I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Pandemonium: This Movie Was Actually Made.

by Casey Dewey
April 12, 2014
When I was a kid growing up during the later half of the 1980’s, I spent most weekends at my best friend's house. His name was Matt, and he was well known for having one of the cooler houses in the neighborhood. First of all, it was tri-level, and that was great for playing with little green army men on the stairs. Second of all, he had a swimming pool with a diving board and a water slide! And most of all, he had a huge TV, with cable and a VCR. It gets better. I was over just about every Friday night -- the night his parents would go out to eat, see a movie, go out for drinks, come home and immediately go to bed. Before they would go out, they would let us skate over to Garland’s Video Gallery, a local video store maybe a half-mile down the way. Garland was a man of ill repute. Rumors abounded that the junk strewn about behind the store were stolen goods, and that he was a local fence. It certainly didn’t help that he looked like a white pimp. With his balding Jewfro, hooked nose, shirts unbuttoned at the top exposing a field of chest hair and gold chains, he came across somewhere between Fagin from Oliver Twist and Marjoe Gortner. None of that phased us though, because while he may or may not have been involved in some illegal trades, he was involved in something far less sinister but maybe still questionable: Letting kids rent R rated movies. That’s right. Aaaand you could get three older movies (pre-1988) for one dollar. Matt and I rented everything we could think of. Horror films. Action flicks. Comedy yuk-fests. Softcore titillations. Matt’s parents never cared, as long as we didn’t rent full out porn or some of the heavier stuff, like Blue Velvet or Sid & Nancy. (We did a few years later, but that’s a whole other story.) Matt’s dad was a military man, and he liked it just fine that we were at his house watching movies rather than experimenting with pot, cigarettes, or glue. They would order us Little Ceasar’s pizza, back when you could buy one and get one free, a 2-liter of RC cola and off they went for the night. Armed with our own large pizzas and frothy pints of cola, we sat down in the living room and went to work.

The comedies started off innocently enough. Mostly John Hughes teenager/high school-type material. Then we took it back a little to Cheech & Chong and Monty Python. But we found our niche with the Zucker Brothers. Airplane, Top Secret, Kentucky Fried Movie - we found our perfect formula for knee slappers and gut busters. Similar gag-a-minute flicks like Johnny Dangerously, Amazon Women on the Moon and to a lesser extent, Rock and Roll High School and Get Crazy became our lifeblood. We affectionately dubbed these laugh riots “Dumb Comedies”. Not because they were dumb, but because the jokes came so easy, fast and frequently. However, had we seen Pandemonium back then, I think the hyuks hyuks would have ceased and the groooaaans would’ve began.

Essentially a spoof on the then ultra-popular slasher films, Pandemonium has all the watermarks of being written by a crew of stoned orangutans. The plot-- well, after the first five or ten minutes you can just toss that notion out the window. A fingerless glove-wearing killer is picking off victims at a cheerleading school. You know all the victims are going to be victims, because as their characters are introduced a bright orange subtitle pops up on screen with “Victim #1, Victim #2” and so on. The victims names are - hold on here, here we go - Bambi, Candy, Sandy, Mandy, Randy, Andy and Glenn. Glenn Dandy. And boy do the writers get some excruciating mileage with that joke. There’s something about an escaped mental patient, and maybe an escaped prisoner. There’s a guy who’s dressed as a Canadian mountie who may have an unhealthy relationship with his horse. The jokes make Mad Magazine look like Cahiers Du Cinema. National Lampoon, meet National Buffoon.

Carol Kane, the squeaky little mushmouth, is basically playing Carrie by way of Little Orphan Annie, and her cornpone accent mysteriously disappears halfway through the movie. Or maybe after the first five minutes of her being introduced, I can’t remember. A bleach blonde Judge Reinhold plays a doofus, and you wonder how the hell he was he able to be cast in Fast Times at Ridgemont High the same year. Miles Chapin and Marc McClure, two “that guys” of the weenie yuppie era, play horny doobie frat brothers lookin’ to (what else?) get laid of course. Pug-faced Debralee Scott, best known as “the female Sweathog” from Welcome Back, Kotter plays....oh, it doesn’t really matter. Tommy Smothers is slummin’ it as the Candanian Mountie wannabe. Eileen Brennan makes the best cameo doing a piss take on Piper Laurie’s Carrie character. Several of the Groundlings, the infamous Los Angeles comedy troupe, made the casting call. Paul Reubens is the proto-Pee Wee deputy. Phil Hartman makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo as a reporter. Jombi from Pee Wee’s Playhouse is a prisoner on the lam. Edie McClurg gets in here. Several Rock and Roll High School bit players make the scene. Then there’s Richard Romanus, Pat Ast, Tab Hunter, Eve Arden, David “Squiggy” Landers...my question is where was Gerrit Graham?

Let’s talk about boobs. Because there were no boobs to be had in the movie. Sure, we get a scene with Bambi taking a bath in milk while she dunks chocolate chip cookies (not making this up), but no boobage. Plenty of a bouncing and jiggling, but no full-on breasts. Actually, maybe we should be thankful -- I can go on living without ever seeing Kane or Scott in the buff. I figured maybe a shot of some extras jumping naked around in the background would eventually occur, alas no dice. And if this movie kind of looks and feels like a porno, it’s because director Alfred Sole was once a blue movie kind of guy. Deep Sleep, cashin’ in on that Deep Throat craze, was his directorial debut.

Pandemonium is somewhere in the realm of uber-goofy groaners like Zapped! or King Frat. Maybe I don’t smoke enough pot to fully appreciate it. Maybe we should have put down the RC cola as kids and peeked in our older brother’s stashes... Nah, we did just fine. Oh, did I mention Godzilla shows up as a stewardess in this? Grooooaaaaan.



Casey Dewey resides in Tucson, Arizona. He's a film writer for the Tucson Weekly and host of "Deep Red Radio" , a radio show dedicated to film soundtracks on 91.3 KXCI FM. He enjoys tacos, cervezas and garlic in everything. He wakes up every morning to a fresh pot of black coffee and at least two hours of Dragnet on TV.