hen Bullz-Eye pulls together its list of nominees for induction into our Directors Hall of Fame, the landscape is invariably filled with the usual suspects for these kinds of things, but given that we're somewhat of a guy-centric site (to put it mildly), we'll admit that we've been known to think a little bit outside the box sometimes, asking ourselves, "What directors have a solid track record for the kind of movies that guys like?" While his work may not have received a critical reception as consistently positive as some of his fellow inductees, John Landis has been at the helm of several of the funniest and most quotable films of the past 30 years. Plus, c'mon, the dude directed "Thriller," a video which both transcended its medium and introduced an entire generation to the concept of "appointment viewing."* To our way of thinking, he's earned his spot in the Hall many times over.
* Kids, ask your parents if they ever made a point of tuning in to MTV at the top of the hour in order to catch an airing of "Thriller." If they tell you they didn't, then ask them what it was like to grow up in a cultural vacuum.
Although born in Chicago, Illinois, Landis had little choice but to accompany his family when they relocated to Los Angeles when he was four months old. One could argue that his Hollywood career technically began when he picked up a job as a mail clerk at 20th Century Fox, Landis got his big break in 1969 when circumstances on the set of "Kelly's Heroes" provided him with the opportunity to serve as the film's assistant director. Two years later, he was at the helm of his own film: "Schlock," a tribute to the monster movies of his youth. It was not a success, however, leading Landis to take a step back for a time.
Many successful directors have kicked off their careers with films that were declared "cult classics" right out of the box. "The Kentucky Fried Movie" was such a film for Landis: although it didn't set the box office on fire, many hip comedians worshipped at its altar, earning him the opportunity to tackle his first major studio picture…and, of course, we all know how "National Lampoon's Animal House" turned out for him. With John Belushi squarely in his corner, Landis soon took on the challenge of bringing "The Blues Brothers" to the big screen. Soon enough, Landis was in possession of a 5-for-5 feature-film record, following the aforementioned three films with the equally classic (if decidedly different in tone) "An American Werewolf in London" and "Trading Places," with the former no doubt having a great deal to do with one M. Jackson saying, "Look, I've got my own little werewolf project I'd like you to help me out with…"
Perhaps it was inevitable that anything following "Thriller" would be considered a commercial disappointment, at least comparatively speaking, but with the disappointing box office returns of 1985's "Into the Night" coming immediately after the controversy of actor Vic Morrow having been killed during the filming of Landis's segment in "Twilight Zone: The Movie," it's fair to suggest that Landis was probably looking forward to an upturn in his fortunes. Fortunately for him, he found it, thanks to the back-to-back slapstick successes of "Spies Like Us" and "Three Amigos," while a re-teaming with Eddie Murphy for "Coming to America" kept the momentum going. But, then, it all went a bit pear-shaped…and, unfortunately, this time the change in Landis' commercial fortunes wouldn't be just a one-off.
Looking at Landis's film work throughout the ‘90s, it would be all too easy to suggest that the man's glory days in the industry had come and gone: although 1992's "Innocent Blood" is an underrated, dark-humored gem that deserves reappraisal in a post-"Sopranos" world (vampires + the Mafia = a lot of fun), there are far fewer who would defend such titles as "Oscar," "Beverly Hills Cop III," "The Stupids." Even "Blues Brothers 2000," which starts strongly, falls flat soon after and dips to depressing depths as it tries and fails to recapture the magic of the original…but, really, without Belushi, did anyone ever truly believe that it would succeed?
Though the general public might say that his work with classic film comedies ended with "Coming to America," Landis has still continued to have success as a director: in addition to collaborating with Michael Jackson again for the "Black and White" video, he has also helmed a great deal of television in recent years, including episodes of "Dream On," "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The Series," "Masters of Horror," and "Psych." In addition, he has proven himself a highly capable documentarian with "Slasher" and "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project."
In 2010, Landis returned to feature films with another blend of horror and comedy: "Burke and Hare," starring Simon Pegg, Tim Curry, Christopher Lee, Andy Sirkis, Stephen Merchant, Tom Wilkinson, and Isla Fisher. Dare we suggest that a career renaissance is on the horizon? One can only hope.
"National Lampoon's Animal House" (1978)
We have neither the time nor the inclination to list off how many best-of lists this movie has made over the years, but we knows it's a pretty substantial figure. We're also not sure how many other films within the National Film Registry of the United States Library of Congress feature a guy's conscience telling him, "Fuck her brains out, suck her tits, squeeze her buns, you know she wants it," but we're betting that one's probably a single-digit number.
