Arnold Week: Scavenger Hunt (1979)

Milton Parker (Vincent Price) an eccentric game inventor — get it? — dies after losing a video game battle against with his nurse (Carol Wayne, a former Matinée Lady on Art Fern’s Tea Time Movie on The Tonight Show; she came to a mysterious end when after an argument with companion Edward Durston during a vacation, she walked alone down the beach outside Las Hadas Resort in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico. Her drowning in a shallow bay — with no drugs in her system — was ruled accidental).

Lawyer Charles Bernstein (Robert Morley) explains the will to Parker’s greedy relatives and in keeping with his life’s work, whatever team wins the scavenger hunt will inherit the $200 million estate.

The teams are:

  • Parker’s widowed son-in-law Henry Motley (Tony Randall) and his kids Jennifer (Missy Francis, a former Fox News anchor who won a $15 million settlement in a pay dispute in 2022), Michelle (Julie Anne Haddock, who was in the first season of The Facts of Life and played the superpowered Amadonna in the Wonder Woman episode “The Girl from Ilandia”), Jason (David Hollander) and Scott (Shane Sinutko).
  • Parker’s staff, which includes chef Henri (James Coco), his maid Babbette (Stephanie Faracy, When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?), Jenkins the valet (Roddy McDowall) and Jackson the limo driver (Cleavon Little, Sheriff Bart from Blazing Saddles).
  • On his own taxi driver Marvin Dummitz (Richard Mulligan).
  • Parker’s widowed sister Mildred Carruthers (Cloris Leachman), her son Georgie (Richard Masur, Nick Lobo from Rhoda) and their attorney Stuart Sellsome (Richard Benjamin).
  • Parker’s nephews Kenny and Jeff Stevens (Willie Aames — who gets a song on the soundtrack, “You’re the Only One That I Ever Needed” — and Dirk Benedict, for the ladies) and Mildred’s step-daughter Lisa (Maureen Teefy, Grease 2Supergirl and 1941, so no luck at all, huh? She’s also in the strange Star Time).

Under the supervision of Bernstein and his scorekeeper Cornfeld (Hal Landon, Jr.), the teams are all given a list of clues to find a hundred items all worth 5 to 100 points. Nothing can be bought and all must be brought back to the estate by 5 p.m. that day.

The staff must steal a cash register from a convenience store, a microscope from a lab and a toilet from a 5 starhotel, while Mildred, Stuart and Georgie try to get a stuffed bear. Their adventure nearly ends when a biker named Scum (Meat Loaf) knocks out the lawyer. Kenny, Jeff and Lisa need to get a Jack in the Box head from a drive-thru (product placement, anyone?), as well as grab a large man named Duane (Not Necessarily the News‘ Stuart Pankin), as well as Ruth Gordon’s bulletproof vest, a cop’s uniform, some nitrous oxide and a football helmet. Dummitz lives up to his name, failing repeatedly to get anything before being joined by another perhaps even worse off person, Sam (Scatman Crothers), who puts on a suit of armor and promptly gets run over. As for Motley, he must find a beehive, a life preserver and a parachute, which he’ll need when gym instructor Lars (Arnold Schwarzenegger) launches him out a window in the pursuit of a medicine ball.

Somehow, every team steals one of zookeeper Avery Schreiber’s ostriches. By the way, an ostrich group, called a herd, numbers about 12 individuals.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you like big dumb 70s comedies — they had a thing back then about putting way too many people in their movies and I totally forgot to mention that Robert Morley (Theater of Blood), Stephen Furst (who is probably wondering if he’s back in Midnight Madness, which might be the same movie; Disney felt similary and delayed the release of that movie because of this film), comedian Pat McCormick, Liz Torres, Henry Polic II, Marji Martin, Jerado Decordovier, Emory Bass and Byron Webster are in this — then you’ll probably enjoy this.

Amazingly, this was all directed by Michael Schultz — which explains why perhaps Scatman Crothers gets the biggest part of the endgame and this makes me happy — a black filmmaker whose resume includes standouts like Cooley HighKrush GrooveDisorderliesThe Last DragonCar Wash and the movie that nearly ended his career and was followed up here, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The script was by John Thompson, producer Steven Vail and Gerry Woolery, who did the animated titles for Mannequin and Loverboy as well as the animation for one of Jim Carrey’s first acting roles, the animation-themed and short-lived series The Duck Factory.

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