Full Moon High (1981) by #LarryCohen w/ #AdamArkin #RozKelly #ElizabethHartman #DemondWilson #PatMorita #LaureneLandon
"It's tough enough being a teenager… try turning into a werewolf every full moon." #Horror #Comedy #NotQuiteClassicCinema pic.twitter.com/DZ9shSv620
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) January 25, 2020
I’ve been a fan of Larry Cohen for many years. I can’t say for certain which of his movies was the first to catch my attention. It might have been Q: The Winger Serpent (1982). I somehow convinced my Dad to take me to it (as I couldn’t get in without an adult). This must have been no small feat after he took me to Friday the 13th: Part III (1982) and declared it to to the worst movie he ever saw. Even more surprising than the fact that he took me to see Q: The Winger Serpent, is the fact that he enjoyed it. This must say something about Larry Cohen’s ability to tell a story – even if the idea seems completely ludicrous on the surface.
Incidentally, I also wanted to see I, The Jury (1982) really badly (as I was an avid reader of Mickey Spillane novels), which was written by Larry Cohen – and supposed to be directed by Larry Cohen – and came out at exactly the same time as Q. I’m not sure if I, The Jury was rated R (and thereby off limits to me), or if my Dad’s patience had simply reached its limits, but I didn’t see I, The Jury until it came out on Beta.
But getting back to ludicrous ideas, Full Moon High (1981) came out the year before Q, and was, in fact, the movie Larry Cohen made right before Q and I, The Jury. But I had never heard of it! And if there was one thing I was acutely aware of, it’s what movies were playing at my local theatres and (later) were available at my local video stores. Ever since I saw Star Wars (1978) in the theatre, I would check the entertainment section of the newspaper every day to see what movies were playing (and probably to make sure that Star Wars was still there, as I went to see it several times). That’s how I would have known about Q and I, The Jury – but I don’t recall ever seeing an add for Full Moon High.
Maybe the ad was there, but it just didn’t catch my attention. Or maybe the movie came and went so fast I never got a chance to see it. Or maybe it never played my home town at all. Even stranger, is the fact that I don’t recall ever seeing the box for Full Moon High at any of the video stores I frequented. I would always peruse the Horror Section, longingly looking at all of the titles I could rent, but to the best of my recollection, Full Moon High was not one of them.
It seems odd to me that even when Teen Wolf (1985) became a huge hit, copies of Full Moon High did not appear on the shelves of my favourite stores. By that time, I had rented and enjoyed Larry Cohen’s next film, Perfect Strangers (1984) – not even realizing that it was by the same guy who made Q and wrote I, The Jury.
In any case, I did not know that Full Moon High existed until may years later, when I could look up Larry Cohen’s complete filmography on the internet. I did not see it until last Friday Night At The Home Drive-In, when I watched the brand new Blu-ray that I purchased after Larry Cohen left us less than a year ago. It had been on my watch list since I became aware of it, but I knew that it’s reputation was not stellar (4.7 on the imdb, a lukewarm review in Rue Morgue magazine). It was not likely to be a lost classic on par with It’s Alive (1974) or God Told Me To (1976), but still, I needed to see it. Being a collector, I needed to own it. And if there’s one thing I knew I could rely on to entertain me, it’s a commentary track by Larry Cohen. Even if the movie is not so great, the commentary would undoubtedly make it worthwhile.
And thanks to that commentary, I now know that the reason Larry Cohen made Full Moon High (1981), was that people had told him that he should make a comedy. His sets were always such a fun place to be, everyone was always laughing and having a great time. Larry’s an entertaining and funny guy. It only stood to reason that he could make a funny movie.
I think it’s fair to say that the results were mixed. Full Moon High has a great comic cast, and it is very funny in places (Alan Arkin’s last act turn as an unsympathetic psychiatrist is priceless!). Overall, I would describe it as a likeable movie. I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. But it pales in comparison to other horror comedies like Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (1974) which would have most likely been an influence. It’s closer to the good natured, silly tone of Teen Wolf (1985), and one has to wonder if Full Moon High was the inspiration for that movie. Considering how elusive it was to me, I’m not sure if the makers of Teen Wolf would have been any more likely to have seen Full Moon High prior to making their film. But just like the legend of Ted V. Mikels’ The Doll Squad (1973) being the inspiration for Charlie’s Angels (1976-81), it’s an intriguing thought.
Full Moon High (1981) is not Larry Cohen’s best film. Not even close. But it’s still a fun example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, and I suspect it will get even better the next time I screen it on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.