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Up the Creek (1984)

Kino Lorber
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/2/2016

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/23/2016

The screwball teenage sex comedy most likely originated sometime in the 1960s and grew in popularity throughout the 1970s, mostly from low-budget producers like Roger Corman. These films played in drive-ins and grindhouses and got little notice from mainstream Hollywood. This all changed in 1981 with the release of a little movie called Porky's, which made back 26 times its original budget. Suddenly, sex comedies were everywhere, with titles like Zapped!, Joysticks, and Losin' It. The vast majority of these movies were incredibly lame and placed the T&A in front of everything else. However, they were ubiquitous and most everyone who lived through that era had a favorite, or at least one which they could tolerate. For me, it was 1984ís Up the Creek.

Up the Creek introduces us to the worst students at Lepetomane University -- Bob McGraw (Tim Matheson), Gonzer (Stephen Furst), Max (Dan Monahan), and Irwin (Sandy Helberg). Dean Burch (John Hillerman) is desperate to see the disgraced college receive some sort of honor, so he offers these overaged slackers degrees if they can win an inter-collegiate river-rafting race. Despite having no experience with rafting, the quartet agrees and travels to the river, with Bob's dog, Chuck, in tow. Once there, the smart-ass Bob immediately runs afoul of a group of preppies, led by Rex (Jeff East), and he also catches the eye of Heather (Jennifer Runyon). The gang from Lepetomane are surprised to learn that the river is the least of their worries, as cheating runs amok in this race. If they have any hopes of winning, they will have to out-fox their opponents.

On paper, Up the Creek appeared to have a leg-up on the competition, based on its cast alone. Matheson and Furst both starred in the iconic raunchy classic Animal House, while Monahan had been one of the leads in the aforementioned ground-breaking movie, Porky's. As for the adults involved, the film boasted two TV veterans, James B. Sikking of Hill Street Blues and John Hillerman of Magnum P.I.. The inclusion of experienced actors helps to make the film feel more grounded and certainly more professional then some of the other entries in the genre. Part of the film's premise is the fact that the four main characters are too old to be in college, but the fact that they were all 29 or older actually gave them an edge in the acting department. The more surprising aspect here may be the person behind the camera. Director Robert Butler had made a career directing family-friendly television shows and Disney movies. So, he may seem somewhat out of place here. But, my guess is that his presence helped to tone down the "raunch" factor of the film. Yes, there are sex jokes and some bare breasts, but the movie doesn't feature the kind of language and scatological humor seen in other movies from this era.

No, Up the Creek is far more interested in being silly, and this actually works for the movie. As noted above, it's clear from the beginning that, even for a comedy in this vein, the movie isn't going to take itself too seriously, given the ages of the main characters. From there, we are taken to a white-water rafting race which A) doesn't make any sense (is this really an NCAA event?) and B) is overly cartoony given the amount of exploding rafts which we get. Up the Creek is simply asking us to sit back and join it in its craziness, as it indulges in a plot stolen from 1977's Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown.

The movie reaches its heights in both comedy and lunacy with Chuck the Dog. At the outset, Chuck is presented as a being simply an affectionate dog. We then see that he has a special bond with Bob. But, as the film progresses and becomes more and more unrealistic, we learn that Chuck is actually the smartest member of the bunch. The scene in which the guys play charades with Chuck is not only the funniest moment in the film, but a sublime scene which actually transcends the rest of the movie, and thus helps to elevate Up the Creek above its peers.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, Up the Creek is a silly, sophomoric, low-budget comedy which will only appeal to a certain audience. But, in an era of brain-dead "comedies" which often exhibited zero effort on the part to those involved, Up the Creek must be applauded for trying something different with the race (which must have been difficult to shoot at times) and the inclusion of experienced actors. And, of course, no other movie had Chuck the Wonder Dog.

Up the Creek somehow manages to whistle using a paw on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino Lorber. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is relatively sharp and clear, as it shows only a minute amount of grain and no major defects from the source material. The colors look good, but they aren't overly bold, and the image is never notably dark or bright. But, while a great print was obviously found for this transfer, the image is still flat looking and doesn't offer much depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.6 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very basic stereo track which brings us intelligible dialogue which is never competing with the sound effects or music, but no dynamic effects.

The Up the Creek Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "Without a Paddle: The Making of Up the Creek" (12 minutes) contains interviews with Furst (here called "Steven"), Sandy Helberg, and Casting Director Harriet Helberg, who reveals that Michael Keaton was pursued for the lead and Steve Guttenberg was cast at one point. From there, Furst and Sandy Helberg share their memories of the production, giving details about the making of the movie and some gossip from the set. Unfortunately, they don't about Chuck. We get the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Up the Creek" by Cheap Trick. The final extra is the ORIGINAL THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film (which must have been Red Band, as it contains nudity).

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long