Watching with John Landis

John Landis had his finger on the pulse of pop culture – and in particular the intersection of comedy, horror and music – from the late 1970s through the 1980s: “Animal House,” “The Blues Brothers,” “An American Werewolf in London,” the epic music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” This week “¡Three Amigos!” (HBO) debuts on Blu-ray, a film that was (at least by Hollywood standards) a “disappointment” upon original release but found an audience on home video.

All these years later, this affectionate tribute to old Hollywood and innocent matinee westerns is just as funny, thanks to a knowing script (by Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman), engaging performances (by Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short) and Landis’ savvy direction, which is larger than life in all the ways that those original westerns were. Landis has a real affection for this film and shared in a brief interview where we discussed the film, his love of horror movies and what he’s been watching.

MSN: What are you watching?

John Landis: I just was given the new Blu-ray of “Ben-Hur” which I’m very curious to watch because I think the most gorgeous Blu-ray I’ve ever seen is the DeMille “The Ten Commandments.”

MSN: That’s a stunning disc.

JL: It’s magnificent. I was really blown away by it.

MSN: Comedy is such a product of its time. In the eighties, you and Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis dominated with madcap antics and energized comedy. Now there’s a whole new comedy aesthetic, which is focused on gross-out humor and arrested adolescence. What do you think has changed?

JL: A lot has to do with the movies the studios are making. It’s a different time and they won’t take the risk that they used to take. Things are a lot more conservative. But having said that, I thought “Bridesmaids” was funny. I mean it wasn’t perfect but it made me laugh and that’s what you want from a comedy.

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Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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