The Stuff (also known as Larry Cohen's The Stuff) is a 1985 American satirical science fiction horror film written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen and starring Michael Moriarty, Garrett Morris, Andrea Marcovicci, and Paul Sorvino. It was also the last film of noted actor Alexander Scourby.
|Directed by||Larry Cohen|
|Produced by||Paul Kurta|
|Written by||Larry Cohen|
|Music by||Anthony Guefen|
|Edited by||Armand Lebowitz|
|Distributed by||New World Pictures|
Several railroad workers discover a yogurt-like white substance bubbling out of the ground. These workers find it to be sweet and addictive. Later, the substance, marketed as "The Stuff," is being sold to the general public in containers like ice cream. It is marketed as having no calories and as being sweet, creamy, and filling. The Stuff quickly becomes a nationwide craze and drastically hurts the sales of ice cream.
Former FBI agent turned industrial saboteur David "Mo" Rutherford is hired by the leaders of the suffering ice cream industry, as well as junk food mogul Charles W. "Chocolate Chip Charlie" Hobbs, to find out exactly what The Stuff is and destroy it.
Under their commissions, Rutherford conducts an investigation into The Stuff. His efforts reveal, to his initial horror, that the craze for the dessert is far deadlier than anyone had believed: The Stuff is actually a living, parasitic, and possibly sentient organism that gradually takes over the brain; it then mutates those who eat it into bizarre zombie-like creatures, before consuming them from the inside and leaving them literal empty shells of their former selves.
A young boy named Jason also discovers The Stuff is alive and sees how it affects his family and how they are adamantly against his beliefs on The Stuff. He gets arrested for vandalizing a supermarket display of The Stuff, attracting the attention of Rutherford, who comes to his aid. Rutherford also manages to charm Nicole, an advertising executive who becomes his partner and lover when she sees the effect of The Stuff. The trio infiltrates the distribution operation, which is actually an organized corporate effort to spread The Stuff on the basis of eliminating world hunger, and destroy the lake of The Stuff with explosives. Meanwhile, United States Army Col. Malcolm Grommett Spears, a retired soldier, leads a militia in battling the zombies and transmitting a civil defense message for Americans to break their addiction to The Stuff by destroying it with fire. The Stuff addiction is ended, and Rutherford, Nicole, Jason, and Col. Spears are hailed as national heroes.
Mo then visits the head of The Stuff Company, a man named Mr. Fletcher. He tells Mo that the destruction of the mine has not hurt his business, since The Stuff seeps out from many places in the ground, but Mo vows to find those places and get rid of them all. Another man, Mr. Vickers, brings in Mr. Evans, the ice cream mogul with whom he is now working—and who had originally hired Mo to find out about what The Stuff was. They tell him they have come up with a new product that they call "The Taste," which is a mix of 88% ice cream and 12% The Stuff, supposedly enough to make people crave more without it taking over their minds or killing them. However, Mo then brings in Jason, who is carrying a box, and then holds the two moguls at gunpoint. The box is full of pint containers of The Stuff, and Mo forces both to eat them all as punishment for all the lives lost to it, and for their greed. As they do, Rutherford asks pointedly, "Are you eating it...or is it eating YOU?" When they finish, Mo and Jason leave them to the approaching police.
The film ends with smugglers selling The Stuff on the black market, having one of the smugglers tasting The Stuff, and revealing that samples of The Stuff still exist. In a post-credits scene, a woman in a bathroom says "Enough is never enough" while holding The Stuff.
- Michael Moriarty as David "Mo" Rutherford
- Andrea Marcovicci as Nicole
- Garrett Morris as Charles W. "Chocolate Chip Charlie" Hobbs
- Paul Sorvino as Colonel Malcolm Grommett Spears
- Scott Bloom as Jason
- Danny Aiello as Mr. Vickers
- Patrick O'Neal as Fletcher
- Rutanya Alda as Psychologist
- Alexander Scourby as Evans
- Russell Nype as Richards
- Brooke Adams, Laurene Landon, Tammy Grimes, Abe Vigoda, and Clara Peller as Stuff commercial guest stars
- Eric Bogosian (uncredited) as Supermarket clerk
- Patrick Dempsey (uncredited) as Underground stuff buyer #2
- Mira Sorvino (uncredited) as Factory worker; she had come to visit her father, Paul Sorvino, on set, and was used as an extra.
