Ever have a favorite film that reminds you of a specific person?
Got lots of them.
This one here reminds me of Gerry, my best friend from high school. It came out in 1985 when I was a sophomore and he was a freshman. I remember first hearing about the film through where else Fangoria magazine. I was jealous when I heard Gerry’s family had rented it and he had seen it before I did. I remember him specifically talking about the kid who had to feign being a stuffie by pretending to eat shaving cream, then puking it back up in the backseat of Michael Moriarty’s car.
We were at the drive-in one weekend waiting for Invaders For Mars (1986) to start when my mother asked us if there was any specific movie we were interested in for she was going to hit up the rental store the next day. I said The Stuff and I may have also mentioned Troll (1986).
I honestly can’t remember if I first saw The Stuff through that rental or from its cable airing later on, either way I enjoyed the movie and it became an instant favorite.
This is the second movie of director Larry Cohen’s that actor Michael Moriarty starred in Their first collaboration was Q, The Winged Serpent (1982) and after The Stuff they paired up again for It’s Alive III: Island Of The Alive (1987) and A Return To Salem’s Lot (1987). They did one more pairing on a Masters Of Horror (2005-2007) episode titled, “Pick Me Up.” That one I didn’t much care for but I’m a big fan of their three B-movies collaboration.
In The Stuff Michael Moriarty plays an industrial saboteur who’s hired to solve the mystery of this popular new “yogurt.” People just love it, but from an earlier scene we see The Stuff may be some kind of sentient organism, able to think and move about like The Blob.
David “Mo” Rutherford (Moriarty) ends up tracking down some leads that has him visiting Stader Virginia, where they originally test marketed The Stuff, but Stader is now a dried up little burg with its remaining residents having been turned into “stuffies.”
What are stuffies?
Humorously coined by Rutherford and his partner in crime, Chocolate Chip Charley (Garret Morris), who was pushed out of his Chocolate chip cookie business by stuffies, they what’s left of you after the stuff has digested you from the inside leaving nothing but a hollowed out vessel for the Stuff to use. Animals can be stuffies too, as we see when Rutherford visits former employee of The Stuff, Vickers (Danny Aiello), and his Doberman, whom he’s mysteriously afraid of. After Rutherford leaves we learn why that is. The damn dog is a stuffie and it makes Vickers one soon after.
Eventually, Rutherford and his girlfriend, Nicole, (Andrea Marcovicci), the ad exec who marketed The Stuff to the masses and even came up with it’s name, trace this mystery to a mining facility in Midland, Georgia. This where The Stuff originated. It seeps up from the ground in vast pools in this quarry and what all the stuffies do is siphon it off into tanker trucks and transport it around the country. There’s a big confrontation at this facility that reminded me of Quatermass II (1957) with all the huge cylindrical stacks containing the organism. A similar scene exists in that ’57 Hammer Film where these alien creatures are contained in similar storage devices.
Paul Sorvino shows up near the end playing the head of a militia that ends up helping Moriarty.
The FX are obviously practical since we didn’t have CGI back in the mid-80s and you get some cool fake heads with mouths that open up way too far to allow the thing to crawl out of, plus a punched off face and a stuffie that gets cut in half after a semi runs him over; miniatures and copious amounts of whatever that doubled as The Stuff as it moves and drowns and kills like all good blob-like monsters excel at.
All good stuff in my book.
The movie first hit DVD from Anchor Bay back in 2000 when Anchor Bay was still at the top of the cult movie distributor food chain. It came with a commentary by Larry Cohen, the trailer, was widescreened and looked pretty good. Then Image Entertainment acquired the rights and put the disc back in circulation in 2011 As far as I know it was the same transfer Anchor Bay released. Now Arrow Films in the UK has decided to release it but on blu-ray for the first time (a DVD/Blu-ray combo to be precise) and the 1080p 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer looks really good. The English 1.0 Mono (PCM uncompressed) sounded good, too. You also get English subtitles only.
In the extra features department you get a documentary titled ‘Can’t Get Enough Of The Stuff’ (52:10) that Arrow could not get the star of the movie Michael Moriarty to participate in. He had to have been asked. I think the doc suffers a little because of it, but just a little, you still have the director, Larry Cohen, discussing it at length, and they did at least manage to get co-star, Andrea Marcovicci, to talk up the movie as well. FX artist Steve Neill, producer Paul Kurta and film critic Kim Newman are also on hand to give their two cents/perspectives.
You also get a commentary on the trailer by Darren Bousman as well as the trailer sans any commentary. Unfortunately, the US commentary Larry Cohen did Anchor Bay had on their version, which was not ported over to the subsequent Image release, was not ported over to Arrow’s version either.
The Stuff is a nice mesh of The Blob, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and the dark side of consumerism that like Brian Yuzna’s Society (1989) and John Carpenter’s They Live (1988) is still relevant today.