It Came From Hollywood (Malcolm Leo & Andrew Solt) (1982)
A hodgepodge obvious attempted cash-grab compilation of clips from over a hundred B movies, dated from the 1920’s all the way up through the late 70’s, broken down into nine categories — including Apes, Aliens, Bad Musicals, and even a (relatively weak) section celebrating that cross-dressing icon of the insanely inept B movie, Ed Wood himself – with random popular comedians of the day like Gilda Radner, Cheech and Chong (the reason I watched the thing in the first place), Dan Aykroyd and John Candy mostly working really hard to make the mostly forgettable (and thankfully short) chapter introductions somehow funny.
Moving along on my catching up all of things Cheech and Chong cinematic, with nary a DVD release in sight, I originally skipped over this compilation piece (shrugging it off as a mere C&C cameo) and went right from the already diminishing returns of the comedy duo’s 1982 road comedy Things Are Tough All Over (which still had plenty of very amusing moments) to their complete comedy derailment the following year, with 1983’s Still Smokin, which I suspect can only be enjoyed completely stoned and from a perspective of seeing the duo’s crazy antics as some kind of deliberately awkward and strained experimental performance art, rather than as a coherent attempt at clever comedy (which it isn’t – by a long shot).
However, stumbling across the presence of It Came From Hollywood on Youtube (in a ratty-looking transfer), my obsessive completist nature kicked in and I realized I had to watch it. First thing I should point out is that I despise the entire concept of the once popular 80’s show “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, finding it not a celebration of (bad) cinema, but ultimately a smug dismissal of an art form, which has unfortunately led to entire future generations of hipster audiences shrieking loudly like packs of hyenas at films that, at worst they simply don’t understand and go over their heads (i.e., are superior to them), and at best, still have more to offer than the reactions of an audience desperately attempting to prove superiority would imply (the very fact that the audacious and under-appreciated sci-fi masterpiece Phase IV was one of the choices for derision on the show reveals how entirely clueless the lackies who made that show were).
Unfortunately, the glib commentary provided by the comedians over a number of the clips in It Came From Hollywood do make it feel a little too close to an early forerunner to that despicable “MST3000”, but thankfully the narration is intermittent and mostly innocuous enough that it doesn’t kill the enjoyment of what is the true pleasure of this kind of compilation – that being, watching all those fun clips… and, wow, what a mash-up of various quality of cinema it is; the fact that celebrated sci-fi works such as The Day The Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds are included in the same room with, say, such enjoyable absurd silliness as From Hell it Came (which gave us Tabonga, the walking tree stump monster) gives a sense of the random nature of the clips in this compilation.
As for Cheech and Chong, the very reason for my stopping by this particular cinematic joint, the comedy duo manages to escape fairly unscathed, doing some passable yeoman’s work, in their chapter covering Drug Movies. With their skit revolving around them getting stoned and heading to the movies (hit with the major munchies, Chong carries just about the entire food supply from the concession stand with him to his seat) – and inevitably commenting on the absurd ‘drug hysteria’ film clips they’re watching, as well as Cheech openly ogling the two hot chicks that roll up in the seats in front of them (after all, it wouldn’t be Cheech and Chong without at least one inappropriate moment of racial stereotyping), they’re easy going reliance on their affable stoner personas works out, with the only other comedian really doing anything noteworthy being Gilda Radner, as her moment of running around in hysteria trying to do exactly what the urgent radio voice is telling her to do is amusing.
Overall, though? It’s about the clips from all those wonderful movies, with many of them wrapped in warm blanket of nostalgia, ranging from the patently absurd (Plan Nine from Outer Space) to the iconic (Creature from the Black Lagoon). I never tire of seeing them, even with the mostly banal (and, as I said, thankfully infrequent) commentary.