School Spirit (1985)/ The Invisible Maniac (1990)
Both of tonight's double feature presentations feature guys who are able to turn invisible. In School Spirit, Billy uses his newfound power to get into the pants of his female co-eds. In The Invisible Maniac, physics teacher, Mr. Dornwinkle, uses it to molest and murder his summer school students. Enjoy!
School Spirit (1985)
Like any good teen sex comedy, the film begins with a horny guy trying to manhandle a girl. The guy is Billy Batson - why they chose to name him after Captain Marvel's alter ego is beyond me.
He's played by Tommy Nolan, whom you may remember from a few small parts on shows like Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, and Rawhide (apparently, Westerns were his niche). After growing out of his child star phase, he had a little difficulty making it as a full fledged adult actor. Eventually, he settled for junk like this film, being a surfer gang leader on an episode of Simon & Simon, a paramedic on Santa Barbara,... you get the picture. In the end, he became a high school principle.
The girl is Judy Hightower, a straight-A student at Lavatoire University and all around goody-goody. She's played by Elizabeth Foxx who acted in a few things in the 1980s before disappearing. She showed up on Matt Houston, Trapper John MD, and, the same year School Spirit was released, she appeared in a Playgirl magazine exercise VHS... a pretty pitiful role to be in after several years in the biz - no doubt leading to her decision to cut her losses and find another path in life.
Judy refuses to do it without a condom. So, Billy rushes out to get one, only to die in a car crash. As the doctors pronounce him dead, his spirit is visited by his Uncle Pinky who informs him he's deceased, and is there to walk him into The Light.
Uncle Pinky is played by John Finnegan, the voice of the main villain in American Tail (Warren T. Rat) and was the Speaker of the House in Mars Attacks!
But Billy's not ready for The Light just yet. He's got unfinished business with Judy. He figures out that a silly hand gesture will turn him from ghost to flesh-and-blood human and back again, and heads back to where he left off, condom in hand.
And this is where I have a problem with School Spirit. It sort of violates a code. In movies, if you're a ghost, you stay a ghost. You don't get to switch back and forth. This is not allowed.
Billy tries to pick up where he left off with Judith in her room at the sorority house, but, sadly, that ship has sailed. Judy isn't feeling it; besides, this sort of behavior can get her in trouble. She kicks him out of her room.
To avoid getting spotted, he ducks into the nearest open door - which, naturally, is the girls' shower room. Billy turns invisible and enjoys a little voyeuristic fun before departing.
Sadly, Judy isn't among the bathroom crowd. In fact, those expecting to see Judith in the buff in School Spirit will be sorely disappointed.
We learn that Judy has a "friend" who poses a potential cock-block for Billy. What would an 80s movie be without the rich prick character?
Billy turns into his ghost form and shames his preppy rival (unzipping his fly, making him pour yogurt on his head, etc.), then steals Judy back to his place.
Alas, he is once again stopped from crossing the finish line with Judy - Uncle Pinky has arrived to retrieve his dead nephew.
Billy gives Judy a lift to the home of the president of the Lavatoire University, President Grimshaw (Larry Linville - yes, that's Frank from M*A*S*H*). Poolside is his daughter, Ursula (Marta Kober, who you may recognize from Friday the 13th Part II).
President Grimshaw has no love for the troublemaker, Billy Batson, and doesn't understand how Judy the model student could associate with such a vagabond.
While President Grimshaw talks to Judy inside, Billy gives young Ursula a lift to pick some free growing marijuana.
Rumor has it, Marta Kober was arrested in 2006 for cashing checks using ID's stolen from breaking into homes and businesses. Supposedly, this isn't her only brush with the law either.
President Grimshaw and Judy go to the airport to pick up the university's primary source of endowment - Madeleine Lavatoire (Danièle Arnaud - who, I believe, was in a ZZ Top video, but don't hold me to it.)
Meanwhile, one of the more disturbing moments in cinema history takes place...
