Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mickey Rose
Michael Ritchie (uncredited)
|Produced by||Michael Ritchie
|Written by||Mickey Rose|
|Music by||Gene Hobson|
|Edited by||Kathryn Ruth Hope|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||86 minutes|
Student Bodies is a 1981 comedy film written and directed by Mickey Rose, with an uncredited Michael Ritchie co-directing. A spoof of slasher horror films such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Prom Night., Student Bodies was the first movie to satirize the thriving slasher film genre. A prominent feature of the film is a body count that is superimposed onscreen whenever a death occurs.
Many of the cast have only appeared in this film, including top-billed Kristen Riter and Matthew Goldsby. (Riter did appear as an extra in the J. Geils Band video "Centerfold", and in a DVD compilation of the band's videos released in 2007; Goldsby also appeared as one of several "reporters, publicists and photographers" in 1982's Frances). Jerry Belson (who was also an uncredited co-writer), Joe Flood, Keith Singleton and Cullen Chambers seem to be the only actors in Student Bodies that have ever had a speaking part in another feature film.
Student Bodies is about a serial killer who stalks female students at Lamab High School, while at the same time, voyeuristically watching them. The killer calls himself "The Breather," presumably because the killer is always breathing heavily.
The Breather enjoys stalking victims over the telephone and much like Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th movies, he hates seeing youngsters having sex. The Breather uses many unusual objects to kill his female victims such as a paper clip, a chalkboard eraser, and a horse-head bookend. He kills his male victims by placing them in trash bags alive.
The film itself ends with several twists: initially, it is revealed that the Principal and his elderly female assistant are working as a duo as "The Breather", even though they are shown at one point in the film in the same room as other characters when the Breather contacts the school to threaten to commit further murders. The film then goes to reveal that the entire film was a fevered dream, caused by the main character Toby being sick and consumed by overwhelming sexual repression. In a send-up of The Wizard of Oz, many characters are revealed to be much the opposite of what they appeared to be for the bulk of the film: the jock-like shop instructor is really the school's French teacher, the stuck-up would-be prom queen is actually the school nerd (who is given the crown by Toby after she wakes up, due to her kind nature), the two handicapped kids turn out to be non-crippled, and a local ROTC cadet is a hippie.
After being released from the hospital, Toby and her boyfriend are about to have sex, at which point he puts on gloves similar to the ones worn by the Breather and strangles Toby, as he has lost respect for her. However, in a homage to the nightmare-ending of Carrie, Toby's hands rise up from the freshly dug grave after her funeral to attack her killer.
Director and writers
Michael Ritchie produced and directed the film, but because it was filmed during a strike he had to use the well-worn pseudonym Allen Smithee instead. Mickey Rose was given writing and directing credit, but actually co-wrote and co-directed the film; Jerry Belson was the actual head writer, but couldn't be credited due to union rules.
Student Bodies contains no nudity, graphic violence or even foul language—until 26 minutes into the film, when the action is interrupted by a man sitting at a desk. He explains that, in order to achieve an R rating, a film "must contain full frontal nudity, graphic violence, or an explicit reference to the sex act." He intones that R-rated films are by far the most popular, so "the producers have asked me to take this opportunity to say, 'fuck you'." A slide indicating that the film has been indeed given an R rating by the MPAA appears for a few seconds, then the movie continues.
The film parodies a handful of previous slasher films and horror films, including Carnival of Souls, Black Christmas, Carrie, Halloween, When a Stranger Calls, The Shining, Friday the 13th, and Prom Night.
One of the film's oddest aspects is a character called Malvert, a creepy-looking janitor (itself a familiar trope in slasher movies). Malvert mumbles, does bizarre things like urinate into wastepaper baskets ("Malvert pee red!" being one the film's more memorable lines), and moves about in a herky-jerky fashion. (At film's end, Malvert is revealed to be something of a sophisticate; when Toby informs him that he was a janitor in her dream, he responds, "Absurd!")
Malvert was played by a tall, double-jointed stand-up comedian known only as "The Stick," who made no other films; his only other credit seems to be as a guest appearance in the pilot episode on the 1984 TV series Out Of Control. Several online reviews give the film itself a mixed reaction but praise The Stick's performance.
Some sources give The Stick's real name as Patrick Boone Varnell, born in Corsicana, Texas on January 22, 1941. His death date is given as May 7, 1989, aged 48.
Lamar Consolidated Junior High School in Richmond, Texas – called Lamab in the film (not to be confused with Lamar High School in Houston, TX which is known for its use in the film Rushmore). Taylor High School in Katy, Texas was used for the film's football stadium, exterior and some interior scenes. The parade scene was filmed in downtown Houston, Texas on Main Street.
- Principal cast
- Kristen Riter as Toby Badger
- Matt Goldsby as Hardy
- Cullen Chambers as Charles Ray
- Jerry Belson as The Breather (credited as Richard Brando)
- Joe Flood as Mr. Dumpkin
- Joe Talarowski as Principal Harlow Hebrew Peters
- Mimi Weddell as Miss Mumsley
- Dario Jones as Mawamba
- Carl Jacobs as Dr. Sigmund
- Peggy Cooper as Ms. Van Dyke
- Janice E. O'Malley as Nurse Krud
- Kevin Mannis as Scott
- Sara Eckhardt as Patti Priswell
- Oscar James as Football Coach/Sheriff
- Kay Ogden as Ms. Leclair
- Patrick Varnell as Malvert the Janitor
- Brian Batytis as Wheels
- Joan Browning Jacobs as Mrs. Hummers
- Angela Bressler as Julie
- Keith Singleton as Charlie
- Students from Bonnie Siscoe School of Dance as Kids in Costumes on Parade Float (uncredited)
One of a group of movies directed towards teenaged audiences during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Student Bodies had little box office success when it was originally released. It became famous as a late-night cult favorite on cable afterwards. The DVD was released on June 3, 2007. The HD Blu-ray version was released May 3, 2011.