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Pandemonium
(1980)
 

Director: Alfred Sole                  
Cast:
Tom Smothers, Paul Reuben, Judge Reinhold


It's funny how a likable, talented, and enthusiastic cast can do for a movie. I've seen this happen several times before. Several years ago, I watched a movie called Ninja Academy, which was an obvious made-for-video knock-off of the Police Academy movies, if you can believe that. Ninja Academy's level of humor seldom went above the level of calling a secret agent, "Double O Seven-Eleven". However, despite mostly lame jokes, the movie was surprisingly watchable (in a dumb movie kind of way) because the cast of unknowns were a likable bunch of actors, and tackled their clichéd roles with enthusiasm and a sense of fun. Because of this, the movie seemed funnier than it really was.

Pandemonium is kind of like that. Though the script is nowhere at the level of the script for Ninja Academy, you know that you're not exactly in for a laugh riot the size of Airplane! when you have a mother by the name of "Salt" and her child named "Pepe". Or when the hero is a Mountie on a horse with a ring around its eye a la the dog in The Little Rascals. But somehow, it's kind of fun seeing the cast here do and say such things. And the cast! There's Tom Smothers, Paul Reubens, Tab Hunter, Sydney Lassik, Phil Hartmann, and Donald O'Connor among others.

As I said before, the script is a lot better than you'd think. No masterpiece, but funny. Take the opening scene at It Had To Be University in 1963, where after the university wins the championship football scene, an unseen killer tosses a javelin at a line of cheerleaders carrying the props they used during the half-time break for "A salute to vegetables". You can imagine the sight gag and the headlines for this shish kebob killing. More killings of cheerleaders happen, and the cheerleading school is closed. Cut to the present day, where former cheerleader Bambi reopens the cheerleading school to a small group of male and female cheerleaders. One student is played by Judge Reinhold (with bleached hair!), who has one of the funniest gags when he has shaving cuts on his face - and his hand. (The gag is even funnier when you realize it foreshadows a certain scene he played in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.)

Canadian Mountie Tom Smothers, and his sidekick Paul Reubens (who uses a lot of his Pee-Wee Herman character in his performance) in the meantime are investigating a breakout of a dangerous criminal from the state penitentiary AND investigating a breakout of a dangerous psycho from the state asylum. A shadowy figure starts lurking around undetected around the campus, and
Japanese tourists start visiting the legendary campus and harass Bambi and the students. Will Tom Smothers be able to save the day?

I admit the last twenty minutes of this movie run out of gas. I could do without a dumb scene with a character taking a bath in milk and chocolate chip cookies, and some other equally inane attempts at humor. But even then, I was looking back fondly at the gags that I liked. The scene at the restaurant, despite having a number of corny gags is delivered with such gusto by the cast that it was laugh-out-loud funny. And it was inevitable that a comedy with a Mountie would spoof the "Indian Love Call" song from Rose-Marie. But it was funny all the same. It was probably inevitable that a sloppy, casual production like this couldn't coast forever on the performances of the actors and a few good gags. On the other hand, there are definitely a number of genuine laughs and some fun actors here. Viewers who are not in a particularly demanding mood when they see it will probably find it worth their while. Why resort to watching a feeble comedy like The Pest or The 6th Man when you can watch a movie that, at its worst, can be called half a funny movie?

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: When Nature Calls, Love At Stake, Prime Time

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