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The Stuff

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The Stuff
The Stuff Movie
Film poster
Directed byLarry Cohen
Written byLarry Cohen
Produced byPaul Kurta
StarringMichael Moriarty
Andrea Marcovicci
Garrett Morris
Paul Sorvino
CinematographyPaul Glickman
Edited byArmand Lebowitz
Music byAnthony Guefen
Richard Seaman
Distributed byNew World Pictures
Release dates
  • March 30, 1985 (1985-03-30) (premiere)
  • June 14, 1985 (1985-06-14) (United States)
Running time
87 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.7 million[2]

The Stuff is a 1985 American satirical science fiction horror film written and directed by Larry Cohen and starring Michael Moriarty, Garrett Morris, Andrea Marcovicci, and Paul Sorvino. It was also the last film of Alexander Scourby. In the film, a sweet and addictive alien substance becomes a popular dessert in the United States, but soon begins attacking people and turning them into zombies. This film is a satire on the American lifestyle and consumer society.


Several quarry workers in Georgia discover a white cream-like substance bubbling out of the ground. Said to be addictive and sweet, the substance, marketed as "The Stuff", is sold to the general public in containers like ice cream. Despite nobody knowing what it is and having zero calories, The Stuff becomes a nationwide hit. One night, a young boy named Jason discovers The Stuff is seemingly alive. Despite his efforts to convince his family, they dismiss him, continuing to consume it and nothing else. Later, he is arrested by a sheriff at a supermarket after vandalizing The Stuff's displays. The Stuff continues growing in popularity with many becoming obsessed with it.

Former FBI agent turned industrial saboteur, David "Mo" Rutherford, is hired by the leaders of the suffering ice cream industry to find out exactly what The Stuff is and eradicate it. Rutherford bands together with junk food mogul Charles W. "Chocolate Chip Charlie" Hobbs, who has lost control of his company and is now living in poverty. At the town's post office, both find the owner—a regular consumer of The Stuff—dead. Both find out the item's secret: The Stuff is actually a living, parasitic, extraterrestrial organism that gradually takes over the brain and mutates those who eat it into zombie-like creatures, which it then uses to make more of itself before bursting out of their bodies and leaving empty husks behind. The Stuff's weakness is that it is susceptible to fire, and Mo uses this to escape several traps set by The Stuff and zombies.

Rutherford eventually saves Jason and pairs with his lover Nicole, an advertising executive. The trio infiltrates the distribution plant, an organized corporate effort to spread The Stuff to eliminate world hunger, and manages to destroy the lake where The Stuff is being extracted with explosives. Meanwhile, United States Army Col. Malcolm Grommett Spears, a retired soldier, teams up with the trio and leads a militia in battling the zombies and transmitting a civil defense message for Americans to break their addiction to The Stuff by destroying it with fire. However, as they attempt to broadcast their warning, a mass of The Stuff bursts out of a zombified Charlie's throat, cornering Nicole and Jason in a recording booth. Rutherford electrocutes The Stuff, burning it, and then they make their national broadcast. The Stuff's popularity quickly plummets as the public rallies to destroy all supplies. With the crisis seemingly averted, Rutherford, Nicole, Jason, and Col. Spears are hailed as national heroes.

Mo then visits the head of The Stuff Company, Mr. Fletcher. He tells Mo that the destruction of the mine has not hurt his business since The Stuff exists in many areas, but Mo swears to rid the world of its existence. Mr. Fletcher then introduces Mr. Evans, the ice cream mogul who had initially hired Mo, with whom he now works alongside. They introduce a new product, "The Taste", a mixture of 88% ice cream and 12% The Stuff, supposedly enough to make people crave more without it taking over their minds. An undaunted Mo brings in Jason, carrying a box full of The Stuff containers. He holds both moguls at gunpoint and forces them to consume the product as punishment for the innocent lives they've destroyed with the product. As they eat, Rutherford inquires, "Are you eating it, or is it eating you?" After they finish, Mo and Jason leave them behind as police sirens can be heard approaching.

Smugglers sell The Stuff on the black market, where one of them tastes it. In a post-credits scene, a woman in a bathroom says, "Enough is never enough" while holding The Stuff.



Shooting for the film was brief, starting in August 1984 and wrapping shortly in September. Filming locations included New Paltz, New York, New York City and Los Angeles. Post production began in January 1985 at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles and continued into the summer. The Mohonk Mountain House gatehouse was notably used as Colonel Malcolm Grommett Spears' headquarters in the film.[4]

Multiple puppets were used to simulate the deaths of characters who had become hosts of The Stuff. Four models of Garrett Morris' head were made for Charlie's transformation sequence, one of which Cohen still claimed to own.[5] When The Stuff was eaten on screen, ice cream, yogurt and whipped cream were used.[6]

The script was an original story by Cohen. He said, "My main inspiration was the consumerism and corporate greed found in our country and the damaging products that were being sold. I was constantly reading in the newspapers about various goods and materials being recalled because they were harming people. For example, you had foods being pulled off the market because they were hazardous to people's health."[7]

