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Sharing the wonderfulness of Robert Culp

National Lampoon’s Movie Madness

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AKA National Lampoon Goes to the Movies

Originally released – straight to video – 1983

There’s a reason this movie, originally filmed in 1981, went straight to video in 1983.

It sucks.

Seriously. This thing is bad. And I mean real bad. You know how sometimes a movie can be so bad it’s good? No, no this is not even that. This is clearly what-the-hell-were-they-thinking-and-why-didn’t-they-burn-it BAD.

The premise of the movie is to spoof other typical movie genres. There’s three segments. The first segment spoofs the personal growth plotline, the second segment (with Culp) spoofs the soap opera style plotline and the third segment spoofs cop movies. I’m only going to tell you about the second segment that Culp was in and not bother with the other two because 1. Culp isn’t in the other segments, 2. I didn’t bother to watch the first segment at all and 3. I have no idea WHY I watched the third but there’s just nothing to say for that one.

The second segment is called “Success Wanters.” Ann Dusenberry plays Dominique Corsair, a recent college graduate who is trying to find a job. She’s not having much luck and must lower herself to taking a job as a burlesque dancer/stripper.

Her first gig is to do a show for a bunch of geezers at a dairy convention. Yes, a dairy convention a concept of which would be ripe for tons of double entendre and innuendo and the best thing the writers could come up with for this curdled milk of a movie? A butter bang.

Please don’t ask me what a butter bang is. The geezers butter bang Dominique leaving her innocence shattered and her completely humiliated. But Dominique isn’t the kind of girl to stay down, oh no. She decides she’s going to get her revenge against the butter bastards by switching to margarine.

She finds her way to the Everest Margarine Company, manages somehow to sneak into this bajillion floor office building and waits in the board room, in her trashed stripper costume, smoking a cigarette. Enter Paul Everest, owner and CEO of Everest Margarine Company played by Robert Culp.

Ok, I’m digging the GQ suit here and attaché. Very nice…

Robert Culp in "National Lampoon's Movie Madness: Success Wanters."

Dominique introduces herself and says she’s been waiting for him. Mr. Everest dismisses Joyce, his secretary (who’s no fool and knows exactly what’s going to happen next). After Joyce leaves, Dominique says she wants to know everything there is to know about margarine. He tells her that margarine is a ruthless industry and is no place for a woman. She tells him that he’s never met a woman like her and proceeds to demonstrate that fact by taking an ice cube from the ice bucket, tracing it seductively around her mouth, placing it in her mouth and then sliding under the table to crawl over to him.

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Everest presses the button on his intercom to ask his secretary to hold all his calls. Gee, whatya think’s gonna happen next?! I dunno! Why are they playing “Jaws” like music?!

Everest, meanwhile, is all nonchalant for a guy who knows what he’s about to start his day off with. He continues with his paperwork until we hear *ziiip!* and with a deadpan expression he flicks his fancy pen across the room.

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Ok, I chuckled at that. But, ya know, I would have had it that there wasn’t enough clearance and she bangs her head against the table…

You still reading? Really? Ok, well I’ll keep going then…

Next scene is in Hong Kong at an Everest Margarine production facility. Ms. Corsair is still in her trashed stripper costume but she has a nice trench coat. At least, at the outdoor scene here where they first arrive. She’s presented a lovely bouquet of flowers. No, I’m not really sure why.

Robert Culp in "National Lampoon's Movie Madness: Success Wanters."

Inside, she no longer has her trench coat, but still has her flowers. Her voice over (yes, this thing is narrated) says, “The excitement of my introduction to margarine was so thick, you could cut it with a knife…” I think I was supposed to laugh there. I’m sorry I forgot.

Actually, I’m distracted by Culp in that suit. Did I mention Culp looks super smashing in that suit?? Damn…

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He extols the amazing story of how what was once a mere byproduct of the lowly ol’ soybean had become “a wholesome and nutritious foodstuff known all over the world. Ideal for all forms of cooking and baking, delicious in sandwiches, perfect for snacks and on toast!”

Damn, I’m sold! I’ll even take the stick he dropped on the floor there as he got all carried away…

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He then tells Dominique how someday they’ll find a way to make a margarine that tastes better than butter. She, ever the cheerleader, believes they will. Awww!

