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The Curator of Schlock #369 by Jeff Shuster

There’s Always Vanilla

No, there isn’t.

I had to bring Edwige, my kangaroo companion, to the vet. She was foaming at the mouth and acting all out of sorts. The vet asked me if she had eaten into anything strange. I told her I was feeding Edwige smarties, beef jerky, and a bit of Red Ripple to wash it all down. She threatened to call the authorities and I warned her that a small town in Saskatchewan is depending on me for survival. She gave me a diet plan for Edwige and warned me against feeding Edwige beef jerky and alcohol. I guess that means Smarties are still okay.

This week’s Arrow Home Video release is 1971’s There’s Always Vanilla from director George Romero. That’s right. This is the Night of the Living Dead guy. Anyway, he didn’t just make horror movies and There’s Always Vanilla is a little slice-of-life movie.

It’s not good.

Romero himself thought the finished movie was a disaster. I don’t like to rag on Romero. The dude directed Creepshow. Full stop.

There’s Always Vanilla is a movie about the wayward youth of the baby boomer generation. The movie begins with crowds commenting on a bizarre sculpture of a giant machine with wheels and widgets. The machine doesn’t actually do anything. Some onlookers think it’s fantastic and a great commentary on the modern world. Other onlookers think it’s a travesty and a sad commentary on the modern world.

The machine is a creation of a Vietnam vet named Chris Bradley (Raymond Laine), a directionless youth  who smokes pot and pontificates on the absurdity of life. He goes to go-go bars, tries to get his dad laid at a go-go bar, smokes more pot, and crashes at the apartment of a woman named Sam who may or may not be the mother of his child. Also, Chris’s dad can still “cut the mustard.” I don’t know what that means.

Oh, and there’s a young model named Lynn (Judith Streiner) that stars in beer commercials and gets ogled by sleazy producers. She bumps into Chris at a train station and love is in the air. Chris tells Lynn that her butt is too big for TV and before you know it, the two of them are sleeping together. Lynn takes the relationship very seriously, but Chris takes nothing seriously. She wants him to go to college or get a job or something. This might have something to do with the fact that she’s pregnant.

Chris tells Lynn that he probably has a kid with some other woman. This causes Lynn to seek a back alley abortion with a seedy doctor, but she gets scared and can’t go through with the procedure. She moves out of her apartment and disappears on Chris. He visits with his dad and gets some fatherly advice. He tells him about all the ice cream flavors that are seemingly available at a Howard Johnson’s, but when all is said and done, there’s always vanilla. Huh?

Excuse me. I need to watch something that has zombies ripping the entrails out of a screaming biker gang member.


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, and 477) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.