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Aug 8, 2007

Whatever happened to...

If I were to ask 100 movie buffs to name a big shot director from the 80s that was never heard from again, with no other information given, I'll bet I know who the number one answer would be. If I were to thrown in that this person was responsible for no less than five epic comedies that starred all of the biggest names in comedy, I'd bet that the votes would then go overwhelmingly in this person's favor - 80% of higher.

So who do you think that number one answer would be?

John Hughes, of course. However, that's not who I'm referring to with the details given above. No, the guy I'm talking about made bigger hits than Hughes (though they may not have had as much of a cultural impact). Who is it?

John Landis. Someone please tell me what happened to John Landis. Check out this directorial run, starting in 1978 and running through 1988:

1. The Kentucky Fried Movie
2. Animal House
3. Blues Brothers
4. An American Werewolf in London
5. Trading Places
6. Twilight Zone: The Movie
7. Michael Jackson's Thriller video
8. Spies Like Us
9. ¡Three Amigos!
10. Coming to America

I know that comedies in general, and specifically comedic directors not named Woody Allen don't get a lot of media love, but that stretch is Spielbergian in terms of the size of the hits and the consistency of the quality. There's not a stinker there (I haven't seen Werewolf, but it's rated highly and has a good reputation as far as I know). Yet after that - nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing, I suppose. Three years after Coming to America was the Sylvester Stallone bomb Oscar, a failed comedy attempt for the former Rambo. A french vampire horror comedy (Innocent Blood) was next - someone should have told multiple-time Landis collaborator Eddie Murphy that the vampire comedy wasn't a good idea, as that might have saved him from making Vampire in Brooklyn. His next three films, in '94, '96, and '98 respectively, were Beverly Hills Cop III, The Stupids, and Blues Brothers 2000, none of which were critical or commercial hits.

However, the man really hasn't had a known feature film hit the streets since. Lately, the director of Animal House and Trading Places has worked as a director of the USA network original series Psych (2 episodes) and is currently doing post-production on a Don Rickles documentary. It seems a long way to drop - imagine Woody Allen directing episodes of Two and a Half Men to pay the bills just because some of his latest flicks weren't hits. Then again, I don't know the details of his life or career, and this is all just speculation. Any way you look at it, though, his hits clearly outnumber his misses. Here's hoping some of the magic comes back.


2 people have chosen wisely: on "Whatever happened to..."

Cooper said...

I think your list is telling indeed as to the fate of Mr. Landis' career. Look at the quality leading up to Twilight Zone (even KFM had it's moments). Now look at the mediocity afterwords. I think TZ left a serious mark on his life..

Ms. Go said...

I'm thinking karma finally caught up with Mr. Landis after the messy business with an accomplished actor and two children, who were working long hours in unsafe conditions, illegally, were killed on the set of the Twilight Zone Movie.

Google it.