Happy 40th Birthday to my favorite Maniac, Jesse Hawthorne Ficks! And what a better way to celebrate than to program a triple-bill of Teen and Alienated flicks at the brand new Alamo Drafthouse New Mission San Francisco. And better yet, have the star of all three films--Dean Cameron--there to talk about them, sign autographs, and hang out with the fans.
SUMMER SCHOOL (1987): First up was this comedy about teen dunces...only not really, they're actually kind of smart. Nominally starring Mark Harmon as Shoop, the PE teacher who gets roped into teacher remedial English over the summer, and Kirstie Alley as the advanced placement teacher whose kids actually want to spend more time in school (we mercifully never hear from them.) But the kids are the stars, and of course Dean Cameron as "Chainsaw" (as in "Texas...Massacre") with his equally movie obsessed buddy Dave (Gary Riley.) They don't want to be there, and neither does he. So they come to an agreement to just waste the summer away on "field trips." But that doesn't last long, when the vice-principal gives him an ultimatum--they pass their test or he's fired. So Shoop and the kids set up a little quid pro quo, they'll study if he'll help them out in various ways. Anything from teaching them to drive to playing TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in class (interesting trivia, originally they were supposed to be obsessed with Tod Browning's FREAKS, but the studio nixed that as too obscure.) Director and comedy genius Carl Reiner crafts a film that's not just very funny, but also has a heart about caring about the kids as people, not just as test scores. A message that's surprisingly politically relevant still today (perhaps more so today.) In fact, there's a lot about it that's still surprisingly relevant. In the aftermath of #OscarsSoWhite, it's interesting to see a movie from 1987 make a long joke about how the black kid is invisible (and secretly smarter than all of them.)
SKI SCHOOL (1990): And then this not-quite-a-sequel features Dean Cameron as Dave Marshak, an instructor at a ski school. I like to think Chainsaw took up skiing, then used it as a way to make a living while still partying all the time. He runs "Section Eight" the freakiest, loosest team on the mountain. First Section is run by uptight rich kids, and yes, as Jesse promised in the introduction, there's a fucking Holocaust metaphor there. Oh, you might want to dismiss this movie as mindless, but in order to be the best, you must lose your mind. And this movie loses its mind pretty brilliantly. There's a lot of partying (and a lot of naked ladies) and a lot of skiing, which is shot pretty well. And after all, skiing is partying, partying is skiing. And goddamn this movie is quotable.
ROCKULA (1990) And finally, we ended the night on this bizarre piece of pure silliness, from the waning days of Cannon Films. Dean Cameron is Ralph, a 400-year old teenage vampire. In his youth--well, in the early years of his youth--his true love was killed by a pirate with a rhinestone peg-leg and a hambone. He did nothing to stop it, and for his cowardice he is cursed to watch her be reborn, grow to 22 years of age, and be murdered again the same way every time (pirate, rhinestone peg leg, and a hambone--this last time played by Thomas Dolby.) His reflection in the mirror talks him into actually manning up and saving her this time, and to do that he has to--for some reason--become a rock star. Toni Basil co-stars as his mother, and Bo Diddley is his freakin' Axman. That was all way too much fun.
Total Running Time: 279 minutes
My Total Minutes: 420,577