Cast and Crew: Paul Sorvino, Danny Aiello, Brook Adams, Abe Vigoda, Clara Peller, Eric Bogosian, Patrick Dempsey
What It’s About: When a new junk food, The Stuff, takes the country by storm, it’s up to industrial spy Mo (Michael Moriarty) and cookie king “Chocolate Chip” Charlie (Garrett Morris) to discover the terrifying truth behind its popularity.
Why Watch it Today?: July is National Ice Cream Month, so why not catch quirky independent filmmaker Larry Cohen’s amusing satire on the rise and marketing of junk food in the 1980s? You may want to skip the ice cream before watching.
Where to Get It: Netflix (rental) or Amazon
I’d call this my favorite Cohen movie but, really, Cohen’s 70s pictures have such a rough, punk rock energy I can’t help but like them more…even with all the times that roughness got in the way of good storytelling. Making those films taught him lessons that, for my cash, mightily improved his 1980s flicks…except for “Island of the Alive.” And “Return to Salems Lot.” Those two can suck it.
See, I feel like his 70s movies have stronger storytelling than many of his 80s films, where I feel like his budget issues show through more clearly. This one, for example, felt all over the place, with a lot of half-formed ideas mixed in with some standout scenes and ideas. I think Cohen is almost always a better idea man than anything else, but his ideas are so original (and often so funny) that I love his movies warts and all. I haven’t seen Return to Salem’s Lot since the 90s, I think, but I loved it when it first hit cable (no, scratch that, everyone in my family but my Mom, who doesn’t do horror, loved it) so its probably going to be hard to go back. Somehow the “Jewish Nazi hunter vs. Vampires” thing is so over the top I can’t help but think back on it fondly. I also love how I keep finding films I remember seeing on cable and thinking were fun/weird but not quite good and they are his-like The Ambulance, for example.