Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Silliness of 'Student Bodies'

In the early 1980s, you didn't have to look too far to find a movie that exploited young people's bodies — especially young female bodies.

Seemed like there was always at least one such movie available at the theaters — not to mention on cable TV or in the fledgling video tape industry.

It might be a comedy (i.e., "Porky's").

Or it might be a drama about "forbidden love" (i.e., "The Blue Lagoon").

Or it might be a thriller (like "Looker").

Sometimes all that was necessary was the mere hint that something might be revealed, even if nothing ever was (i.e., "Little Darlings").

God knows, the horror genre was always up for a little flesh peddling.

"Student Bodies" was a clear parody of several films, including two movies that were inspired by Stephen King stories, "Carrie" and "The Shining" — but I always felt it was indirectly influenced, as so many things in the horror genre have been, by 1960's "Psycho."

Well, anyway, "Student Bodies" made its debut on this day in 1981. Trust me when I tell you that it was eminently forgettable. I saw it once a long time ago, and I had forgotten that I saw it — until recently when I happened to come across it while channel surfing.

When I discovered that the 30th anniversary of its debut was approaching, I figured I had to mark the occasion in some way.

It was the kind of spoof that probably owed a lot to the humor of National Lampoon's publications and movies. It was also reminiscent of "Airplane!" — but it didn't really have the writers who could make it work. Oh, it had its moments, but it was a little heavy–handed at times.

The story was about a serial killer who was terrorizing the girls in a high school. He was known as "The Breather," and he liked to stalk his victims before killing them — announcing his presence with an exaggerated heavy breathing, thus giving the film crew a chance to linger over women in varying stages of dress.

He would become enraged if he encountered a couple having sexual intercourse, and he used a lot of creative murder weapons, like an eraser and a paper clip.

If anything was noteworthy about "Student Bodies," it was a character named Malvert the janitor, who was played by a double–jointed actor known only as "The Stick" at the time.

Malvert was a strange fellow who was often accompanied by an inflatable doll and almost never spoke. He was a real lightning rod for attention with his spastic body movement (he often resembled a puppet hanging from a clothesline in a strong wind). Such a creepy character was a natural suspect for anything like a series of strange killings, but, if you want to know if those suspicions were well founded, you'll have to watch the movie.

I've heard that "The Stick" was from a town about an hour's drive from here and that he died sometime in the 1990s. Lots of critics panned "Student Bodies" in 1981 — and with good reason — but many gave "The Stick" generally good reviews.

Most of the people who appeared in "Student Bodies" — including "The Stick" — rarely if ever showed up in another movie. What folks saw on their screens 30 years ago was unique in that regard.

But the story was just silly. That part was not unique.