The Stuff

the stuff 

Confession time: Your Aunt John has a major thing for the genius that is director LARRY COHEN. Sure, from a technical perspective his movies aren’t necessarily the prettiest to look at (IT’S ALIVE), and yeah, his special effects are typically more, ummm, “special” than effective, but sweet baby Jesus, that man is not only an astute observer of popular culture, but also a brilliant satirist to boot!

Case in point, 1985’s THE STUFF.

Like most readers in my age demographic, I originally caught this gem on basic cable the same year a TCBY yogurt set up camp in a neighboring town’s strip mall and became THE frozen desert palace du jour (coincidence or conspiracy?).

On the surface, THE STUFF centers on an over-marketed frozen dessert (Is it ice cream? Is it frozen yogurt? Is it, gasp, tofutti?) that becomes a must-have for mindless American consumers along the lines of Swatch Watches and Coca-Cola clothing. Enter MICHAEL MORIARTY (in one of the worst hair-pieces ever!) as David ‘Mo’ Rutherford, an industrial saboteur with a silly Southern drawl hired to find out the secret ingredient of the titular “Stuff” by some rival company. He quickly recruits the brainy and beautiful marketing wunderkind behind the successful Stuff advertising campaign (ANDREA MARCOVICCI), a little boy with hypnotically blue eyes (JASON BLOOM), and a deposed cookie entrepreneur (GARRETT MORRIS as “Chocolate Chip Charlie”) to ascertain the specifics of said recipe.

If you try to watch THE STUFF as a head-on horror flick, the cheesy zombie-inducing effects caused by mass “Stuff” consumption will surely disappoint you. It’s straight up ridiculous, and the shoestring effects budget really doesn’t help matters. However, if you focus solely on “The Stuff” advertisements sprinkled throughout the movie, you will see the aforementioned COHEN genius. He lampoons advertisers over reliance on supposedly sexy models, “urban” dance troupes, Broadway actresses, and ‘80s octogenarian ad queen CLARA PELLER.



Did you catch kinder-heartthrob ABE VIGODA in the above ad? Like I said, COHEN is a genius! Repeat viewings of THE STUFF was enough to keep my family away from TCBY and on the Carvel path. Long live COOKIE PUSS and his (her?) non-zombifying side effects!

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14 years ago

I remember this fondly as a movie I watched when I was about eight or soo – then I found it truly disturbing.   I keep meaning to watch it again to see if it holds up to my adult eyes.

My favorite part is when they first discover it – hey what is this stuff coming out of the ground, hey taste it.  Like that would ever be my first reaction!

14 years ago

My favorite horror biz story revolves around Cohen’s giant monster pic “Q.” At Cannes, a critic came up to the film’s producer Sammy Arkoff and said, “Sam, I just saw ‘Q.’ What a pleasant surprise. Sandwiched between all that schlock, there’s a brilliant method performance by Michael Moriarty!” Arkoff looked slighty embarrassed by praise and responded sheepishly, “The schlock was my idea.”

14 years ago

I love Larry Cohen too.  I too have frustrations with many of his final products, but he’s a brilliant idea man that I just can’t quit!  I even checked out his Masters of Horror movie Pick Me Up, which was pretty awful.

But back to The Stuff.   What about the freaking awesome death scene of Garret Morris?  Incredible! Plus, I love that the guy is a “cookie entrepreneur”.  HA! 

And Michael Morirarty…. LOVE that guy.  His performance in Q: The Winged Serpent is one of my faves.

Lastly, big ups to the Coca-Cola shirts!  I’m glad you brought them up b/c I mentioned them to a group of friends a while back and they didn’t know what I was talking about… I was starting to think I just dreamt them up.   I wore the crap out of a classic red & white one back in the day. 

14 years ago

I was just talking to a bunch of people about this movie! (Do you guys have a crystal ball or what?) I remember wanting to see it in the theater and my Mom saying”No!” Then when I was a teenager (and had totally forgotten about it) I went to a friends house one day to find they had rented it! We watched it and sort of enjoyed the beginning (who doesnt love Chocolate Chip Charlie? Well, maybe Famous Amos doesn’t, but we did!) but the movie sort of disappoints and gets hokey and cheesy (although you gotta love the tagline ARE YOU EATING IT OR IS IT EATING YOU and the scene where the guy is swearing up and down that THE STUFF isn’t lethal and they say “Really? Then YOU eat it!”

Now that this is on DVD I have to revisit it. I’m sure it’s aged poorly…but haven’t we ALL?

Amanda By Night
14 years ago

I haven’t seen this movie in years. YEARS I TELL YOU! I remember not caring for it, but I just might have been the wrong age to understand it. And of course, you had to go mention Andrea Marcovicci who just rules the world!

14 years ago

LOL Where’s The Stuff?   Thats amazing

Corey Convex
14 years ago

Wow…The Stuff.  I haven’t thought of this film in 20 years or so.  I’m with MamamiaSP, this one has to be revisited. 

So I hopped on over to IMDB and realized there’s quite a few Larry Cohen flicks I haven’t seen in years and a bunch I’ve never seen!  Shame on me!  I’m sure Larry’s worst work has to have something entertaining in it…right?

Time to update my Queue!  Thanks, Auntie!

Pax Romano
14 years ago

I remember this movie, now if memory serves, isn’t there a final ad with maybe, Karen Allen or Brooke Adams (I always mix them up)?