Cohen cited as his influence, "the sheer volume of junk food we consume every day. We continue to eat these foods despite the fact some of them are killing us. That's when I started thinking that The Stuff could be an imaginary product—in this case an ice cream dessert—that is being consumed by millions and is doing irreparable damage to humanity. Everybody is gobbling down this yummy food, so how can it possibly be wrong for us?"[8]

Cohen wanted to cast Arsenio Hall as "Chocolate Chip Charlie" W. Hobbs, since he thought he was not only a good actor but a rising star. The executives at New World Pictures, however, wanted someone more recognizable and thus cast Garrett Morris instead.[9] Morris did not enjoy working with Cohen; in a "Random Roles" section at AV Club where Morris was asked about "The Stuff", he simply said that if he did not respect someone he would not talk about them, and therefore he had nothing to say about Larry Cohen.[10]


Cohen says the film was significantly trimmed in post-production:

We did lose a few funny scenes that I wanted to keep. When I showed New World my original cut, they felt strongly that the film should move a lot faster. I realized that I'd made a picture that was a little too dense and sophisticated, so we increased the pacing. I know that along with some of the commercials, we did lose a romantic scene between Moriarty and Andrea that took place in a hotel room. It was perhaps a wise decision to cut some of those scenes out, because I don't think they played well in the totality of the film. The story needed to drive forward at certain points and not be slowed down with extraneous material, although it can be painful cutting scenes out that you like.[11]

Cohen says that the New World Pictures Company was slightly unhappy with the resulting movie:

New World wanted a straight-up horror film, and, in retrospect, The Stuff had more comedic aspects to it than the executives were perhaps expecting. They thought they were going to get a flat-out horror movie with a lot of gore and scares, and we made a film that was more satirical and had a lot of humour and commentary in it. We played the characters for laughs in many cases and that greatly diluted the horror element. It made The Stuff more of what I would consider "A Larry Cohen Movie" but less of a conventional, commercial horror film. I think New World were disappointed that The Stuff wasn't more horrific and nasty – more of a balls-out monster movie. I knew before the film even hit theaters The Stuff would appeal to a different audience than the one we were trying to get.[12]

The film premiered at USA Film Festival on March 30 and it was theatrically released in the United States by New World Pictures in June 1985.[13][better source needed]

The film was not a hit, and Cohen feels that it was hurt by the fact it was sold as a horror film, when it was basically a satirical comedy. Cohen stated, "the day The Stuff opened in New York a hurricane hit and the newspapers were not delivered. Of course, we had received all these great reviews, but it didn't matter because nobody ever got to read a single word of them."[14]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and Betamax in 1985 by New World Home Video. It was eventually released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2000.[15]

On September 20, 2011, Image Entertainment released The Stuff under its "Midnight Madness Series" banner on DVD. It is a direct port of the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD release.

A Special Edition Blu-ray was released in the United Kingdom on April 19, 2016, by Arrow Films.

Copyright dispute[edit]

The company Effects Associated were hired by Cohen to supply some of the special effects shots. When the shots were delivered, Cohen was not satisfied with shots of exploding factory buildings[16] and paid only half (c. $8,000) of the agreed price for those shots. Effects Associated brought an action against Cohen in court to claim full compensation, but also because the parties had no written copyright agreement regarding the use of the shots. The trial court decided in favor of Cohen, ruling that there was an "implied agreement" for the non-exclusive use of the shots in the film. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed the ruling, and confirmed that Effects Associated still retained the copyright for use outside of The Stuff.[17]


Colin Greenland reviewed The Stuff for White Dwarf #77, and stated that "A brilliant performance by Cohen stalwart Michael Moriarty as an industrial spy after the truth holds the straggling plot together."[18] It received positive reviews from critics: on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 73% rating, based on 15 reviews.[19]


  1. ^ "THE STUFF (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 22, 1985. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  2. ^ "Why Larry Cohen's The Stuff is a Work of Scruffy Genius". Den of Geek.
  3. ^ O'Neal, Sean (November 23, 2011). "Random Roles: Mira Sorvino". avclub.com. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
  4. ^ "AFI Catalog - The Stuff".
  5. ^ "Exploring The Stuff". YouTube.
  6. ^ "AFI Catalog - The Stuff".
  7. ^ Doyle p 324
  8. ^ Doyle p 326
  9. ^ About.com – 13 Horror Films Starring Comedians Archived July 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Garrett Morris on SNL, 2 Broke Girls, and singing arias for Walter Matthau". The A.V. Club. May 4, 2014. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  11. ^ Doyle
  12. ^ Doyle p 343
  13. ^ "Company Credits for The Stuff". IMDb.com. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  14. ^ Doyle p 344
  15. ^ "The Stuff". dvdempire.com. Retrieved April 8, 2011.
  16. ^ The disputed footage as posted on YouTube
  17. ^ [1][2][3]
  18. ^ Greenland, Colin (May 1986). "2020 Vision". White Dwarf (77). Games Workshop: 11.
  19. ^ "The Stuff". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  • Doyle, Michael (October 31, 2015). Larry Cohen: The Stuff of Gods and Monsters. Bear Manor Media.

External links[edit]