Is there any Clevelander that hasn't seen A Christmas Story? It's pretty much a rite of passage in Northeast Ohio to watch it at least twice a year, usually during it's 24 hour Christmas Eve marathon on the TBS. While it's a darn entertaining movie, worthy of the top-shelf reputation its gained as a cult classic, the director of A Christmas Story, Bob Clark, certainly gave us more cinematic presents than just the story of a boy and his official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Also under his credits:
Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1973): (Netflix DVD subscription): The first time I saw this was on The Ghoul Show on the old Channel 61 back in the day, and while I haven't seen it in recent years, the memories stick with me. It's a not-so-well-told story of a group of theater performers who decide to head out to an island getaway for an evening of fun and hijinks. One of their crazy games involves a séance at the island's graveyard. The kids unknowingly raise the dead, and you can guess where it all goes from there. While the movie itself never quite lives up to its title, and never really gels as a comedy or horror picture, it's never unwatchable.
Deathdream (AKA Dead of Night, 1972): (Netflix DVD subscription): I would argue that this is Bob Clark's best film. The story concerns Andy Brooks, a US soldier who is shot and killed while doing a tour of duty during the Vietnam War. His family back home begins the grieving process over the loss, when lo and behold, Andy shows up at the front door, seemingly alive and well. From here, things start getting strange as people begin to realize that maybe Andy is not exactly who he seems. Again, I caught this movie first on The Ghoul Show as a kid (notice a theme?), but I'm a proud owner of the DVD and I think you may also enjoy this surprisingly engaging little horror cheapie.
Black Christmas (1974): (Netflix DVD subscription, library): A genuine horror classic that pits Olivia Hussey and a pre-Superman Margot Kidder as college girls against a psychopath who is terrorizing their sorority house. It's a great little picture with plenty of plot twists and scares, and if that isn't enough for you, it also has Mr. John Saxon in it as the trusty police chief. Do yourself a favor and skip the 2006 remake and head straight for this one instead.
Porky's (1982): (Netflix DVD subscription, Library): And the hits just keep on comin'! A year before Clark hit holiday gold with Christmas Story, he gave us the adventures of a group of Florida high schoolers and their quest to get laid before graduation. I suppose it is an "important" film in the fact that it ushered in a new wave of teen sex comedies, but for me it's "important" because it was the first time I saw "boobies" in a movie. It's a big moment for a kid, and I'm just glad Pee Wee wasn't around with a ruler.
Pork'y 2: The Next Day (1983): (DVD) This time around, Pee Wee and his high school chums are out to make sure that the town leaders don't shut down the local Shakespeare festival (high concept!). In the meantime, they also go up against some porn-obsessed town leaders, their mean old gym teacher, and the guys who played a prank on Pee Wee in the first film...all with supposedly hilarious results. It's not a good movie, but rumor has it you can see a certain leg lamp during the film.
Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile (1974): (Netflix): So this wasn't directed by Clark, but he did produce this strange movie directed by his longtime collaborator Alan Ormsby. Deranged is very loosely based on the story of Ed Gein, the "butcher of Plainfield," whose murderous acts inspired other films like Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ezra Cobb, a kooked-out momma's boy who doesn't quite know how to handle the recent passing of his overbearing mum. He digs mom up and begins following all of her demands. Is it good? Is it bad? My answer to you is: does it matter?