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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Wacko

WACKO (1983). Directed by Greydon Clark. Starring Julia Duffy, Joe Don Baker, and George Kennedy.

As the plethora of slasher movies proliferated in the early '80s, they were ripe for parodizing. (They were overripe in many other ways, but we'll let that pass for now.) Sure enough, a slew of spoofs came hot on their heels, led by the cult classic Student Bodies, followed by the all-star extravaganza Pandemonium. And then there's Wacko. Not nearly as outrageous or consistently funny as its predecessors, this lampoon still has some laughs to offer.
As a child, Mary Graves (a pre-Newhart Julia Duffy) witnessed the gruesome murder of her older sister by the notorious Lawnmower Killer on prom night (which also happened to be Halloween). Now burdened with horrifying images that she'll carry for the rest of her life (as we're constantly reminded in a running gag), Mary is preparing for her own Halloween Pumpkin Prom Night, much to the concern of her parents (George Kennedy and Stella Stevens). Meanwhile, the detective obsessed with the case (Joe Don Baker, in a hilarious send-up of his usual macho-slob act) is convinced that THIS is the year that the Lawnmower Killer will strike again.
The gags are not nearly as frequent as in Airplane! (the grandfather of this genre), and there's quite a bit of "dead air" between the laughs, but overall, the hit-or-miss jokes hit more often than they miss.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
In addition to our star Julia Duffy, the cast includes a couple of screen neophytes who went on to bigger things. Elizabeth (E.G.) Daily, now a familiar face on screen (from Valley Girl to The Devil's Rejects) and a familiar voice in animation (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls) contributes her trademark squeaky-voiced charm as Mary's ditzy friend Bambi. The performer who'd probably most like to forget this, though, is young newcomer Andrew Clay, making his screen debut as the school's studly cool-guy Tony Schlongini (a cross between TV icons the Fonz and Vinnie Barbarino). Clay would later attain stardom and notoriety after adding the middle name "Dice"--although his stage and screen persona would hardly change from this debut role.



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