2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge: Day 20: Ice Cream Man (1995)

Day 20 Sunday Dinner: From eating scenes to full on foodie fodder

Update, May 2023: The long-gestating sequel headed by actor Clint Howard is back on! Information on the new film to follow.

Now, here’s what we had to kibitz back in October 2019 during the annual, 30-Day Scarecrow Video Psychotronic Challenge.

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 (An American Werewolf in London), Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas), Sandahl Bergman (Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja), Jan-Michael Vincent (Damnation Alley) 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-confectionery 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 on the dotted line for 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 the proceedings were shot-on-video or actual film; but wow, David Warner is damn near close to John Carradine’s SOV-slumming in Blood Cult. 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? Eh, ah, wait a sec . . . let’s not forget Jan did The Divine Enforcer, so . . . I guess we just gotta believe Jan signed willingly. Yeah, he did because, well, David A. Prior sucked him into doing The Silencer the same year Ice Cream Man was made (at least David A. gave Jan-Micheal some dignity and killed him off a third-of-the-way through). The same goes for David Naughton: he did the abysmal Kidnapped for Howard Avedis . . . and trust us when we tell you Ice Cream Man is a step up for the ol’ Dr. Pepper guy from the ’70s.

Eh, still, while the celluloid proceedings are technically inept (There’s way too many shots of kids’ sneakers; did Converse have a product placement deal? The loopy dream sequences and flashbacks don’t mesh with Jan-Micheal’s heavy-stoic approach to the material; it feels as if his footage is spliced in from another film, entirely), we’re still going along for the whole, heartily-hilarious ride with Gregory Tudor. Turns out: as a child, lil’ Greggy was traumatized by seeing a local ice cream man murdered. So, after his release from the nuthouse, all Tudor wants to do is give children the happiness he never had (again, we learn of his agony via awkward, dark-comedy-slanted dreamy-flashbacks). 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” those rats and roaches are scurrying in.

One of the great, off-the-rail moments, amid the ice scream slasher sickness, is that the proceedings spin-out from being a kid’s movie, say like The Goonies (1985), but more 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 when he has to and is always game for the challenge.

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 Screenwriter and Director Scoop

The completely off-the-reservation script served as the screenwriting debut for Tisch School of the Arts-graduated David Dobkin. You know Double D 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 the Tim Allen-fronted Christmas comedy, Fred Claus. Dobkin is still at it with the SyFy series Resident Alien, as well as directing a few recent videos for Maroon 5.

But who directed this film? Uh-oh, it’s a John Howard-directing Spine alert! Yep, we are on the SOV fringes with porn auteurs goin’ mainstream just as I suspected, once you realize although director-producer Paul Norman directed over 100 films (the name of “Norman Apstein” is tossed around as the “director”; the former was his “professional” name)—they were porn movies. Don’t believe us: for a time he was married to adult film star Tori Welles (she cameos in a supermarket scene). Still don’t believe us: one of those films was the popular, behind-the-green-curtain renter, Edward Penishands (1991). So, yeah, give a guy $2 million bucks and he goes from penishands to icecreamscoop hands. Only in American cinema.

So, as you can see, based on David Dobkin’s screenwriting and directing credibility, Ice Cream Man is a case of a (porn) director (in his only commercial film) not connecting with the material he’s tasked committing to film.

Need another porn auteur goin’ mainstream in the VHS ’80s? Then Blood Salvage is your movie.

Wrapping It Up

However . . . I never review a flick that doesn’t warm the ol’ cogs of my VHS-pumping heart cartridge. So, yeah, I love this movie in a Blood Salvage and Baker County, USA trashy kind-a-way because there’s no way anyone—mainstream or porn—can direct a seriously-toned story about a demented ice cream man without instigating squirm-inducing discomforts. The auteur must go for the camp—which Paul Norman has—or the film ends up on a puritanical “video nasty” list, never to 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 . . . and don’t hold the eyes . . . that you want to see again, and again.

Yes. Baskin Robbins marketed TV series and movies: check out our post for more of ’em!

Okay, I am going to have a bewitching scoop with Samantha Stephens—lord have mercy! Elizabeth Montgomery AND Baskin Robbins? A sexy, ’60s TV witch serving up two scoops?? Like ‘ol Diamond Dave opined: All of her flavors are guaranteed to satisfy . . . as will those DVDs issued in 2004, as well as the improved Blu-ray/DVD combo issued in 2017 by Vinegar Syndrome as a 2,500-limited, exclusive Slipcover Edition scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm original negative (Blu-ray.com gives you the technical low-down on the latter). As result of those digital reboots, you can now easily stream Ice Cream Man on the Pluto, Roku, Tubi, and Vudu platforms. To promote the 2004 release, Joe Bob Briggs hosted that restored version on TNT for its weekly MonsterVision programming block with Clint Howard.

The Swirly Tales of the Sequel

In 2014, Clint Howard devised a Kickstarter campaign to fund a sequel. Uh? What? You’re telling me . . . with all that Howard family fortune from all of his brother’s movies . . . Clint has to “kickstart” a film for himself? Yep. According to these two posts at Dead Central (here and here) the campaign that opened on October 9, 2014, quickly closed on October 30, 2014, when only 70 backers ponied up a little over $4,000. Come on, Ronnie! Give brother Clint two million, shoot in Canada, and write it off as a tax shelter. We want our Ice Cream Man!

And we just may! In May 2023, courtesy of the fine folks at Joblo.com, we’ve come to learn that it’s taken nine years for Clint Howard to make good on his promise that he wasn’t giving up on the sequel. He and director Norman Apstein have collaborated on a new screenplay. You can keep up with the latest on the sequel by following Clint on his official Instagram. Clint’s latest film for 2023 is co-starring with Nicolas Cage in the revisionist western, The Old Way.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn about his work on Facebook.

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