National Lampoon’s Movie Madness (1982)

Originally made as National Lampoon Goes to the Movies, this film sat for two years, perhaps to age like cheese, and was intended to be a parody of ten film and television genres. It ended up being three movies — a divorce story, a making-it-big movie and a cop caper. When it played a test screening in Rhode Island, the audience was so upset that they tore up the theater seats.

Yes, it wasn’t going well. And the disaster movie that was intended to be part of it — directed by Henry Jaglom — was completely taken out of the film despite being completed done. This threw the whole movie off time as it’s too short with only three parts.

“Growing Yourself” is about the divorce of the Coopers, Jason (Peter Riegert) and Susan (Candy Clark). It’s very late 70s and at this point, I figured that everyone making this was just doing coke — confirmed — and coasting thanks to Animal House, the Lampoon name, having an animated opening and getting Dr. John to do the theme. That said, Diane Lane is in this and that kind of made it better.

“Success Wanters” is about a woman (Ann Dusenberry, Jaws 2) who goes from exotic dancer to margarine magnate — Robert Culp has a heart attack and she gets it all — to First Lady. It’s kind of like those 40s rags to riches stories yet not good.

The last story, “Municipalians” teams a rookie cop (Robby Benson) with a crusty veteran (Richard Widmark) on the hunt for a serial killer (Christopher Lloyd). It’s worth just seeing the casting.

Bob Girladi directed the first two stories and Jaglom the final one. He’d been told by Orson Welles that he needed to do a studio movie. Well, after this one, never again.

While this movie isn’t all that funny or well made, it is a significant cultural artifact, the first film after the Lampoon made one of the most important comedy movies of all time and stumbled. For lovers of comedy, it’s at least worth that historical look.

National Lampoon’s Movie Madness is available from Kino Lorber.

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