would seem as if there were (still are) some great Film Directors that came out for my generation to appreciate and enjoy the fruits of their labor. During the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s, Hollywood gave us a multitude of talented, young filmmakers such as: Steven Spielberg, Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese, David Cronenberg, Brian DePalma, Stanley Kubrick, Joe Dante…just to name a few.

Now, as successful as some of their works have been and rightfully taking their place in the pages of Hollywood film history, it still bothers…no, irritates the hell out of me, that some of these great filmmakers have either taken on ‘below their expected’ level of film projects or have simply fallen off the radar screen altogether. One such great director that must be mentioned is John Landis.

Actor Vic Morrow

TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE
I recently found my well hidden theatrical movie poster of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and highly recognized Landis’ name as one of four directors who all contributed segments for the film. At the age of 15, I lived through the highly publicized accident that occurred on the Landis-directed set that tragically decapitated actor Vic Morrow and two child extras from a low flying helicopter used in a scene. A lawsuit came forth and in 1986, Landis and four others were acquitted of all charges…some would argue that this may have been the beginning of the end for Landis’ career.

John Landis’ earlier films consisted of ground-breaking, box office hits including the hilarious spoof-filled KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977), the introduction of John Belushi in ANIMAL HOUSE (1978), the dynamic duo of Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) and then came the blending of humor and horror for AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981). With a strong and very successful career blooming, more doors began to open including directing Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy in TRADING PLACES (1983), Aykroyd, joined by SNL pal Chevy Chase in SPIES LIKE US (1985), the memorable trio of Chase, Martin Short and Steve Martin as THE THREE AMIGOS! (1986).
THE THREE AMIGOS!
On a separate note, recognition has to be brought forth to the man responsible for the ever-groundbreaking mini-movie/music video, MICHAEL JACKSON’S “THRILLER” in 1983! The concept and film-like style changed the appearance and approach of the music video and MTV would never be the same! Landis would try to capture that lightning twice by directing Michael Jackson in his controversial video BLACK AND WHITE in 1991. A shorter version would air, omitting much choreographed crotch-grabbing and racial slurs spray painted on an abandoned car that would see Jackson destroy with a baseball bat!
One of the most popular MTV videos: Here's THRILLER!

INNOCENT BLOOD
Considered to be the last of the ‘box office’ hits for Landis would be Eddie Murphy’s COMING TO AMERICA in 1988. Other films to follow would be the less-than-successful try of Sylvester Stallone’s comedy OSCAR (1991) and another attempt at comedy/horror with INNOCENT BLOOD (1992).

The undeniable downward spiral of bad film choices for John Landis would begin to put the nails in the coffin with clunkers like BEVERLY HILLS COP III (1993), Tom Arnold in the aptly titled THE STUPIDS (1996) and the ill-fated BLUES BROTHERS 2000 (1998).

Sadly, Landis would turn to television work in the late 90’s and into the 2000’s including “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show” (1999) and numerous episodes of “Psych” (2007-2008).

THE BLUES BROTHERS
So, is it really that hard for a once high-profiled director who has worked with some of the most talented comedians in the industry to make a comeback? If not, why sink yourself into a deeper pit? Take a break, re-group mind and spirit and come back strong! I would be the first to line up at my local theater and plunk the outrageous cash-ola requested to enter into the multiplex palaces of today for one good John Landis film! Landis, where are you? We miss you…I MISS YOU! Come back, please. The industry needs your eye for capturing the right kind of comedic timing and visuals that only you can provide again! I’ll be waiting…cash in hand.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Well, there is no doubt that John Landis will go down in history as one of the well respected Directors for his time. This at least seems to be the consensus. Yet, to compare Landis to the likes of Spielberg, Kubrick and Scorsese may be stretching it a bit.....no, a great deal actually.

COMING TO AMERICA
This is CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT, and I am pressed to offer a counter-point here. Looking back at all of the Landis films that you have mentioned here Jer, as entertaining as they were to audiences then - and perhaps now, I am not sure there is a single film mentioned above that I would include in my DVD / Blu-Ray collection. "American Werewolf" I can probably make a case for, but the other films? This may sound brutal, but many of the works of Landis are what I view as forgettable comedies for the majority of the 80's including "Spies Like Us”, and "Three Amigos!" These are what I call "screwball" comedies, and as film works.....well they really don't work on too many levels.