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On the plane back to Los Angeles, he dictates a memo, which she happily types up for him. He then is distracted by her soft and inviting backside. Woohoo…

He suggests they take a break since it’s been a long day (actually, the entire time span from when she showed up in his board room at about 7 am to this point is only two and half hours.) There’s a kiss and then a presentation of some jewelry. A huge, monstrous, red, blue and white necklace that weighs a ton and nearly causes her to fall out of her chair. (The jewelry is a running joke through the whole segment, as Dominique goes on to collect additional outlandish pieces). After, he calls the pilot with a change in flight plan. Off to St. Tropez…

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In St. Tropez they enjoy a private tender loving satin sheeted moment that unfortunately gets spoiled when Everest suffers a massive heart attack. But! All is not lost, because he has papers in his attaché transferring power and presidency of Everest Margarine to Ms. Corsair (that he somehow found time to do up in the previous 3 hours). Before he finally is done in by the “heart attack, massive coronary and a cold” he makes the handover official with his notary seal, which Dominique has to smash his hand on the crimper to make it all legal.

News flash: You can’t notarize your own documents! And when she smacks his hand on the crimper seal – that had to hurt. For real! One of those “ow’s!” from Culp I think was legit.

Yes, that’s Culp under all those satin sheets. Considering how bad this thing is, I’d be hiding my head too.

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Dominique goes on to take over the company, romances the son of one of the butter bastards from the start of the segment, encourages said son to kill his father, she turns him in, buys up all of the butter business, ends up marrying a Greek tycoon, gets some more jewelry, sleeps with his son, the Greek tycoon kills his own wife, he then ends up dead (I think he was executed for killing his wife, I can’t really remember) and Dominique inherits a bigger fortune. Then, a German scientist discovers a cure for cancer by having a stick of Dominique’s margarine “radiated” by a color television set. She wins the Nobel Prize. She then schmoozes with the President of the US, sleeps with him, he presents her with some outrageous gold over sized Presidential seal necklace, blah blah and ends up becoming the new First Lady after the current First Lady abdicates her title in favor of the woman she loves.

Ridiculous. But I’m gonna save you from ever having to pay to watch any of this. (I paid $5.24 for the DVD -with FREE shipping! – but it was about $5.24 too much. Seriously, I should have been paid to watch this.) You can watch Culp’s entire bit, beginning to end (all seven or so minutes of it) below.

Please. Don’t thank me.

I can only hope that Culp got a really nice big fat paycheck for what was probably two days’ work for him. Otherwise, I can not fathom why he would have taken this gig. Did he owe somebody a favor? Was he lied to? Blackmailed? I don’t know the answer but I do know that it was a good thing he had The Greatest American Hero to go back to after this!

I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that Culp’s talents were completely wasted here or the fact that Dr. John was equally wasted for the movie’s damn catchy theme song. I mean, seriously, whoever wrote this movie had to be driving that train, high on cocaine. It’s not like National Lampoon didn’t have a precedence. After the surprise success of “Animal House” in 1978, there was quite a bit of anticipation about a follow up film. Media reports noted early in 1981 that the folks at National Lampoon were up to no good again and it seemed the public had some sort of expectation about the end result. The end result, however, was crap. Or, as Shary Flenniken, one of the writers associated with the movie put it, it was “a cocaine fueled fiasco.”

So they were high on cocaine! That explains everything…

Not convinced this movie is as bad as it really is? The movie was tested with an audience in Rhode Island once it was completed. The audience was so appalled and disappointed by what they had seen, they tore up the seats in the theater.

There are a couple of interesting things to note about this movie, however. The director of the “Success Wanters” segment was Bob Giraldi who went on to direct more accolade worthy things like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video.

And Everest’s secretary, Joyce? Is none other than Andy Warhol alum and “Cult Queen” Mary Woronov in what has to be the most non-oddball role she’s ever been cast in.

National Lampoon’s Movie Madness is available on DVD through places like Amazon and such. I’m not putting a link to it though because you don’t need to spend your hard earned money on it. Really. You don’t. The tagline on the DVD says it all: “The film that Hollywood doesn’t want you to see!”

Exactly. Heed the warning.

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Posted in 1980s and Movies by Lisa Philbrick on June 10th, 2013 at 3:28 pm.

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