1985 was one of those golden years for genre titles and saw the release of some of the films that would remain firm favourites to this day. Day Of The Dead, Return Of The Living Dead, Re-Animator, Lifeforce, Demons and Phenomena were among them. Nestling among some of the less serious titles such as Ghoulies, Hard Rock Zombies, Fright Night and Howling II Your Sister Is a Werewolf was the much loved Larry Cohen title The Stuff. You only have to mention this to anyone who lived through the video age at its most popular and a glazed look will come over their eyes and dribble will start running down their chin as they state “I remember that film,” like a mindless zombie! Cohen himself was a writer who has worked on over 80 titles for big and small screen from The Invaders right through to Phone Booth. With the 20 plus films he directed including the whacked out ‘God Told Me To’ a recently unearthed film I rediscovered, the It’s Alive Trilogy and excellent monster movie Q The Winged Serpent, he certainly made his mark on fans of horror and fantasy. The Stuff definitely fits well within his oeuvre combing aspects of both but watching it again for the first time in years it also hits the tag of being, like Dawn Of The Dead, an anarchic comedy with strong aspects of social commentary against the consumerist society within it; who would have though it picking it randomly off the shelf all those years ago?
The plot to call it that loosely unfolds in a fashion that reminds me of an old 2000AD Future Shock, hell they could even have developed one like this over all the years. A new dessert sensation is sweeping the nation. It is branded The Stuff and nobody knows (unless you are watching the film where it is made clear from the off) whether it is animal, vegetable, mineral or even Soylent Green. It has been approved though in much the way as a popular drink like Coke (social commentary swipes quickly evident), secret ingredients be damned. It really is the wonder Stuff and before you can say give, give, give, me more, more, more (ahem) everyone is on its sweet delights. Luckily not everyone is taken in and a motley crew of saboteurs join together to discover its secrets. These include super sleuth Michael Moriarty as David ‘Mo’ Rutherford whose puns are worse than mine “The name’s Mo Rutherford. They call me that ’cause when people give me money, I always want mo,” a hick who is far cleverer than he seems. Then there is the love squeeze Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci) who dealt with the marketing campaign that made The Stuff so popular in the first place. Joining them is kid Jason (Scott Bloom) on a mission after seeing pernicious pudding do very strange things to his family. His campaign to destroy it sees him running amok in a supermarket and having a really smashing and messy time of it all. We also should mention Choc Chip Charlie (Garrett Morris) but all you really need to know about him is that his hands are lethal weapons.
As things are unveiled one would probably expect this to go down the route of a body melt movie like Street Trash but that’s not really its game. The Stuff does owe a lot to a huge array of films from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, to Shivers as it takes over its hosts literally from the inside out. You could get really deep and say the way it moves and controls en mass is an allegory to communism and did I mention the crack nut troop of all American heroes who end up getting involved in the battle against it and would no doubt have thought exactly that? Whether it is alien or whether it has been present since before pudding time was even invented though is open to interpretation. The most enjoying aspects are naturally when the Stuff leaves the host and moves like rapidly rising dough, chasing our heroes with unstoppable purpose. It occasionally is seen to attack by hurling fragments of splattery white goo and providing the sort of facial you would not normally see in this sort of movie. It’s a fun filled romp towards the end and moves at a fair old pace with the film not overstaying its welcome and leaving you hungering for more, although a sequel never transpired. As for whether everyone gets their just desserts or if the ending is all Stuff and nonsense, you will have to watch yourself to find out. One things for sure there are a fair few scenes that will stick with you for some time and that is exactly why this film is going to be very popular with those who have not seen it for years, especially as until now it has not had a stand alone DVD release in the UK and is getting it’s Blu ray debut here.
Naturally as with all Arrow releases this has been cleaned up and looks great and there are some last courses after the main meal. Best is a lengthy documentary ‘Can’t Get Enough Of The Stuff’ which sees plenty of anecdotes and memories about the film recounted by Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, mechanical effects tech Steve Neill, actress Andrea Marcovicci and from the fans side the ever reliable Kim Newman. Lasting for a good ¾ of an hour this has plenty of depth about it and pretty much tells you everything about the film that you could want to know from what went into the real gloopy mass of The Stuff (yuck) to the fact that if the director had got his own way it would have been advertised and even partly marketed as a real product in the run up to the release. When the film came out it got great 1st day reviews in the papers but due to a hurricane most never even got delivered and seen. Hopefully the fact that the film is still considered a cult movie after all these years and is still getting good press will make up for it now.