Rupert Pupkin Speaks: MIA on DVD: SCAVENGER HUNT ""

Saturday, February 1, 2014


SCAVENGER HUNT (1979; Michael Schultz)
When the mogul behind a 200 million dollar game empire (Vincent Price) dies rather suddenly (in an particularly embarrassing opening scene), we come to find out he's already made out his will...with some unusual terms. His estate may go to any one of several groups of relatives, servants and acquaintances depending on which of them can win the scavenger hunt he has set up to end at 5 PM the same day his will is read. Since the mogul's motto in life was always "Play to Win" he's made the scavenger hunt competition a winner take all proposition. What follows is a long, madcap vortex of lunacy which can clearly be traced back to the likes of IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD. And like that film, this one has a truly all-star cast (including Richard Benjamin, Cloris Leachman, Richard Masur, Richard Mulligan, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Tony Randall, Willie Aames, Dirk Benedict and more!). I first discovered this film on VHS (The only home video format it has ever been released on to date) years ago when I was caught in the midst of a rediscovery and new found love for MIDNIGHT MADNESS (a favorite from my youth). I had seen MIDNIGHT MADNESS many many times as a kid (one of my sisters rented it over and over from our local grocery/video store) and it finally dawned on me they there might be more films like it out there. If I recall, the internet was in its infancy at the time so there wasn't any IMDB. I believe I came upon the movie in either a Leonard Maltin guide or one if those giant video catalogs they used to have at Suncoast and Blockbuster. Once it got onto my radar, I became completely obsessed with seeing it. On paper it sounded like a sure fire home run for me. A movie that was similar to MIDNIGHT MADNESS, but with this amazing ensemble. I even forgot to mention the cameos from the likes of Meatloaf, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ruth Gordon! Oh and I even forgot Scatman Crothers! I have a theory about Scatman and that is that he raises the grade of any movie he's in by 1/2 a star with his mere presence alone. That theory certainly holds true in this case. So anyway, I ordered myself a copy of the VHS, finally got to see it didn't quite live up to the expectations I had built up. That being said though, it got pretty close and has grown on me significantly with each subsequent viewing. Sadly, as I mentioned above, the film was only ever released on VHS and outside of some HBO showings in the early to mid 1980s, it die any seem to show up on TV all that much. As a result, it has fallen into that dreaded category of "forgotten films" which is a shame. 
I just had the distinct and certainly rare pleasure of seeing the film in 35mm, on the big screen and with a crowd. This was a midnight screening put on by programmer extraordinaire Phil Blankenship as part of his impeccably curated Heavy Midnites film series at Los Angeles' Cinefamily. It was a hoot to revisit the movie this way and I brought my son along too (this was his second midnight movie - his first having been CLASS ACT, another Heavy Midnites event). I warned my son up front that this "an extremely silly movie" and I'm certainly glad I did. You see, SCAVENGER HUNT is not the kind of movie that can withstand much build up. It is nothing more than the broadest of broad studio comedies and is only really distinguished by its "plot" (which is a bit if a ripoff as I said), the cast and the period it was made in. The film was released in 1979, and director Michael Schultz (COOLEY HIGH, CAR WASH, THE LAST DRAGON) was definitely trying to keep it family friendly and so the movie not below lots of cheap gags to do so (there are both an Asian and American Indian characters that ride the line just above Blake Edwards racism). In describing the movie to a friend of mine I said it was 'like MIDNIGHT MADNESS, but dumber'. If you're at all familiar with the Disney classic you know it's kind of a dopey movie (I nonetheless love it with all my heart). So for SCAVENGER HUNT to clock in as a dopier movie is saying something. There are just some odd comic choices made, not the least of which is to have Richard Masur play a full-grown man-child. But I digress. I don't mean to bad mouth the movie as I have a lot of affection for it and the whole point of this post is to express that and to bemoan the fact that it's not on DVD. My pipe dream is that some boutique label like Shout Factory or Twilight Time will license it from Fox (its parent studio) and put it out on Blu-ray. A more likely scenario is that it may get shoved out on disc via the somewhat poorly managed Fox Archive line of releases and in that case will almost undoubtedly be a 4x3 master and not widescreen. One can always dream of Blu-ray though can't one? Here's hoping. 
I'll leave you with a clip from the movie (my favorite scene) in which Richard Benjamin and Meatloaf have a little tete-a-tete:


Marc Edward Heuck said...

The primary stumbling block is that Fox no longer owns the rights to this movie. It was fully funded by Melvin Simon Productions, who funneled a lot of films to Fox, and while Fox retained rights to some of the bigger releases (PORKY'S, MY BODYGUARD), others like this reverted to...well, no one is fully sure.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

I loved this movie. I showed to my wife and some friends shortly after I was married when I found it in the local grocery store rentals. No one else cared much about it, but I sure did.

Unknown said...

To mention it is not very dapper. It was invented by a man named Crapper.

ibrokemydick said...

It used to be on TBS during the 90s, it was one of my faves back in the early 90s. I actually like it better than midnight madness. Although midnight madness is great Edie de zen lol. Scavenger hunt is awesome I love it