"The Blues Brothers" (1980)
Though technically not a "Saturday Night Live" film (it wasn't produced by Lorne Michaels), "The Blues Brothers" generally sits at or near the top of any best-of list of such films by virtue of its titular characters having made their initial appearances on the show. A brilliant mish-mash of car crashes and classic R&B, Landis's original vision was marred by a producer's request that he cut 25 minutes from the film (he talked them down to 15), but the DVD collector's version offers the original, uncut version in all its glory.
"An American Werewolf in London" (1981)
Landis reportedly came up with the concept for this still-effective blend of comedy and horror while working in Yugoslavia on the film "Kelly's Heroes," but recognition of his writing and directing all too often take a backseat to the startlingly effective makeup by FX legend Rick Baker. Looking at it now, however, the tone of "An American Werewolf in London" has served as a template for countless other darkly humorous scarefests, few of which have succeeded to the same degree.
"Trading Places" (1983)
Speaking of "SNL," we're pretty sure this film was the first time two generations of the show's alumni had been brought together. Although Dan Aykroyd wasn't having much success as a solo act ("Doctor Detroit," anyone?), but thanks to "48 Hours," Murphy's stock couldn't have been much higher. Working with strong ensemble (Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Ameche, Ralph Bellamy, and Denholm Elliot also starred) and a script by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod that was equal parts "Black Like Me" and "The Prince and the Pauper," "Trading Places" provided Landis with some of the strongest reviews of his career, with Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin both likening the film to the work of Preston Sturges.
"Slasher"(2004) / "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project" (2007)
Although Landis may not be predominantly known for his documentaries, he's been at the helm of two truly great ones. The subject of "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project" may be self-explanatory, but "Slasher" offers a look into the life of a man who travels to car dealerships around the country and helps them to maximize their sales. Both films are highly fascinating, leaving you wondering why Landis hasn't done more work in the medium.
"Amazon Women on the Moon" (1987)
Having earned his first serious cult success ten years prior with the sketch-driven "Kentucky Fried Movie," Landis boldly decided to revisit the territory once again, this time joining forces with four other directors: Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, and Robert K. Weiss. The various sketches are all ostensibly part of a television station's late-night programming, but as the channel is having technical difficulties while airing the (fake) sci-fi classic "Amazon Women on the Moon," various other items are played in the interim. Landis contributes several great segments to the film, but for a quick highlight, you can't go wrong with his public service announcement for "Blacks without Soul," hosted by B.B. King.
Many a film with a great cast has been taken down by assigning the lead role to the wrong actor. This is one of them. There's a veritable laundry list of familiar faces in this gangster comedy, including Kirk Douglas, Don Ameche, Tim Curry, Marisa Tomei, and Chazz Palminteri, and Landis even threw a couple of his good luck charms into the cast (Peter Riegert and Mark Metcalf), but it was to no avail: Sylvester Stallone is not now nor has he ever been a comedian.
"The Kentucky Friend Movie" (1977)
"Animal House" (1978)
"The Blues Brothers" (1980)
"An American Werewolf in London" (1981)
"Trading Places" (1983)
"Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983)
"Into the Night" (1985)
"Spies Like Us" (1985)
"Three Amigos" (1986)
"Amazon Women on the Moon" (1987)
"Coming to America" (1988)
"Innocent Blood" (1992)
"Beverly Hills Cop III" (1994)
"The Stupids" (1996)
"Blues Brothers 2000" (1998)
"Susan's Plan" (1998)
"Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project" (2007)
"Burke & Hare" (2010)
Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (1983)
"George Burns Comedy Week" (1985)
"Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Special" (1990)
"Dream On" (1990 – 1995)
Michael Jackson's "Black or White" (1991)
"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show" (1999)
"The Kronenberg Chronicles" (2002)
"Masters of Horror" (2005 – 2006)
"Psych" (2007 – 2008)
"Fear Itself" (2008)
THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE
"The popcorn you are eating has been pissed in. Film at eleven."
"In the past year, over 800,000 Americans have died. Despite millions of dollars of research, death continues to be our nation's number one killer."
"I'm not wearing any pants. Film at eleven."
"I'm a zit. Get it?"
"That boy is a P-I-G pig."
"I hate those guys."
"Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps."
THE BLUES BROTHERS
"We're on a mission from God."
"Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail me now!"
"How much for the little girl? How much for the women? I want to buy your women. The little girl, your daughters... sell them to me. Sell me your children."
"Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers has been approved."
"Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ, I have seen the light!"
"I hate Illinois Nazis."
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
"Now, I'm really sorry to be upsetting you, but I have to warn you. We were attacked by a werewolf. On the moors, we were attacked by a lycanthrope, a werewolf. I was murdered, an unnatural death, and now I walk the earth in limbo until the werewolf's curse is lifted. The wolf's bloodline must be severed; the last remaining werewolf must be destroyed. It's you, David."
"A naked American man stole my balloons."
"Have you tried talking to a corpse? It's boring."
"I will not be threatened by a walking meat loaf!"
"Queen Elizabeth is a man! Prince Charles is a faggot! Winston Churchill was full of shit! Shakespeare's French!"
"Benjamin, have you ever been severely beaten about the face and neck?"
"Hey, baby, what's happening? How are ya doing? Once you have a man with no legs, you never go back, baby."
Randolph Duke: Money isn't everything, Mortimer.
Mortimer Duke: Oh, grow up.
Randolph Duke: Mother always said you were greedy.
Mortimer Duke: She meant it as a compliment.
"I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor and no one liked me. I lost my job, I lost my house, Penelope hated me and it was all because of this terrible, awful Negro."
Louis: Looking good, Billy Ray!
Billy Ray: Feeling good, Louis!
"I'm not like other guys."
"What's the problem?"
INTO THE NIGHT
Herb: There's a girl there who will do *anything you want* for fifty dollars an hour.
Ed: Like what?
Herb: Anything! If you want she'll dress like Santa Claus!
Ed: Will she bring me a pony?
Diana: Elvis wouldn't do this, I knew him.
Charlie: You may have fucked him, but you didn't know him.
Ed: Are we under arrest, or what?
Federal Agent: I'd say you fall into the "or what" category.
SPIES LIKE US
Russian Interregator: Every minute you don't tell us why you are here, I cut off a finger.
Emmett Fitz-Hume: Mine or yours?
Russian Interregator: Yours.
Emmett Fitz-Hume: Damn!
Austin Millbarge: Show some balls, man!
Emmett Fitz-Hume: I think it's too late to try and impress them.
Emmett Fitz-Hume: Did you hear that?
Austin Millbarge: Yeah. It's a dickfer.
Emmett Fitz-Hume: What's a dickfer?
Austin Millbarge: To pee with.
Emmett Fitz-Hume: What's she saying?
Austin Millbarge: H... hair... hairbrush... headrest...
Emmett Fitz-Hume: Jesus, where did you learn your Russian? JCPenney?
"Oh, Dusty. In-famous is when you're MORE than famous. This man El Guapo, he's not just famous, he's IN-famous."
Rosita: I was thinking later, you could kiss me on the veranda.
Dusty Bottoms: Lips would be fine.
Dusty Bottoms: Time for plan B. Plan A was to break into El Guapo's fortress.
Carmen: And that you have done, now what?
Dusty Bottoms: Well we really don't have a plan B. We didn't expect for the first plan to work. Sometimes you can overplan these things.
"In a way, each of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be *the actual* El Guapo!"
Lucky Day: Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.
Ned Nederlander: Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there.
Dusty Bottoms: Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find...
Lucky Day, Ned Nederlander, Dusty Bottoms: The Three Amigos!
AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON
"Did you know that every 7 minutes a black person is born in this country with no soul?"
COMING TO AMERICA
"I want a woman that will arouse my intellect as well as my loins."
"The royal penis is clean, your Highness."
"All right, here we are. There's only one bathroom on this floor, so you're going to have to share it. We got a bit of an insect problem, but you boys from Africa are used to that. And another thing, don't use the elevator. It's a death trap. This is the place I was telling you about. It's real fucked up. Got just one window facing a brick wall. Used to rent it to a blind man... damn shame what they did to that dog."
"Oh, there they go. There they go, every time I start talkin 'bout boxing, a white man got to pull Rocky Marciano out their ass. That's their one, that's their one. Rocky Marciano. Rocky Marciano. Let me tell you something once and for all. Rocky Marciano was good, but compared to Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano ain't shit."
Saul: A man has the right to change his name to vatever he vants to change it to. And if a man vants to be called Muhammad Ali, godammit this is a free country, you should respect his vishes, and call the man Muhammad Ali!
Morris: His mamma call him Clay, imma call him Clay.
Saul: Then you're a putz. All of you are putzes. They should change the sign outside from My-T-Sharp to 'ze Three Putzes.
"Fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you! Who's next?"
"Girl, you look so good, someone ought to put you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit."
"Give a hand to my band, Sexual Chocolate!"
"I was sad, I was starved. It was time to treat myself. Then I thought, ‘What about... Italian?'"
When 'Animal House' turned out the way it did, they all rushed to me with barrels of money begging me to make them rich.
I've had people come up to me and say Jake and Elwood Blues are these legendary blues artists and I start thinking 'uh-oh'.
I think the thing I can say with 20/20 hindsight—25 years of hindsight—was how successful ('The Blues Brothers') was in terms of what John and Danny were trying to do. I made fun of Danny in the script—that whole 'mission from God' makes fun of Danny. He's really evangelical about this. In '79, all the music on the radio was disco. It was all ABBA, and the Bee Gees were a big act, and Danny and John did something unique—they exploited their own celebrity to focus a spotlight on these great artists. In that way the movie was very successful. You would never think that the blues—rhythm and blues—was in disfavor now. Now it's acknowledged for the great American music it is. And I think that has a lot to do with the movie. I'm quite proud of that. – About.com
I wrote 'An American Werewolf in London' in 1969, and I met Rick Baker in 1971 when we made 'Schlock.' He was so obviously gifted, and I told him that I was going to make this werewolf movie, and he should figure it out. It was all there on the page - and very difficult. I wanted to do it practically, and CGI didn't exist. Rick had thought about it for years, and kept asking when we were going to make that movie. So I finally get the money, and I call Rick and I say, 'Hey Rick, I'm doing that movie!' And he says, 'I'm already doing a werewolf movie!" I said, 'You're what?' Apparently, Joe Dante was doing 'The Howling,' and after a bit of wrangling, Rick's assistant Rob Bottin ended up doing 'Howling,' and I got Rick on mine. It was totally insane that I spent all that time trying to get a werewolf movie, and then the year I finally make it, there were, like, three of them! – Soundtrack.net
Michael (Jackson) probably owes me $10 million because he's in hock to Sony so deeply. All the monies from the 'Thriller' video, which I own 50 per cent, are collected by Sony. My deal is with Michael's company, and he owes Sony so much that they keep the money. So I will never get the money, and if I want to sue Michael, it's like, 'Get in line.' – The Telegraph
The guy on 'Trading Places' was young and full of energy and curious and funny and fresh and great. The guy on 'Coming to America' was the pig of the world – the most unpleasant, arrogant, bullshit entourage...just an asshole. However, Eddie is brilliant, and he and I have always worked together well; there's never been an issue created. On 'Coming to America,' we clashed quite a bit because he was such a pig; he was so rude to people. I was like, 'Jesus Christ, Eddie! Who are you?' But I told him, 'You can't be late. If you're late again, I quit.' We had a good working relationship, but our personal relationship changed because he just felt that he was a superstar and that everyone had to kiss his ass. He was a jerk. But, in fact, one of the greatest performances he's ever given, the character he plays in 'Coming to America,' Hakeem, is so opposite of what Eddie really was: a gentleman, charming and elegant, as opposed to this jerk-off. Someone, I think it was James Earl Jones, used to say that when Eddie came on set, 'It's like an arctic wind.' Many years later, I was approached to do 'Beverly Hills Cop 3,' and I asked, 'Well, who's playing Eddie Murphy?' They said, 'No, Eddie asked for you.' So, I met with him, and he was pleasant. I still think it was his way of apologizing, but who knows with Eddie? He's so strange. A very odd fellow. But so talented. – Collider.com (On working with Eddie Murphy)
The movies I want to make, they don't want to make. And the movies they want me to do, I don't want to. I've been offered a number of scripts, which half of them have become big movies that I think suck. It's all about cycles. I'm waiting for a really good script. It's been frustrating, because the business has changed so dramatically. – UGO.com (On his reasons for not making any films between 1998 and 2004)
Directors, like actors, get typecast. And because I've had great success with comedy and horror and TV shows, that's basically what I'm kind of offered. Quite honestly, I like doing anything, any genre. – IGN.com
I've done every job there is to do on a movie set except makeup. Wait a minute, I've done makeup. I've done every job there is to do on a movie set except hairdressing.
|Joel & Ethan Coen||Francis Ford Coppola||Stanley Kubrick||John Landis||Quentin Tarantino|
|Tim Burton||James Cameron||Alfred Hitchcock||Martin Scorsese||Steven Spielberg|