With as much monkeying-around as his movies frequently display, it should come as no surprise to John Landis fans that one of his earliest inspirations as a filmmaker was the original 1933 version of King Kong. The man behind such carefree comedies as Animal House, Landis has also helped to blur the lines between comedy and horror with such efforts as An American Werewolf in London and Innocent Blood, in addition to crafting such fine-tined social satire as Trading Places.
Born in Chicago in August of 1950, Landis originally worked in the mailroom at Fox and later as a stuntman before making a name for himself as a director. Landis was in his early twenties when he decided it was time to make a feature, and after a brief flirtation with the idea of crafting an underground porn film, the aspiring director raised the funding needed for his directorial debut from family and friends. The result of his tireless efforts was the relentlessly juvenile but infectiously silly Schlock (aka The Banana Monster ). Featuring the director himself dressed in a cheap monkey costume (designed by frequent collaborator Rick Baker) and terrorizing a California town, the film opened a door for Landis when David Zucker spotted him discussing the film on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Mentioning to friend Robert Weiss that he was impressed with the young filmmaker's energy, Weiss remarked that he was friends with Landis, and the result was The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977).