Uncle Pinky goes looking for Billy at the sorority house. He spies a "sleeping princess" and proceeds to start to undress her, all the while mumbling pervertedly. I'm sure this was intended to be sexy; however, the idea of an old fat ghost molesting an unconscious girl is a just a tad disturbing.
The "sleeping princess" is played by Marlene Janssen who appeared in an episode of Knight Rider and not much else. According to IMDb, she "married an electrician and lives in North Carolina, and holds down a full time job as a customer service representative for a chemical firm."
Wild (and supposedly underage) Ursula takes Madeleine out to party. Madeleine conceals her rich alum identity and pretends she is a student from Canada... and naturally falls for the studly Batson.
Unfortunately, Billy winds up in jail, but Ursula is there to slut it up with one of the officers to steal his keys and set him free (isn't that really, really illegal?).
Madeleine and Billy start to fall for each other, but there's no time for love - it's Hog Day. What's Hog Day, you ask? Apparently, it's a day where less than 40 Lavatoire students dress like they're on Let's Make a Deal, listen to really bad live music, and play on a Slip-n-Slide.
Meanwhile at the endowment ceremony.... but where's the guest of honor? President Grimshaw and Judy are there, but Madeleine is M.I.A. Of course, she's having more fun with that crazy Billy Batson at the Hog Day party.
Maybe I'm just getting old, but I'd rather be at the endowment ceremony.
President Grimshaw heads to the Hog Day festivities only to find Madeleine, his daughter and even that cock blocking preppy having the time of their lives. Inevitably, he takes a trip down the Slip-n-Slide while everyone laughs their merry little asses off.
President Grimshaw finally gets Madeleine back to the endowment ceremony; but things don't go as planned. Madeleine has been introduced to the hedonistic ways of American college kids, and forever changed. She no longer wants to put the money towards new buildings (heaven forbid); she wants to put it towards a big Hog Day festival to be celebrated each year. In other words - screw higher education, let's party!
Grimshaw is wet from the Slip-n-Slide and falls on his ass, pants splitting. I think it's safe to say Larry Linville has officially hit rock bottom.
And I'm a little confused: How is it that Madeleine was so sheltered that she's been shown a whole new world of debauchery? She's from France for chrissake!
Now the party has moved to the Grimshaw residence. I can't help but feel sorry for him. I mean, what did he do wrong, exactly? Sure, he was a little stuffy and straight, but does that mean his house should be destroyed?
It's hard for me to root for a bunch of spoiled college kids and their divine right to party. Yes, I know I sound like a geezer - and I would have cheered them on had I seen this in 1985. Still, I can't help but want to punch every one of these privileged party goers in the mouth. There I said it.
Uncle Pinky tries to take him back to The Light, but he's too late. Batson's back! He wakes up in intensive care, back to perfect health. He no longer possesses ghost power, but he's got Madeleine. THE END.
Ugh. School Spirit is awful. There's precious little nudity - a few blink-and-you'll-miss-them tittays at the Hog Day festivities, but that's basically it. A sex comedy without nudity is like a 70s action movie without a car chase. And to cast a smoking fox like Elizabeth Foxx and not deliver the goods is a crime against cinema.
Then there's the fact that the Billy is a ghost, yet this aspect is barely a part of the overall story. I mean, the main character is a f***ing ghost and this hardly figures into the plot - this is incomprehensible! Essentially, the director could have edited out all the ghost-related bits, and still had the same basic film. Billy turns invisible to pull a prank on the preppy and escape from a sorority house... and that's basically it!
An awful mess. Skip this one.
The Invisible Maniac (1990)
The movie begins with a young Kevin Dornwinkle ridiculed and mistreated by his religious zealot mother. "Women are evil!" he learns from mommie dearest. He's like the male version of Carrie.
