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  Student Bodies No Gore? No Sex? No Problem!
Year: 1981
Director: Mickey Rose, Michael Ritchie
Stars: Kristen Riter, Matthew Goldsby, Richard Belzer, Joe Flood, Joe Talarowski, Mimi Weddell, Carl Jacobs, Peggy Cooper, Janice E. O'Malley, Kevin Mannis, Sarah Eckhardt, Brian Batytis, Cullen G. Chambers, Joan Browning Jacobs, Angela Bressler, Kay Ogden
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Halloween goes by without incident, so does Friday the 13th, but come Jamie Lee Curtis's birthday, trouble is afoot. A teenage babysitter is alone downstairs in this large house in the middle of the night when she thinks she hears a noise outside. She goes to check, just in case, but on opening the front door she sees that it was only a dog meowing, and returns to the living room - but forgets to lock the door. Then the telephone calls start, with a heavy breather (Richard Belzer) on the line: she slams the receiver down, but he is persistent, even to the point of drooling through the phone at her, so she gets up and goes to the kitchen - and then someone creeps up behind her!

Not to worry, it's her boyfriend, but there is a killer on the loose, as there seemed to be in most of the horror movies released in the early eightes, this being the official heyday of the slasher. It was only a matter of time before someone noticed the absurd amount of serial killers gracing the screen, with their elaborate methods of dispatch and their ludicrous motives, and decided to send them all up, so Student Bodies was the result of that. It was actually made during the writers' strike of the day for something non-union Paramount could release and in spite of its no name cast, it did have a proper, fairly well kent director behind the camera in Michael Ritchie.

For whatever reason, he had to leave his name off the credits, opting for the old familiar Alan Smithee which used to be the standby for filmmakers to use as a pseudonym when "creative differences" meant they wanted to distance themselves from the production. So that's a film the director left his name off, made as a cheap alternative to more professional product, and featuring no stars: it should be pretty awful, right? Or at the very least deeply unloved. And yet, perhaps it's because there had not been many of these horror spoofs before it came along, but there's something oddly fresh about Student Bodies that may not have packed out cinemas on its initial release, but has found a following since.

This is probably due to its "anything for a laugh" sense of humour which wins you over, making it the too-neglected Airplane! of slasher movies and assuredly funnier than anything in the Scary Movie series. Our final girl (it does stick to the genre rules when it suits) is Toby (Kristen Riter shining in her sole screen appearance), who in a twist so obvious it's a wonder nobody thought of it before for a straight serial killer horror, is the main suspect when her friends begin to be bumped off by The Breather. The villain not only has asthmatic qualities, but he provides a running commentary to his murders, though don't go looking to match his voice to any of the cast: Richard Belzer (as Richard Brando!) provided the vocals only.

In its dedication to the ridiculous, the film does resolve itself into a selection of sketches around Toby's high school, where they are holding all their big events, including parade, football game and prom, all in one day to save money. The staff are really the most suspicious ones, each with their personal quirks such as the woodwork teacher's preoccupation with horse head bookends, which might indicate a dark heart to their character, but there's nothing very dark about any of this. It's not afraid to go for the scatalogical gag, but this wasn't enough to get it anything other than a PG rating, meaning halfway through the executive producer appears and does his best to up it to an R, the film's most famous joke. The inspiration does run dry about the hour mark, but the cheerfully farcical atmosphere ensures goodwill in the viewer, making this no classic, but one of the best of its kind nevertheless. Music by Gene Hobson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Michael Ritchie  (1938 - 2001)

American director, from television, whose films of the 1970s showed an interesting, sardonic take on America. After sour skiing drama Downhill Racer, he had an unhappy experience on the bizarre Prime Cut before a run of acclaimed movies: political satire The Candidate, the excellent Smile, coarse comedy The Bad News Bears, and another sporting comedy Semi-Tough.

Moving into the 1980s, Ritchie lost his edge with such lukewarm efforts as The Island, underwhelming comedy The Survivors, the not bad Fletch and its very bad sequel, Eddie Murphy vehicle The Golden Child and The Couch Trip, but he made a brief return to form in the early 1990s with boxing comedy Diggstown.

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