Saturday the 14th (1981)
Directed By: Howard R. Cohen
Starring: Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Jeffrey Tambor, Severn Darden, Kari Michaelsen, Kevin Brando, Rosemary DeCamp, Stacy Keach Sr., Carole Androsky, Roberta Collins, Nancy Lee Andrews, Paul ‘Mousie’ Garner, Annie O’Donnell, Thomas Newman, Allen Joseph, Craig Coulter, Michael Miller
1/2 (out of 4)
The Monster Spa
Time to take a look at the lighter side of horror with a new column on horror spoofs. Today’s movie is a horror comedy that came out in 1981 called Saturday the 14th. If you remember your history, that’s one year after the debut of the first Friday the 13th flick; however, this film has nothing to do with Friday the 13th at all. Instead of a slasher parody, Saturday the 14th decides to poke fun at the B-movie monsters from Universal’s, Hammer’s, and William Castle’s crop of movies while using a haunted house setting. The result is underwhelming (and I’m being kind), but if you saw it as a kid then it’s possible you might get a tinge of nostalgia over it.
Monsters love to read the classics.
A family of idiots comprised of John (Richard Benjamin), his wife Mary (Paula Prentiss, actually Benjamin’s real life wife), “smart” son Billy (Kevin Brando) and his teenage sister Debbie (Kari Michaelson, aka “Katie” from Gimme a Break!) have inherited a house that’s cursed (they know this because as soon as the lawyer reads the will, he drops dead). This disappoints a vampire husband-and-wife team (Jeffrey Tambor and Nancy Lee Andrews) who wanted to purchase the house and get possession of the “Book of Evil,” which, when opened, unleashes unto the world a gaggle of stunt dudes dressed in bad monster costumes meant to look like the Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, and other bizarre, hairy things. When Mary gets strange bite-marks in her neck, it really doesn’t change her behavior all that much (unless the plot calls for it), while Billy and Debbie are harassed by the monsters who sometimes take victims (but mostly just confusingly wander around, break things, and raid the fridge). After a spoof of The Birds where Mary gets attacked by “bats in the belfry” (she mistakes them for owls), John calls an exterminator who brings in Van Helsing (an amusing Severn Darden), who has been searching for the book for years. Van Helsing (and the book) warns that while Friday the 13th is bad… Saturday the 14th is worse.
The horrible monsters arrive.
Most of the jokes in Saturday the 14th are dated, and even if they weren’t, they still wouldn’t be very funny. Most of the problem is in execution; director/screenwriter Howard R. Cohen just goes through the motions here, even though the cast seems game (Jeffrey Tambor and Severn Darden are the standouts). The best lines probably go to Darden’s character, who delivers in a deadpan style:
“So you’re having a baby. [To John] Do you know whose baby it might be?”
“We need onion dip. We need club soda. We need Barbara Streisand records!”
[After Mary screams at him in horror] “Ah this must be your charming wife…. what’s for dinner?”
The rest of it is harmless, kid-friendly material, although a bathtub scene involving Kari Michaelson is on the fence for a PG picture. The bad Jaws parody notwithstanding (and notice that the threatening-thing-coming-out-of-the-tub predates A Nightmare on Elm Street by 3 years), the naked Michaelson (her nudity cleverly covered up by towels and/or bath suds) spices it up (I reckon that the 19-at-the-time actress must have activated the hormones of many male pre-teens). The rest of the comedy is ho-hum – jokes are too easy (eyes in the coffee, dad too stupid to turn around and see the monster, typical jokes about in-laws, characters say stuff like “I never Drink… Coffee”, juvenile slapstick), the special effects are anything but, and the lighting is one step above your cell phone display, but on the other hand it seems like everyone involved is quite aware of how bad it is and rolls with it anyway. If you loved this one as a kid, you’ll be disappointed watching it as an adult, and yet, the movie is impossible to hate. Probably because it’s mostly harmless fluff, good for a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Rehearsing for the upcoming Vegas show.
Richard Benjamin would go on to sit in the director’s chair for the highly acclaimed comedy My Favorite Year (1982). Paula Prentiss should already be familiar to fans of The Stepford Wives and The Parallax View. Of course, Jeffrey Tambor is everywhere now. Severn Darden passed away in 1995. Believe it or not, Saturday the 14th (which was produced by Julie Corman) must have made money because they actually churned out a sequel 7 years later – Saturday 14th Strikes Back, which reunited Cohen and Corman. Apparently, that film is worse than this one, which seems like it would take effort. Good job, guys?
– Bill Gordon
The unsalted nuts make me choke!