Up Your Ladder (1979)
Sketchy in all definitions of the word, Up Your Ladder plays like a filmed adaptation of a dirty joke book, but with all the finesse and professionalism of middle schoolers who got hold of Dad’s camcorder while he was out of town. Its floss-thin excuse of a framework for its phalanx of gags is a talking apartment building — no, really! With 138 units, the Villa Elaine has many stories to tell, and the movie’s host is Elaine herself, personified in transparent overlay miniature by Cindy Morgan (in her feature debut, one year before her breakout role as Caddyshack seductress Lacey Underall), whose suspenders-centered outfit greatly diminishes her considerable sex appeal.
Elaine introduces viewers to various tenants past and present (as well as people elsewhere, meaning Up Your Ladder is not even competent enough to stick to its own stupid concept). Then we see their naughty, below-the-Borscht Belt bits play out — many times for no more than one minute, since it doesn’t take that long to reach a punch line. As good an example as any: Inside apartment 319, a bachelor (Rick Dillon, Female Chauvinists) is about to get busy with a hot-to-trot date (Tallie Cochrane, The Centerfold Girls) until she expresses fear she’s been exposed to either VD or TB, but cannot remember which. So naturally, the horny guy places an urgent call to his doctor (Thomas Newman, The Munsters’ Revenge), who advises, “Tell her to run around the room a few times. If she coughs, fuck her.” Hang up, lights out, slide whistle.
If you choose to subject yourself to Up Yours (its alternate title), grit your molars and steel yourself for a prudish woman (Joe Dante regular Belinda Balaski, Amazon Women on the Moon) harangued by obscene phone calls; for a bedridden old man (Michael Pataki, The Bat People) who, thinking himself a vampire, bites butts; for a busty manicurist (Ilsa herself, Dyanne Thorne) applying for a barbershop job; for a nude tap dancer (Odette Wyler, aka The Boob Tube’s Becky Sharpe) who, uh, tap dances nude; for a chesty medical patient afraid to undress (Jill Jacobson, Nurse Sherri); for a compulsive masturbator (didn’t catch his name — does it matter?); and for a very hungry husband (Chuck McCann, Hamburger: The Motion Picture) whose wife forgot to buy groceries, so he eats a can of dog food out of desperation.
Wondering where the sex might be in that last setup? It’s in McCann’s character fatally attempting to lick his own testicles — blessedly offscreen, and for that, we are thankful. Too bad that doesn’t extend to the rest of this atrocity, so unfunny it’s an enemy of comedy. —Ed Donovan