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The 100




Hysterical
(1983)
Reviewed by Jeff DeLuzio
Rating: 10 Beans

ysterical!"

How many people out there remember the Hudson Brothers?

Mark, Bill, and Brett Hudson had a bubblegum band in the 1970s, whose few albums appealed mainly to prepubescent girls. The rest of us knew them through their TV variety shows. As Billy Ingram, of "TV Party" webfame, notes, "in the '90s, everyone gets a talk show. In the '70s, everyone got a variety show."

The Hudsons first televised effort proved unable to compete with the heavyweights of the genre, "Carol Burnett" and "Sonny and Cher." The brothers subsequently moved to a more forgiving Saturday morning timeslot, where the "Hudson Brothers Razzle-Dazzle Show" ran for a couple of years. Their TV swansong was 1977's "Bonkers," the show for which I principally recall them. The most surreal of their efforts, each episode featured a different has-been guest-star showing off a stain, a silent man hitting a snare drum every time someone told a bad joke (often), and the main sketch (such as a re-enactment of the Trojan War in someone's living room) ending with the cast inexplicably breaking out into "Chattanooga Choo-Choo." Hey, give these guys points for trying.

After disappearing from television, they destroyed what was left of their career by writing and starring in a movie.

"Hysterical" has few redeeming qualities.

Bad drama at least has bad acting over which we can guffaw. Bad action movies have even worse acting, and they generally manage at least one good, completely impossible action scene. The pleasures of inept SF and fantasy are legion, as we spot hidden zippers up the monster's back or mind-bending flaws in the plot's logic. But it's hard to find much enjoyment in a bad comedy. You just sit back and wonder, how, how, did this ever get made? Surely, no one was laughing. Surely someone must have realized it stunk.

And, in this case, by 1983, no one could have believed that the has-been Hudsons would be a big draw.

The film is a spoof of sorts, mostly of suspense and "Haunted House" type films. In the nineteenth century, a lighthouse keeper, Captain Howdy (Richard Kiel-- "Jaws" from the James Bond movies) had an affair with a woman named Venetia (Julie Newmar, who's also had better roles). He wanted her out of his life once his wife returned. Vengefully, she killed Howdy, put out the light, caused the ship carrying Mrs. Howdy to crash, and then killed herself. Somehow, she managed to transfer her spirit into the light, where she waited out a century, developing supernatural powers.

A hundred years later, a visiting writer, Frederic "Caspar" Lansing (Hudson #1) accidentally reawakens her spirit, and the ensuing mayhem causes the town to call out two cut-rate ghostbusters (Hudsons #2 and 3). The humour is reminiscent of the Three Stooges, but Larry, Moe, and Curly-- and all of the latter's replacements-- were geniuses next to the Hudsons. In addition to the banal physical humour, we have awful "funny" dialogue with which to contend. Consider:

FREDERIC "CASPAR" LANSING: I'm a ghost writer.
My name is Caspar.

OR

SAME CHARACTER, when he sees the lighthouse: What
a big light! I hope batteries are included.

Lots of people you've seen before waste their time in this flick. Murray Hamilton, the mayor from "Jaws" appears as the identical mayor of the haunted town. Robert Donner, sometimes remembered as "Yancy Tucker" from "The Waltons" and "Exidor" from "Mork and Mindy" wanders in and out of scenes telling people they're doomed. John Larroquette has a cameo as a tour-boat operator. Veteran character actor Charlie Callas does Dracula, briefly. Mediocre 70s TV icon Gary Owens appears as a newscaster. Some of these people obviously are trying, but they don't have much to work with, and their desperation shows.

Desperation characterizes this film. The Hudsons and company try everything to evoke a response. In one library scene, they directly rip off Abbot and Costello's monster films. I suppose this could be viewed as a homage, but it hardly matters, because they don't make it work. We get brief gratuitous drug references, brief gratuitous nudity, bad innuendo, and lots of allusions to famous movies, made with the assumption that merely referring to a well-known film is immediately funny. It isn't. What Mark, Bill, and Brett failed to understand is that making a film is not like writing a three-minute comedy sketch, of the sort which carried their TV shows. The occasional gag might get a smile-- like the "Shining"-esque possessed Caspar scrawling "all work and no play makes Caspar a Friendly Ghost"-- but it won't carry 86 minutes of screen time.

You'll be lucky if it carries you as far as the "Where are they now?" file.






"Bad Movie Night" is a presentation of
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a subsidiary of Syphon Interactive, LLC.

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