2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge: Day 31: Homebodies (1974)

Day 31 The Gold Watch: One set in a retirement home or elderly community

For next year’s 2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge, one of the days should be “H.B.O Exposed: Movies you first saw in the ‘80s on H.B.O.”

Where would I begin: A Little Romance, Breaking Glass, The Great Santini, Hot Stuff, One Trick Pony, Over the Edge, Zoo Radio. . . . I could go and on with those days of cable television’s infancy as my flesh became one with the shag carpet in front of the TV watching movies on H.B.O and The USA Network. Another one of those never-heard-of-it-and-saw-it-first-on-H.B.O movies was the “geriatric” dark-comedy Homebodies, a film that effectively brews horror with black humor to convey a depressing story regarding the harsh treatment and ignorance the dismissive youthful express to the old. I can’t think of another film that is so cold, yet so warm, in its recognition of the real, heart wrenching problems associated with aging. It’s a case of coming for the horror and leaving with a newfound respect for the elderly.

Homebodies is the tale of quiet, lonely pensioners who have no one to rely on but each other. When they discover their apartment building has been condemned to make way for a new apartment complex, they spring into action to save their “Home, Sweet Home.” Then we’re treated to deliciously devilish, cleverly executed murders as these underestimated, geriatric Jasons hide their grim exploits knocking off real estate agents and developers, social workers, and construction workers for the common good of preserving their dignity of what little time they have left.

I have a deep, nostalgic connection to this movie, as it reminds me of my late father. We watched Homebodies as a family on a Friday evening on H.B.O. The scene when construction foreman Kenneth Tobey (1951’s The Thing from Another World) is disposed of in a concrete form and encased in cement became a family “in joke” for many years. When the form is filled and the deed is done, the “Homebodies” discover part of Tobey’s foot sticks out of a cutaway in the form. “Well, there’s only one thing left do to,” says Ian Wolfe’s matter-of-factly character . . . and WACK! goes the axe and off goes the peeking appendage. And with that . . . any time something went off-the-rails in the household, my dad would say with a swipe of hand, “Well, there’s only one thing left to do, WACK!” So, Ian, if you’re up there listening: I love you, man. You did one hell of a job in your only leading man role. Your delivery of that line of dialog created a lifetime memory. Oh, and Mr. Tobey? No offense. I’m sorry you had to lose a foot over it. I watch The Thing with my dad too, and your movie scared the crap out of me.

While Embassy Pictures issued the poorly distributed and promoted theatrical in 1974, it found an additional theatrical life in Sweden and a few other European countries in 1978. And while it found its way into the overseas home video markets through Embassy Home Entertainment in the early ‘80s in Australia, Europe, and East Asia, the film never appeared in the U.S until a 1994 VHS issued by Sony Pictures Entertainment. Thus, for U.S audiences, their first exposure, and only exposure, to Homebodies was on Home Box Office.

According to a 1974 report in the industry trade Variety, the shot-on-location in Cincinnati, Ohio-film’s cast was composed of veteran actors and actresses who appeared in a collective “nine hundred films,” but were receiving their first top-billing for the first time in their careers.

B&S eyes recognize Ian Wolfe right way from his role in THX 1138 (1971), while we remember Peter Brocco in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). As for William Hansen and Ruth McDivitt: Just wow. Pick a U.S TV Series from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Paula Trueman, who started her career in the ‘30s (and is seemingly always mistaken for the great Ruth Gordon), was Grandma Smith alongside Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) and was Mrs. Schumacher alongside Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing (1987).

Director Larry Yust made his debut with one of the lesser-known films in the Blaxploitation canons, Trick Baby (1972). After the theatrical failure of Homebodies (it deserved to be a box office hit, it’s so well-made and acted), he reverted into TV work. He eventually returned to film with the rich-man-leaves-his-son-an-interitance-if-he-marries-within-24-hours plot in Say Yes (1986) starring Jonathan Winters. It was Yust’s final film.

Unfortunately, there are no free or PPV online VHS rips available. And caveat emptor those grey market DVD-Rs polluting the marketplace. Buy them if you must, but know your regions before you finalize the cart. Courtesy of this review, hopefully you know what you are in for with this movie; however, let me caveat emptor you once more: Regarding the artwork tomfoolery of those bogus DVD-Rs (one of two of variations) that illustrates a modern, high rise skyscraper surrounded by three, very large and ethereal, elderly heads swathing the building. While you do get a definite Michael Winner’s elderly-Exorcist inversion with his The Sentinel (1977), there is nary a vapor of wraith of the Poltergeist III (1988) supernatural variety in Homebodies. So, if you want to add this to your home movie collection, you are best to wait for the fine folks at Kino Lorber to finalize their upcoming 2020 Blu-ray.

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

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