The script was an original story by Cohen. He said, "My main inspiration was the consumerism and corporate greed found in our country and the damaging products that were being sold. I was constantly reading in the newspapers about various goods and materials being recalled because they were harming people. For example, you had foods being pulled off the market because they were hazardous to people’s health."
Cohen was particularly influenced by "the sheer volume of junk food we consume every day. We continue to eat these foods despite the fact some of them are killing us. That’s when I started thinking that The Stuff could be an imaginary product— in this case an ice cream dessert— that is being consumed by millions and is doing irreparable damage to humanity. Everybody is gobbling down this yummy food, so how can it possibly be wrong for us?"
Cohen wanted to cast Arsenio Hall as "Chocolate Chip Charlie" W. Hobbs, since he thought he was not only a good actor but also a rising star. The executives at New World Pictures, however, wanted someone more recognizable and thus cast Garrett Morris instead.
Cohen says the film was significantly trimmed in post production:
We did lose a few funny scenes that I wanted to keep. When I showed New World my original cut, they felt strongly that the film should move a lot faster. I realized that I’d made a picture that was a little too dense and sophisticated, so we increased the pacing. I know that along with some of the commercials, we did lose a romantic scene between Moriarty and Andrea that took place in a hotel room. It was perhaps a wise decision to cut some of those scenes out, because I don’t think they played well in the totality of the film. The story needed to drive forward at certain points and not be slowed down with extraneous material, although it can be painful cutting scenes out that you like.
Cohen says that the New World Pictures Company was slightly unhappy with the resulting movie:
New World wanted a straight-up horror film, and, in retrospect, The Stuff had more comedic aspects to it than the executives were perhaps expecting. They thought they were going to get a flat-out horror movie with a lot of gore and scares, and we made a film that was more satirical and had a lot of humour and commentary in it. We played the characters for laughs in many cases and that greatly diluted the horror element. It made The Stuff more of what I would consider “A Larry Cohen Movie” but less of a conventional, commercial horror film. I think New World were disappointed that The Stuff wasn’t more horrific and nasty--more of a balls-out monster movie. I knew before the film even hit theaters The Stuff would appeal to a different audience than the one we were trying to get.
The film was not a hit, and Cohen feels that it was hurt by the fact it was sold as a horror film when it was basically a satirical comedy. It received positive reviews from critics; on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 67% rating based on 12 reviews. He claimed "the day The Stuff opened in New York a hurricane hit and the newspapers were not delivered. Of course, we had received all these great reviews, but it didn’t matter because nobody ever got to read a single word of them."
On September 11, 2011, Image Entertainment released The Stuff under its "Midnight Madness Series" banner on DVD. It is a direct port of the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD release.
A Special Edition Blu-ray was released in the United Kingdom on March 10, 2013 by Arrow Films.
The company Effects Associated were hired by Cohen to supply some of the special effects shots. When the shots were delivered, Cohen was not satisfied with shots of exploding factory buildings and paid only half (c. $8,000) of the agreed price for those shots. Effects Associated brought an action against Cohen in court to claim full compensation, but also because the parties had no written copyright agreement regarding the use of the shots. The trial court decided in favor of Cohen, ruling that there was an "implied agreement" for the non-exclusive use of the shots in the film. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed the ruling, and confirmed that Effects Associated still retained the copyright for use outside of The Stuff.
- "THE STUFF (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 22, 1985. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
- "Why Larry Cohen's The Stuff is a Work of Scruffy Genius". Den of Geek.
- O'Neal, Sean (November 23, 2011). "Random Roles: Mira Sorvino". avclub.com. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- Doyle p 324
- Doyle p 326
- About.com – 13 Horror Films Starring Comedians Archived July 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Doyle p 343
- "Company Credits for The Stuff". IMDb.com. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- "The Stuff". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
- Doyle p 344
- "The Stuff". dvdempire.com. Retrieved April 8, 2011.
- The disputed footage as posted on YouTube
- Doyle, Michael (October 31, 2015). Larry Cohen: The Stuff of Gods and Monsters. Bear Manor Media.