Hysterical (1983)
Image Entertainment
Cast: Bill Hudson, Bud Cort, Murray Hamilton
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

Long before ’Scary Movie’ set box-office records, the early 1980s saw an influx of horror spoofs, such as ’Student Bodies’ (1981) and ’Pandemonium’ (1982). A latecomer to this trend was ’Hysterical’, which starred The Hudson Brothers (Bill, Mark, Brett), who had a TV show in the early 70s called ’The Hudson Brothers’ Razzle Dazzle Show’. (Bill has been in the press recently, as he is the father of up-and-coming actress Kate Hudson). ’Hysterical’ is a mixture of ’Airplane!’ style humor and Vaudevillain slapstick that pokes fun at many famous horror films, and features many familiar faces in the cast.

Famous author Frederic Lansing (Bill Hudson) decides that he needs to get away from New York to work on his new novel, so he rents a lighthouse in the Oregon town of Cape Hellview. When Frederic moves into the lighthouse, he awakens the spirit of Venetia (Julie Newmar), a woman who was scorned by her lover 100 years ago. Venetia awakens that former lover, Captain Howdy (Richard Kiel, ’Jaws’ from the James Bond films) who begins to murder the citizens of Cape Hellview. But, instead of just dying, Captain Howdy’s victims become apathetic zombies. Also, Frederic is now possessed by Venetia and begins to act very strangely towards new girlfriend Kate (Cindy Pickett). Concerned about the zombie problem, the Mayor (Murray Hamilton, spoofing his role in ’Jaws’) and the town doctor (Bud Cort), decide to call paranormal experts, Dr. Paul Batton and his assistant Fritz (Mark and Brett Hudson).

The film piles on gag after gag, as it lampoons ’Poltergeist’, ’The Exorcist’, ’Night of the Living Dead’ and many other movies. Robert Donner skewers the ’Crazy Ralph’ character from ’Friday the 13th’ & ’Friday the 13th, Part 2’ and receives some of the biggest laughs in the film. As with any comedy of this ilk, only about half of the jokes work, but of those, some are extremely funny. The nice thing about ’Hysterical’ is that it never comes close to taking itself seriously and this inherent silliness makes the film very engaging. Director Chris Bearde keeps things moving at a nice pace, and also displays a talent for rapid-fire editing as well.

The DVD of ’Hysterical’ arrives from Image Entertainment. The film is presented full-frame, and looks fairly good. The picture is clear, and reasonably sharp, although the image does get a bit soft at times. There is a light grain to the film and there are some incidental defects noticeable from the source print. The colors are true for the most part, and the film offers realistic flesh tones. However, there are some nighttime scenes, which are very dark and it is difficult at times to follow the action. The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital Mono track, which gives the viewer audible dialogue, and clear sound effects, without the interference of any hiss or distortion. The only extra included on the DVD is the theatrical trailer for the film. This trailer is presented full-frame and it tells the viewer absolutely nothing about the movie.