DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
STUFF, THE (director/writer: Larry Cohen; cinematographer: Paul Glickman; editor: Armond Lebowitz; music: Anthony Guefen; cast: Paul Sorvino (Colonel Malcolm Spears), Michael Moriarty (David ‘Moe’ Rutherford), Andrea Marcovicci (Nicole Kendall), Scott Bloom (Jason), Garrett Morris (Chocolate Chip Charlie W. Hobbs), Patrick O’Neal (Fletcher), Alexander Scourby (Evans), Danny Aiello (Vickers, FDA administrator), Harry Bellaver (Old miner, accidental discoverer of The Stuff), Colette Blonigan (Jason's mother), Brian Bloom (Jason's older brother), Frank Telfer (Jason's father); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Paul Kurta; Anchor Bay; 1985)

 
"Totally resistible horror comedy by the playful B film filmmaker Larry Cohen."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Totally resistible horror comedy by the playful B film filmmaker Larry Cohen ("It's Alive"/"God Told Me To"/"Q – The Winged Serpent"). This spoof of cheesy 1950's sci-fi thrillers never has enough funny moments or scares, but plenty of a yogurt-like white goo to go around in its satire of how hot new foods get marketed and how conformist-minded is America.   

David ‘Moe’ Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) is a Texas accented, cowboy boot wearing, cheeky bozo fired ex-FBI agent, now an industrial saboteur, who is hired by an unscrupulous coalition of ice cream manufacturers to steal the secret ingredients in a dessert called The Stuff that's sweeping the country as the latest fad fast-food and even outselling ice cream. Moe, who tells us he's not as dumb as he looks, hooks up with the following threesome to go after The Stuff's base of operation: there's revengeful martial arts expert and cookie mogul, Chocolate Chip Charlie W. Hobbs (Garrett Morris), whose cookie company was taken over in a hostile takeover to manufacture The Stuff; there's remorseful Madison Avenue head Nicole Kendall (Andrea Marcovicci), whose ad agency has given the product a successful advertising campaign and now regrets she played such a big part in destroying the country since she cares more about people than money; and there's a nervy suburban Long Island adolescent named Jason (Scott Bloom), who discovers that The Stuff is not good for you and refuses to eat it despite forced to by his zombie parents. 

The Stuff comes bubbling out of the ground, in a mine field in Midlands, Georgia, as white goo and is not processed, but is immediately mined and sent to stores in giant petroleum trucks. It's marketed under the logo 'Enough is never enough,' and though tasty becomes dangerously habit forming. It also has strange side-effects, as the product is alive and soon takes over the body as it turns those who devour it into monstrous zombies. When Moe can't get the authorities to stop manufacturing this FDA approved but deadly product, he uses blackmail to get the right-wing Colonel Malcolm Spears (Paul Sorvino) to have his private militia attack the plant at the mine and sabotage their operation. Ironically, the madman racist Spears becomes mankind's best hope to stop "The Stuff" from taking over the world and not the American government.

More stupid than funny, but more subversive than most bad B films of the 1950s (this one attacks Reagan era conformity and belief in the efficiency of private industry over government). The Stuff is the perfect silly cult movie for the 1950's drive-in crowd. Too bad it was released in 1985 and the drive-in fad had already crashed. The idea here is better than Cohen's lazy direction, as all it has to show for its efforts are a few funny shocking moments (like the bad dudes getting their just dessert in the end) to remind us of what it could have been if properly executed. The Stuff is Cohen's version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1955).

REVIEWED ON 4/14/2011       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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