Sunday, July 17, 2011

Comedy Cataclysm: UP YOUR LADDER (1979)

Wakka, wakka, wakka
Pull out the stops
Zakka, zakka, zakka
Don't call the cops
We'll be wiggling up your ladder
We'll be jiggling your gallbladder
         -UP YOUR LADDER theme song

A bad shipment of drugs must have made its way into Hollywood in the late 70s.  Sure, 1979 had some great comedies like LOVE AT FIRST BITE, MEATBALLS and THE JERK.  But I can’t figure our how the painfully unfunny flicks we’ve been viewing from that year like SWAP MEET and RACQUET got made other than someone out of their mind on some mind-altering substance that made them think they were hilarious.  Or maybe they just read the script for UP YOUR LADDER and thought, “Hell, if they can do it, so can I?”  How bad is this movie?  I’m seriously considering calling up RACQUET to see if she will take me back.  I mean, I know I said some bad things about her, but, c’mon baby, I didn’t know how bad it was out there in the real world.

The premise of UP YOUR LADDER is a series of comedy skits with the linking device being the apartment building.  But this isn’t just any apartment building, it talks!  Yes, the Villa Elaine apartments come alive in the form of Cindy Morgan (CADDYSHACK) as she is superimposed over parts of the building and gives us the lowdown on the tenants. The film lets audiences know right off the bat how lowbrow the humor is with the opening bit involving a randy bachelor.  He has a girl in his apartment and is ready to pounce before she says she slept with someone the night before but can’t remember if they told her they VD or TB.  He calls a doctor to ask how he can tell if she has VD or TB and the doc says, “Have her run around the room for a while.  If she coughs, fuck her!”  *long sigh while slapping forehead* Yes, that is the joke the filmmakers thought would get the audiences rolling in the aisles.  The probably were, from the pain. No joke, to really bring it home, they add a slide whistle on the soundtrack at the punchline.  What is this a vaudeville comedy routine?

Actually, that might not be far off.  The makers of this mess (Josh Hayes [co-director], Eddie Ryder [co-director & co-writer], and Chris Warfield [producer & co-writer]) were all born in the 1920s/30s.  So their comedy styling is about as hip as your granddads. Seriously, their writing sessions probably included flipping through a worn 1950s copy of “Dirty Jokes Your Folks Never Told You” while they laughed hysterically.  Their idea of funny is a bit where an Asian guy and a black guy decide to paint their white friend black the night before his first day at a new job after he asks them to make sure he wakes up in time.  He rushes into work unaware of his condition and we get an exchange like this.

Manager: Who are you?
Guy: I’m the new guy you hired.
Manager: You must be mistaken.  I don’t hire blacks.
Guy: I’m not black.
Manager: Take a look in the mirror.
Guy (looks in mirror): Oh no, they woke up the wrong guy.

Several “jokes” are drawn out over the course of the film and range from the lame to the totally bizarre.  You have a kid who says he wants to run away from home, so his dad helps him pack.  Then he is shown throughout the film walking the same stretch of block over and over again.  The punchline is the kid is sitting crying and a cop asks him what is wrong. He says, “I ran away from home…but I’m not allowed to cross the street.”  Bah-dah-dah!  Another stretched out bit has the maintenance man Virgil (Michael Pataki, hiding under the pseudonym Caleb Goodman) who finds he can’t get an erection unless he sees a woman dancing (huh?).  He frolics on the roof naked with a girl who tells that he is Richard Burton’s brother, gets badly sunburn so he can’t make love, and then wanders into a salsa dancer’s apartment where she puts his penis on a platter and then stomps on it.  WHAT?

I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you some of the filmmakers behind this had long careers in Hollywood’s underbelly.  Co-director John Hayes directed z-grade horror flicks like DREAM NO EVIL (1970) and GARDEN OF THE DEAD (1974) before dabbling in porn in the 1980s.  Producer, actor and co-writer Chris Warfield was all over the map, going from being in a few LASSIE episodes in the 1960s to directing porn as Billy Thornberg.  His greatest achievement might be producing DIXIE RAY, HOLLYWOOD STAR (1983), a respected adult title that managed to get Cameron Mitchell in it (in a non-sex role, thank goodness!). You’ll also spot some familiar faces in this (if you dare watch it) including Michael Chan, Chuck McCann, Ray Halpern (the killer from BARE KNUCKLES), ILSA producer Don Edmonds and even Ilsa herself Dyanne Thorne getting topless in one segment under the pseudonym Penny Walters.  Think about that for a minute – the star of notoriously nasty Naziploitation flicks felt that she better use a different name on this.  The film’s lone highlight is a thirty second bit starring the great George “Buck” Flower, who was also the associate producer.  Here it is in all its glory.  Consider your gallbladder jiggled.  You owe me $50.

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