There is a style of comedy from the 1970’s that schlock fiends like Your Humble Reviewer remember with a certain, deranged fondness. There’s no official name for this subgenre but this kind of film is made up of short skits that act out the plotlines of smutty story jokes. Sometimes there is a framework for the skits, sometimes not, but the end result always plays out like a volume of Totally Tasteless Jokes brought to life. These films are rarely funny in a literal, laugh-out-loud way but they hold a certain fascination if you’re the right age to remember sneaking a glimpse at them on cable t.v.
Up Yours – A Rockin’ Comedy fits squarely into this phantom subgenre. Despite the in-your-face assertiveness of the title, it’s a humble, old-fashioned sort of affair. The film begins with a building in downtown area of Los Angeles introducing itself to the audience via the voice and body of “Elaine” (Cindy Morgan, future star of Caddyshack and Tron). She pops up periodically through the running time, superimposed onto railings or windows via kiddie show-style opticals to set up a string of gags as old as the burlesque-show comedy routines they were probably pilfered from.
The end result isn’t what you’d call funny but cult movie types might find it charming in an odd way for a few reasons. The first is its sweet, eager-to-please attitude. The jokes might not be worthy of Sid Caesar but they roll at a steady clip and rarely overstay their welcome. The punchlines are often visible from a mile away but the filmmakers work around this by heavily investing in the setups of these gags. The perfect example is a lengthy where a psychiatrist brings his patients to a restaurant for a dining experience. You know from the first few seconds that the “psychiatrist” will reveal himself to be a loon when the bill arrives but it’s interesting to watch the work all the actors put into their wacky dining behavior during the meal.
Those into their exploitation cinema will also enjoy Up Yours because of all the familiar faces that turn up during its running time. For instance, Joe Dante regular Belinda Balaski turns up a victim of obscene phone calls and Buck Flower has a fun bit as a beggar who offers an endearingly dirty retort to a Shakespeare-quoting businessman who turns him down. Familiar t.v. comedian Chuck McCann pops up in a few different gags and eagle-eyed types will be interested to see cameos from Nurse Sherri star Jill Jacobsen and 1970’s skin-flick regulars Tallie Cochrane and Patrick Wright. There are even walk-on bits from Ilsa series director Don Edmonds and future action-flick kingpin Walter Hill!
However, the best selling point of Up Yours for fans of b-movie emphemera is how weird it gets in its second half. There’s a bizarre, lengthy gag involving Chuck McCann as a husband who starts eating dog food to spite his wife for forgetting to stock the pantry, only to become addicted to it. It’s a lengthy, weird stretch of the film that serves as the set up for a groaner of a punchline that will have you howling with disbelief. There’s also a bizarre gag involving a tenant who gets aroused by dancing falling for an impressionable nymphet who specializes in tap-dancing. This joke’s plotline involves an unforgettably bizarre scene where the girl dances a naked flamenco dance of seduction (!) for her also-nude suitor. At this point, Up Yours goes from quaintly eccentric to flat-out peculiar.
Thus, Up Yours – A Rockin’ Comedy doesn’t succeed by objective comedic standards but it’s weird enough to hold the interest of those viewers with the right mindset and the proper love for juvenile-level burlesque humor. We all know who we are, right?
(Note: this is one of four films in VCI’s Drive-In Grindhouse set – the other three are Summer School, Psychedelic Fever and The Farmer’s Other Daughter. All four will be reviewed at Schlockmania)