Loose Shoes (1980)

by Kevin Flanagan


Though parody only works to full effect on living texts—genres and popular bits of culture that recognizable to current audiences—there IS something to be said for aged, obsolete parody. Coming at a time when sketch comedy was finally coming to film, full force, Ira Miller’s low budgeted LOOSE SHOES is a diamond in the rough (well, a rough diamond in the rough). The film is little more than a series of (usually) unconnected parody trailers, sketches, and lampoons to/on/for what would have been contemporary popular culture. Compared against similar films of the time—KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977), THE GROOVE TUBE (1974), THE BOOB TUBE (1975—predictably, a soap opera and TV parody with copious excuses to show breasts, though it is actually quite brilliant), MR. MIKE’S MONDO VIDEO (1979, more of a compilation film) and TUNNEL VISION (1976)—it is decidedly mediocre.

For example, many of the set-ups and jokes are very, very quick. In one segment, a boy’s baseball team is shown on the field and we are informed of what seems to be the Return of the BAD NEWS BEARS. Of course, cut to the locker room, this is, in fact, THE BAD NEWS BARES, who are about to get it on with some much older models in a steamy shower (har har har). In “SKATEBOARDERS FROM HELL,” the conventions of the biker genre are thrown, clumsily, against the faddishness of the skateboard. The central joke—that tough, cutthroat guys would ever ride a skateboard—is somewhat lost today, where skateboarding has won itself something of an aura for social unrest. Today’s hellspawn skateboarders, though, would be bratty teenagers with a thin grasp of anarchism, not grizzly biker types given to rape and pillage.

Some of the sequences hold up better for the “in” audience, such as the BILLY JERK sequence, a kind of BILLY JACK (1971) goes to the land of OZ. Billy Jerk, a vengeful, half-American Indian loner meets up with a leprechaun. Semi-surrealism ensues. Other sketches work in a full-on, balls-up kind of way, such as “THE HOWARD HUGE STORY,” a cross of man-with-a-big-dick and the story of Howard Hughes. Likewise, “THE INVASION OF THE PENIS SNATCHES” hits some incredibly easy jokes, but the set-up is funny enough for several laughs.

LOOSE SHOES is very much of 30 years ago, but with some sequences still recognizable to moviegoers, it is worth a look, especially given its ubiquity on bargain DVD labels. It makes a very compelling counterargument against the cheapjack parody films of today (moronic, elephantine mass-pastiches like MEET THE SPARTANS [2008] and EPIC MOVIE [2007]). Where those films grubbily heighten their one-dimensional gags, LOOSE SHOES has the common courtesy to cut and run.

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