Fast forward a few decades, and Dornwinkle is a scientist presenting his revolutionary discovery - a serum that can turn a man invisible! When he injects himself with it in from of the panel, it doesn't work, and the board members all laugh hysterically.
Dornwinkle proceeds to go apeshit, killing four of them. Then it's off to the insane asylum... where he escapes.
And this is all within the first ten minutes!
Fast forward a couple weeks, and the escaped lunatic/murderer/disgraced scientist has landed himself a position as summer school teacher. Didn't they do background checks in 1990?
[Note that Dornwinkle is played by Noel Peters. His only other acting role was in 1997's Cinderella - the TV movie starring Brandy and Whoopi Goldberg. I find this highly strange.]
Of course, this new physics teacher is freakishly weird, and the students soon learn to mock and abuse him - just as the world has done to him his whole life.
Finally (33 minutes into the film), there's a development. Dornwinkle has perfected his invisibility serum. It works! Let the madness and perversions begin!
Dornwinkle immediately puts his serum to good use. He breaks into a student's home at night, and undresses her while she's sleeping. The next day, he's chillin' in the cheerleader's locker room. The summer school kids and his physicist colleagues may look down on him, but Dornwinkle is laughing all the way to the shower room.
The school principal, Ms. Cello (Stephanie Blake - who played the "singing nurse" in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) has a hankering for some Dornwinkle. Problem is, he's got issues... and when she won't listen to his refusals, he stabs her.
When he returns to class, a bucket of water has been placed over the door, and it drops on him. Dornwinkle has officially had enough. He locks the school door, turns invisible and commences to killing summer school students.
First, he stuffs a French Dip sandwich down the throat of Bubba (Eric Champnella) and then moves on to Betty (Debra Lamb), who he strangles with a fire hose. Of course, he had take her shirt off first.
A couple of girls discover Betty's body and run to Dornwinkle's classroom for help. Well, they've come to the wrong guy. He proceeds to drown one gal in an aquarium, and the other he strangles.
When shit hits the fan in The Invisible Maniac, it hits the fan. A certifiably misogynistic fan at that.
Next, Dornwinkle electrocutes Vicky in the shower. When her boyfriend comes looking for her, he finds her body in a locker, and runs off screaming like a girl... and then is promptly thrown from the school roof.
Vicky is played by notorious porn star, Savannah (R.I.P.) - famous for her relationships with Pauly Shore and Gregg Allman. Her tragic suicide makes this death scene all the more disturbing.
The invisible Dornwinkle kills Bunny (scream queen, Melissa Moore) then tries to kill her boyfriend, Chet. But, Chet doesn't go down so easily. In fact, he goes after Dornwinkle with a shotgun; unfortunately, it's Chet who gets his head blown off
Later the police mistake the headless Chet for a dead Mr. Dornwinkle. Thus, Dornwinkle's reign of terror is allowed to continue - ending with a female newscaster (Dana Bentley) getting the Dornwinkle treatment on air....
Groan. This was awful. The reviews on IMDb gave me hope: The Invisible Maniac promised to contain tons of over-the-top acting, campy kills, and a healthy supply of T&A. Sadly, this couldn't be further from the truth...
The kills don't really get going until three-quarters of the film has already passed. After the backstory is established, there is a LONG period of lame filler consisting of cocky summer school kids and their mental case teacher. No boobs, no blood, and plenty of boring. True, the film does contain two naked shower room scenes, but nothing to write home about.
Once Dornwinkle finally decides to go nuts like an invisible Jason Voorhees, it's too little too late. Granted, there's some creative kills: death by aquarium, death by fire hose, death by French Dip Sandwich... but slasher films need to have more than just a rapid succession death scenes. A little suspense and a few scares can go a long way.
I will say that Noel Peters gives it his all, and doesn't hold back a bit on the maniac shtick. And, kudos to the director for at least not shying away from the nudity - a slasher movie requirement that is all too often neglected. Still, they aren't enough to save this from being a complete mess. Gilligan says avoid.