Day 20 Sunday Dinner: From eating scenes to full on foodie fodder
Today, Tommy Wiseau markets his celluloid calling-card, The Room, as an intentional “black comedy.” Opinions vary on that assessment of that successful artistic disaster, but the same can’t be said for the exploits of Clint Howard’s dairy-swirled slasher, Gregory Tudor.
Considering the named cast that stars David Naughton (1981’s An American Werewolf in London; newly reviewed “Scarecrow: Day 10”), Olivia Hussey (1974’s Black Christmas), Jan-Michael Vincent (see my review of Damnation Alley for September’s “Post-Apoc Month”) and, holy crap, David Warner (From Beyond the Grave), I don’t think any of them signed on the dotted line for an “intentional comedy” done as a “campy” take on the serial killer genre. As with Tommy Wiseau’s The Room: The team behind Ice Cream Man, I believe, were making a serious horror film with dark humor touches—sort of a Motel Hell with cannibalism-confectionary treats instead of human-sausage meats—and it just deliciously careened off the rails and into our home video hearts.
Can you really see David Warner willingly—without being duped—signing onto a film where Clint Howard’s dairy slasher is able to stick ice cream scoops into the necks of decapitated heads, and work his thumb on the scoop to make the mouths move for his twisted ventriloquist act? I’ve never dug deep enough into this film to see, although it was made for TV and video, if it was shot-on-video or actual film; but wow, David Warner is damn near close to John Carradine’s SOV-slumming in Blood Cult (my new review for October’s “Slasher Month”). No, I won’t believe it. No way had Gorkon, the chancellor of the Klingon High Council—within four years—fallen willingly from the throne of Paradise City in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (1991) to a film with heads-on-ice-cream-scoops. There had to be a nefarious scheme involving bogus tax shelters and a film-production covered drug smuggling ring. Was this pitched as Freddy Kruger as an ice cream man? What the fuck is going on here?
Just look at Clint’s lines when he’s about to give someone “the scoop”:
“You’re Ice Cream.”
“I guess not every day is a happy, happy, happy day!”
“You little turds are gonna learn you can’t run from the ice cream man!”
And, when he kidnaps the local fat kid, a cruelly-named Tuna, he chuckles, “Trolling for Tuna!” as he scoops the kid into his ice cream truck.
No. I won’t believe it. There’s no way Stringfellow Hawke, our bad-ass ‘80s Airwolf, is chasing a psycho ice cream man without producer or managerial misrepresentation on someone’s part. Jan-Michael in a film about chopped up dog and human-spiked Butterbrickel and Rocky Road? What the fuck is going on here?
Still, while technical inept, we’re going along for the whole, heartily-hilarious ride with Gregory Tudor. As a child, Greggy was traumatized by seeing a local ice cream man murdered. After being released from the nuthouse all Tudor wants to do is give children the happiness he never had. So he reopens the old ice cream factory and, well . . . you know that ain’t bananas in the Banana Fudge Swirl . . . and that ain’t “fudge.” (Riddle me this, kids: Why is it that guys, like Lawrence Aston in Spine (see my soon-to-publish, October 2019 review for B&S Movies “Slasher Month”), these mentally-toasted FUBARs, are always “cured”—then slaughter someone before the ink on the release papers has a chance to dry?)
One of the great, off-the-rail moments, amid the ice scream slasher sickness, is that it spins-out from being a kid’s movie, like The Monster Squad (1987), with way-to-smart-for-their-age Home Alone-styled brats who’ve given up on the dolt adults and plot to capture the ice cream man on their own. One minute: it’s cute, the next minute: it’s sick, tossing scared kids into the nooks and crannies of a ratty ice cream factory. What the fuck is going on here?
Regardless, I love seeing Clint Howard break from under his brother Ron’s shadow and ditch his second-fiddle status with a lead role. And they don’t come along very often, but when they do, we get Stanley Coopersmith in Evilspeak (1981). Yeah, Clint can screech that fiddle and scare the devil out of Georgia.
Of course, Clint is forever loved as the Tranya-swillin’ Balok, kicking Enterprise ass with the Fesarius (in 1966 and in 2010), but don’t forget: Clint was the school restroom-based entrepreneur, Eaglebauer, in Rock ‘n Roll High School (1979). He was friggin’ Rughead in the automotive-slasher The Wraith (1986). He was Slinky in Tango & Cash (1989). He was the lead as the adult Ricky in Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1991). And the list goes on and on: Carnosaur, Barb Wire, the penis-spotting radar tech “Johnson” in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Rob Zombie showed respect by casting Clint in The Lords of Salem and 3 From Hell.
The completely off-the-reservation and very cool (no pun intended), twisty-treat (pun intended) script was the screenwriting debut for Tisch School of the Arts-graduated David Dobkin. You know him for his directing Jackie Chan in the martial arts romp, Shanghai Knights, and bringing Peter M. Lenkov’s hit underground comic book, R.I.P.D, to the big screen. He directed the always on-the-spot Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers and directed the Tim Allen-fronted Christmas comedy, Fred Claus. That’s one hell of a kick-ass resume. And he gave us this film. And that kicks ass.
But who directed this film? Uh-oh, John Howard directing Spine alert! Yep, we are on the SOV fringes just as I suspected, once you realize that although director Paul Norman directed over 100 films—they were porn movies. And one of them was Edward Penishands (1991). Give a guy $2 million bucks and he goes from penishands to icecreamscoop hands. Only in American cinema.
I never, ever review a movie that doesn’t warm the cogs of my VHS-pumping heart cartridge. I love this movie in a Blood Salvage and Baker County, USA kind-of-way. There’s no way anyone—mainstream or porn—can direct a seriously-toned story about a demented ice cream man without instigating squirm-inducing discomfort. You have got to go for the camp, or you’ll end up on some puritanical nasty list and never be seen again. And Ice Cream Man is full on drag-queen, RuPaul camp—and a bag of chips. Or a bowl of Bloody Cherry (but hold the eyes).
Okay, I am going to have a bewitching scoop with Samantha Stevens—oh, god, Elizabeth Montgomery and Baskin Robbins. Yes, please! And bring along Josie from the Pussycats. Who needs Captain America movie ice cream when you have a sexy ‘60s TV witch serving up two scoops? Like Van Halen says: All of her flavors are guaranteed to satisfy . . . and so will this full upload of the movie on You Tube.