VICTORY OVER VHS OBLIVION! This is a particularly bittersweet capture for CineSchlock-O-Rama's Most Wanted. It's also the most illusive thus far with 176 WEEKS on the lam! I'd like to thank DVD Talk honcho Geoff Kleinman for spending an obscene portion of that time trying to make our shared dream come true -- an extras-laden CineSchlock-O-Rama release of Ice Cream Man!
Why? The picture became a personal passion on sight for obvious reasons: You've got B-deity Clint Howard at maximum "Clint" in a menage-a-huh? mix of a kiddie flick, a gross-out horror howler, a dizzying who-used-to-be-who cavalcade and, behind the camera, an adult auteur anxious to keep everyone's clothes ON!
So, just weeks before the flick's distributor (the hallowed A-Pix Entertainment) went the way of the nudist-camp genre, Geoff began what seemed like YEARS on the phone -- mostly on hold -- trying to nail down the DVD rights. He bugged the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who, when they aren't handing out Oscars, keep records on who made what and who owns what. (I get queasy just thinking about those folks.) Eventually, Geoff bent the ear of the gal in charge of unloading A-Pix's assets who strung us along until Ardustry Entertainment wisely stepped in and wrote a check for the whole catalog.
Did Geoff give up? Nope. That's just when his courtship of Ardustry began! He's slick with complicated terms like "profit sharing," which is good, because that talk gives me tired head. I JUST WANTED TO DO A COMMENTARY WITH CLINT HOWARD!!! Ardustry responded by professing their shared enthusiasm for Ice Cream Man, yet promptly sat on the picture for almost two years. Worse, their business model favors ultra-budget releases, so our repeated offer to personally finance the bonus material was politely rebuffed -- as was Mr. Howard's own inquiry.
Bittersweetness aside ... IT'S HERE!!! Guaranteed to be the only flick you'll ever see where someone actually steps into frame holding a giant waffle cone topped with a HUMAN HEAD! Simply one of cinema's most awe inspiring sights. You see, little Gregory Tudor's split slipped both bananas when he witnessed the machine-gun murder of his beloved Ice Cream King and realized, "Not every day is a happy, happy, happy day." After years at the Wishing Well Sanitarium, an all grow'd up Gregory then turns to self-medication -- dulling the lingering loss by grinding pooches into his Butter Brickle, feeding victim's eyeballs to customers and generally being an acutely WEIRD guy! (Hence Mr. Howard.)
The Ice Cream Prince, as he's rechristened himself after taking over the late Butch Brickle's operation, also has issues with snotty little yard monsters. Who doesn't? On one hand he says stuff like, "I'm the ice cream man. I make children happy!" While on the other, he's chronically prone to stuffing the buggers into his freezer. That's where The Rocketeers come in -- the cut-rate Bloodhound Gang of this picture -- who alone grasp this Push-Pop peddler's Pied Piper antics and proceed to yelp "Wolf!" to no avail. But, honestly, their folks are a wee bit distracted.
The gaggle's token girl, Anndi McAfee, is saddled with David Warner's religious zealot of a father who's understandably distracted by his bride's babbled messages from the Archangel Gabriel. JoJo Adams spends the flick with a pillow stuffed in his shirt as portly "Tuna" who hit the B-lottery with his parents: busty barbarian Sandahl Bergman and American werewolf David Naughton. Mom's convinced dad's diddling someone on the side. He is. Soap siren Andrea Evans. (She also has a taste for Gregory's, ahem, "hard-pack.") That's just TWO kiddos. There's three more! Steve Garvey plays Justin Isfeld's equally inattentive dad. Even the scamp's big brother is busied taking dirty pictures of his girlfriend. Zachary Benjamin goes missing early, but he's something of a bastard Z-list celebrity wise. As is our final and most maligned Rocketeer -- the bespectacled "Small Paul" (Mikey LeBeau).
Meanwhile, the Ice Cream Man just keeps tootling around kidnapping these nosey Nellies, throwing schiz'd out graveside ice cream socials and terrorizing Tuna into silence by filling his shoes full of WORMS!!! Even Gregory's former nurse turned landlady Olivia Hussey (Yes, Juliet's really in this sucker!) is gleefully oblivious to his horrific hobbies. At least the POLICE are suspicious! Yet you can't expect haste when Lee Majors Jr. and CineSchlocker idol Jan-Michael Vincent are on the case. (Slightly before Mr. Vincent got permanent frog throat while drunk driving.)
Start to see the potential here, folks? Or do I have to recreate Clint's entire dueling severed heads puppet act? Believe me -- I COULD! -- and that's just, well, sad. More tragic is that, despite its bizarro brilliance, this picture was Norman Apstein's failed bid to go legit. CineSchlockers who spent any time in the BACK of the video store will remember Mr. Apstein better as Paul Norman who shot such seminal sensations as Edward Penishands, Intercourse with a Vampire and American Pie. (The other one.) In fact, keep a peeper peeled for his lovely wedded Triple-X starlet at the time.
No breasts. 10 corpses. Puree'd pooch. Kiddos in peril. Multiple hypos to the brainpan. Gratuitous stigmata. Thrilling grocery-store chase sequence. Peeping. Domestic unrest. Crazed jig. Eyeball coring. Trippy sanitarium flashbacks. Waffle iron to the face. Knife stroking. Gratuitous Doug Llewelyn cameo. Killer cam fakeout. Piggy bank busting. Highly unconventional ventriloquism. Gratuitous diaphragm gag. Ol' Stringfellow Hawke checks in with the biggest understatement of the entire flick: "You know, there's something WEIRD going on here!"
As previously mourned, there are no proper bonus materials. Although, even on the cheap, Ardustry's disc delivers distinct audio/visual snap as the transfer was presumably created from the original master used for A-Pix's VHS release. The movie never saw a theatrical run (other than at a beer-fueled Clint Howard Film Festival in Chicago), but by golly, it was shot in 35 mm and the framing appears a tad snug to be open matte. Guess only Mr. Apstein would know for sure. (Drop me a line, sir!) Also, Ardustry went with the tamer of the two VHS box covers circulated for the flick. We CineSchlockers would've screamed for the bloodied double-scoop cone with cockroach and eyeball sprinkles!
1994, 83 mins, Fullframe, DD 2.0, Trailers. In lieu of extras: Try keeping count of Converse shoe shots. (Chuck Taylor would be proud ... right?)
!!! READ THE ICE CREAM MAN Q&A !!!
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.