The original Jaws was such a phenomenon that echoes reverberate today. There have been so, so may knockoffs. Lots of merchandise. It’s even arguable that Baby Shark comes from Jaws via a Girl Scout chant. Few are as dedicated to the bit as Blades, the 1989 Troma-distributed story of a country club terrorized by a lawnmower.
Now, before ya’ll bail, hear me out. This is not the cheesy, goofy, self-referential orgy typical of Troma. I mean, it is cheesy, goofy, and self-referential. But they dial it back a bit. Kelly Lange (Victoria Scott) is a young and ambitious golf instructor at the Tall Grass Country Club. She expects to be hired on as the club’s golf pro, but her sleazy boss Norman hires Roy Kent (Robert North) instead, a former golfing star turned borderline alcoholic. This puts Kelly and Roy at odds before the big pro-am invitational tournament.
Soon they have bigger fish to fry when parts of bodies are scattered all over the golf course. Norman insists on pressing on with the tournament over Roy’s objections, a decision that ends in disaster.
The tagline for Blade, “Just when you thought it was safe to putt,” reveals this is a Jaws satire, but the setup takes its own sweet time. Blades works on a different satirical logic than, say, Spaceballs. Director Tomas Rondinella and screenwriter William Pace set up some real dramatic conflict.
Kelly is eager to tank Roy’s chances at being a successful golf pro. Roy doesn’t know what to do about his drinking problem or the fact that he’s being sexually harassed by Bea, who is both his boss’s wife and the club owner. Kelly and Roy are the serious core around which silliness orbits. It grounds the movie, but perhaps a bit too much. Setting it up makes first half drag, and I could forgive you for missing the joke.
Once the Country Club descends into chaos, though, we’re off. Kelly and Roy team up with sketchy ex-groundskeeper Deke (Jeremy Whelan) to hunt the malevolent mower. Once Roy chucks bales of hay festooned with helium balloons off the back of a rickety van, we are in Jaws-on-the-green.
No one did much after this film. They don’t even have screenshots on IMDB. Pace and Rondinella directed a few films, wrote a few films, produced several more. Whelan played some menacing extras in other films. Scott and North have few other credits. They all did excellent work, and I hope the lack of credits was about their preferences than their opportunities.
Care went into the acting and editing of this film, and it deserves the gorgeous collector’s edition treatment Vinegar Syndrome did. I expect I’ll be hauling this one to movie nights for some time to come. Probably without the slip-case.
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