Monday, October 25, 2010

Shocktober Director of the Day: John Landis

Known primarily as a director of comedies, John Landis is responsible for a number of classic films, including Animal House; The Blues Brothers; Trading Places and Three Amigos!

But his first movie was the 1973 B-Movie parody, Schlock in which an ape-like monster falls in love with a blind girl, who thinks he's a dog. It's also the first time Landis' trademark line (which is in every one of his films) "See You Next Wednesday" appears. Landis also appears in the title role.

Schlock was soon followed by Kentucky Fried Movie (a movie I was not allowed to see when it was released in 1977); Animal House and The Blues Brothers. Then, in 1981, Landis made what is perhaps the single best werewolf movie ever made, An American Werewolf in London. Starring David Naughton (best known at the time as the Dr. Pepper spokesman), Jenny Agutter (of the Sci-Fi classic Logan's Run) and Griffen Dunne (After Hours); An American Werewolf... is the first time audiences were exposed to the horrific pain of lycanthropic transformation, thanks to Rick Bakers tremendous physical makeup FX.


Combining sharp humor with horrific effects, An American Werewolf... was a sensation that should have turned it's stars into superstars. But while Dunne and Agutter went on to relatively successful careers, Naughton slipped into relative obscurity, showing up now and then on TV or in small roles in lesser known films. 

Landis' next foray into genre films would also be his most controversial. His segment of The Twilight Zone Movie ended in tragedy, with the accidental deaths of Vic Morrow and two child actors taking place n Landis' watch. Landis was brought to trial, but eventually acquitted, though his career never fully recovered.

While the Twilight Zone controversy raged, Landis directed one of the most famous music videos ever made, Micheal Jackson's Thriller:

Landis' most recent project is a black comedy based on true events, Burke and Hare, about a pair of 19th century grave robbers who made a living by supplying corpses to an Edinburgh medical school. I hope Landis can restore his reputation with this 3rd film version of the infamous true story.

More, anon.

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