The early eighties may have been his brightest hour with the "Blues Brothers" and "American Werewolf" which were both significant and offered some substance. As an added note, "Animal House" was probably his best moment of the 1970's.

The "Twilight Zone" movie was basically a disaster and ranks very low on my list...especially being a lover of the Serling series in the 1960's. However, as we move into his films of the late 1980's and into the 1990's the Landis films become increasingly less creative, and almost appeared desperate in a sense for an audience reaction. "Blues Brothers 2000"??? "The Stupids"???

TRADING PLACES
Landis is not a director that I can truly endorse, marked primarily by mild box office hits. A comeback? The career of Landis seems to be one that simply spiraled downwards from decent / mediocre movies to disastrous ones and abysmal attempts at comedy on screen. To place Landis on a level anywhere near the great directors of the 70's and 80's is outlandish. Personally, I do not miss the films of Landis as they were terribly limited in what they had to offer and as time marched on the films became more and more stale. To line-up for a Landis film today would simply not happen. Why? Shrewd audiences simply have no confidence in his films. Landis had his day in the sun and that was roughly 30 years ago with a couple of films that were marginal at best. With that in mind, there is no reason for this critic to ever hope for a Landis return to the screen. As a matter of fact, I am not even sure it is warranted.

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
JER: This critic would greatly appreciate the return of a great Landis comedy as apposed to the crap we are passing off as entertainment…my “Exhibit A” will be anything by Tyler Perry! What has happened to the paying audience that any and all of his films open Number One at the Box Office time and time again…have I become some crotchety fuddy-duddy that just doesn’t get today’s humor? Is that what they are still calling it today?…humor? Let’s not forget that ANIMAL HOUSE pushed the envelope of “bad taste” humor for its day and is the grandfather of films like VAN WILDER and even THE HANGOVER! AN AMERICAN IN WEREWOLF is another example of both creative and Award winning Make-Up Effects (Rick Baker) and had audiences guessing twice as to whether it was OK to laugh at a horror film or be scared in a comedy!

ANIMAL HOUSE
Granted, JC, that Landis is not of the same level of comparisons to the likes of Kubrick and Scorsese…but that is NOT where I was going with this article. I merely pointed out the statement of the eras that brought us great directors with great vision. I stand firmly that John Landis belongs on the respected list for the films he had provided us. We are not talking PORKY’S or POLICE ACADEMY…which seem a little “screwball” by name than Landis’ films. There was substance to the storyline, surprising for comedies at the time, but he gave us some memorable characters that have become pop-cultural icons!

I will plea my case and leave it to our readers to hear their opinions…let us know your thoughts of John Landis, today’s comedy films, comedy films of the 70’s and 80’s or anything else we have covered here.

Stay tuned for next week’s special look at the outcome of the ACADEMY AWARDS! Until then…to quote straight off a well-known inside joke that can be found in most John Landis films…SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

JOHN LANDIS

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

3 comments:

  1. IN MY OPIONION, JOHN LANDIS FELL OFF THE RADAR SCREEN WITH A LOT OF HIS MOVIES. ANIMAL HOUSE WAS FUNNY BUT THE REST OF HIS FILMS WERE NOT THAT GOOD I DON'T THINK. IM MUCH PREFER THE MOVIES DIRECTED BY THE OTHER DIRRECTORS YOU GUYS TALKED ABOUT. THANKS. (ADRIEN)

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  2. Hi Adrien...we accept and value everyone's opinion. It can be said that Mr. Landis doesn't rank above others like your Scorsese's and Spielberg's...and that's fine! We will try to highlight our favorite Directors, as well as our favorite films in the near future! Thanks

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  3. John Landis I would have called him one of the best director in the 80's, but now he would be classed as good director. After so many movies he directed, he just vanished, poof Gone with the wind. Don't forget he also directed Micheal Jackson Videos "Thriller". I think after watching behind the scene of John Landis. He was a problem director, with so many changed and demands. I think he just flipped and did somewhat Howard Hughes. He Shut everyone and disappered off the radar. I hope he has a great comeback. Mr. Landis we miss you. (FrankDavid Guerra)

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