1990 Written by David Mitchell
Directed by Damian Lee
The second film in the Dean Cameron Triple Feature Midnites for Maniacs show was Ski School (after Summer School), one of two flicks I had no experience with before the night began. This was Jesse Hawthorne Ficks’ favorite movie growing up, and the showing was his birthday bash. I was only vaguely aware of the film going in, thinking it was just another Police Academy style film that they must not have had a copy of at the video store I used growing up.
The film apes part of Summer School‘s character dynamic, though instead of Dean Cameron’s character having Dave Frazier(Gary Riley) to work off of, Cameron is paired up with Stuart Fratkin as his partner in crime. Fratkin and Cameron would again be paired in the tv series They Came From Outer Space, though Fratkin was noticeably not in Ski School 2, a movie that seemingly could only afford Dean Cameron. Ski School is a classic snobs vs slobs scenario mixed into the Academy format the Police Academy movies help popularized while also showcasing some great 90s extreme sports events. In addition to the skiing, thanks to it being the 90s, ever character is constantly wearing neon, especially neon tracksuits and ski outfits. They even work it into the party scenes by using a blacklight to make the partygoers all glow.
Basically, Dave Marshak (Dean Cameron) and his squad of party hounds run the disrespectful part of the ski school located in Building 8 (painted sideways like infinity.) They’re opposed by Reid Janssens (Mark Thomas Miller), a classic movie jerkass who demands perfection and hates the slobs, to the point where he is conspiring with the ski school’s owners to sell the place, at which point he’ll get a promotion. Not exactly the best evil plan, but it is evil and it is a plan that interferes with their partying lifestyle, so Marshak and his friends must save the day. Marshak is joined by his best bud Fitz Fitzgerald (Stuart Fratkin) and fellow party man Ed Young (Patrick Labyorteaux, who was also in Summer School), as well as hot new recruit John Roland (Tom Breznahan), who is an awesome skier but not from the rich, established skier areas, thus earning Janssens’ ire and getting shipped of to section 8. Continue reading →
1987 Screenplay by Jeff Franklin
Story by Jeff Franklin, Stuart Birnbaum, and David Dashev
Directed by Carl Reiner
At one point Summer School was a cable staple, but I first saw it as a lad probably in ’88 or ’89 during a Showtime free preview weekend on cable. You see, we had HBO and Cinemax, but not Showtime, which meant there was a huge chunk of films that we didn’t have the pleasure of watching a billion times. Summer School was one of those, but it was also popular enough it was used to entice people to sign up for Showtime, which we never did, but we did watch their free films. After that, I managed to miss it the hundreds of other times it played on the TBS/TNT/USA channels, until 27 years later when it was screened in an theater again.
Summer School was actually part of a Dean Cameron triple-feature that also saw Ski School and Rockula played at a Midnites for Maniacs event at the San Francisco New Mission Theater. Not only was there three Dean Cameron movies playing, but Dean Cameron himself was there to regale us with a few tales of his career and filming these pictures. Summer School is both an artifact of the time and a harbinger of the future where school testing has become controversial. The kids here being unmotivated high school students who failed a required basic skills test they need to graduate and their teacher. Freddy Shoop is the gym teacher more interested in having fun and summer vacation than teaching, but he’s roped into the summer school gig because he’s up for tenure. His girlfriend goes off to Hawaii without him, and Mr. Shoop now has a room full of rambunctious kids and no desire to be a responsible adult. It’s fun seeing Marc Harmon as the beach bum teacher when he’s now best known for headlining NCIS for a bajillion years, especially since he fills the fun-having teacher role so easily.
No good 80s film is without a stuffed shirt villain, and the vice-principal Phil Gills (Robin Thomas) fills that role nicely, being a constant thorn in Shoop’s side while also dating his love interest, Robin (Kirstie Alley). He is satisfyingly slimy and provides a great foil for the hero and students while putting in a good, cheesy performance that only rarely slips into cartoonish territory. Continue reading →