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When Nature Calls

a/k/a When Nature Calls ... You Gotta Go

a/k/a The Outdoorsters

     "Living on roots and rocks and trees / Taking a piss wherever we please / We'll get caught out in the rain / We'll get sick and we'll go insane / We'll get bored and we'll all flip out / What the hell are we singing about?"

-- Verse Three of The Outdoorsters Theme     




Gonzoid Cinema




Wait for it...

Wait for it...



Watch it!




Career Killer?

David Strathairn

Nope. He's friggin' hilarious in this thing.

Sights &
When Nature 
  Charles Kaufman
  Charles Kaufman
  Straw Wiseman
  Charles Kaufman
  Frank Vitale
  Susan P. Thomases

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The Films of
Charles Kaufman.

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When Nature Calls


Before we get to our feature presentation, weíre first treated to some [faux] Previews of Coming Attractions thatíll never quite make it to a theater near you. (Which is really too bad because they all look hilarious.)

First up is Baby Bullets: the harrowing tale of a young toddler who is hell on wheels in his souped up baby buggy. Eluding the police dragnet, he rockets down some large stone steps and escapes. Soon enough, Baby Bullets is the top wheelman for the mob, so the governor has to call in the Infant-try (-- get it?) to stop his reign of terror. And when heís caught, our anti-hero is sentenced to life in his crib without parole.

And we come to the conclusion that if theyíre already spoofing Eisensteinís Battleship Potemkin at this point in the movie, then no film is safe. There is also a simulated sex scene using a rocking crib that will probably have malted milk balls squirting out your nose, so beware.

The next preview is for Genaís Story. Filmed in Blind-O-Vision, this is the tale of a divorced mother of two, her sexual escapades, bizarre therapy sessions, and her uncontrollable urge to dance. Dance! DANCE! Now, the Blind-O-Vision process involves an actual blind person interpreting what he thinks he's hearing on the screen, and then verbalize it to the audience. He does okay -- until the sex scenes.

And yes, that naked woman is Gates McFadden -- here billed as Cheryl McFadden -- old Dr. Crusher herself. So all you fellow Trekkies out there run out and snag yourselves a copy right away!

And finally we have Martin Snorceseís Raging Bullshit ... Daí man, daí moment, daí movie that looks a lot like Raging Bull, where every other word is the f-u-dash-dash word thatís bleeped out South Park style to great effect. Next, we get two quick words from the theater management. First, to use the hot-butter for popcorn only, and that use of it for any non-comic code approved biological urges will result in immediate removal from the theater. Second, the film is Rated-R, so parental discretion is advised. (They also point out that if you had used discretion earlier, you might not be parents to begin with.) Thank you.

 -- The Management.

And then our main feature, The Outdoorsters, finally begins:

We open in the city and find Greg Van Waspishes (David Orange) working at a construction site. Tired of oppressive city life, he threatens to leave when his foreman gets on his case, who, when he doesnít think Greg is listening, tries using hand puppets to get his point across, urging Greg to get back to work on the asbestos installing. Thatís the last straw for Greg, who quits on the spot and tries to give a big speech about the evils inherent in the city, but the city answers with a ton of ambient noise that drowns out his epitaphs ... Meanwhile, Gregís wife, Barbara (Barbara Marineau), runs the gauntlet at the local grocery store. In aisle Five, she dodges someone trying to complete a 7-10 split. In aisle Nine, someone is flashing the canned beats, and a cannibal chieftain needs a price check at Register Three for some meat heís trying to buy (-- a severed hand.)

Back at home, weíre introduced to the rest of the family: daughter Bambi (Tina Marie Stainano), who is an incurable flirt, and the enterprising little Billy (Nicky Beim), whose got his fingers in everything from racketeering to a white slavery ring in Mexico. When Mom calls them to attention because their father has another hair-brained scheme that he wants to reveal, Dad drops the bomb on them, saying theyíre leaving the city and are moving to the country. Upon hearing that, they all disappear in the blink of an eye -- even Squirt the family dog.

Re-rounding everyone up, and after putting the kids in straightjackets, Dad loads them, and all their belongings, into the family station wagon, and then their journey begins ... We follow their progress via a map and a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style red line. (Upon closer examination youíll spot Tehran and the Euphrates River on said map.) From the backseat, Billy spots a deer and we pan to see a dead buck strapped to a pick-up truck. Then the travel sequence really gets into gear when The Outdoorsters theme song kicks in, which is thee most hilariously obnoxious theme song youíll ever hear. Kinda like "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" -- or more appropriately, Green Acres -- each verse gives you the background story for the film. But! The singers keep forgetting the words, causing it to spin out of control and veer of course until each verse ends with the refrain, "What the hell were we singing about?"

And as you try and scrub that song from your cerebral jukebox, the next sequence sums up whatís in store for the viewer for the rest of the film (-- and gives you an inkling of the humor to follow). Passing a sign that says Bear Right, we see a bear on the right. Then, they pass another sign that says Bear Left, and thereís a bear on the left. Rounding the next corner, we spy a sign that says Bare Breasts -- and I donít think I need to draw you a picture do I?

...I hit the jackpot a couple of weekends ago, when I found myself at a video store that was going out of business and selling off its VHS stock. Like a kid in the candy store I soon had about a dozen titles scooped up, but all the signs said $4.99 and up -- stress on the up, and after some quick math, I narrowed it down to seven selections that I just couldnít live without and hit the checkout counter. As the clerk looked my selections over, he said since my choices were "rare cult films" he'd let me have them for $15.99 a piece. With that, when I looked at him funny -- like he had an enormous hole in his head, he took the hint; so today he could let me have them for $12.99. Pointing out that they were in clamshell covers and the original boxes were destroyed knocked it down to $10.99. They were also previously viewed copies, were very old, and the quality was in question. $8.99. And as I started to thumb through them, with the intent of putting half of them back, well, he said, if I took all of them: $5.99. Sold! (What a country.)

The titles varied from The Gumball Rally -- the only one damaged beyond hope -- to the giant killer Pigs, a/k/a Daddyís Deadly Darling, with its catchy slogan: If you go into the woods today you're in for a PIG surprise. (Get ready, Iím reviewing it next week and expect no mercy.) I also snagged a copy of the impossible to find The Manitou, where Tony Curtis battles a demon hatched from his girlfriend's back, and The Legend of Hillbilly John, where a singing bumpkin battles the devil; and the pile was rounded out with copies of The Beast Within, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane and this film, an obscure comedic treat from our friends the Kaufmans and Troma Studios.

Now people are usually surprised when I tell them I'm not a real big fan of Lloyd Kaufman and his films. For those of you unfamiliar with the Troma canon, they all follow the same basic (-- and for lack of a better word --) juvenile formula: large-breasted women with even larger guns, deformed and oozing mutants, leaking bodily fluids, lots of violence, and gratuitous gore complete with flying body parts. Slap on a catchy title like Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell or Surf Nazis Must Die and then unleash it on the public. And even though The Toxic Avenger and The Class of Nuke 'Em High do nothing for me, films like Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town and Tromaís War are absolutely hilarious. But what I really prefer is the output of Lloyd's brother, Charles Kaufman, who gave us Motherís Day and produced and directed this truly funny and overlooked little gem.

With the huge success of Airplane, there was a glut of movies that tried to mine that same comedic vein in the early 1980s. When Nature Calls is a similar spoof and parody, but instead of disaster movies, it set it sights on the return to nature films from the 1970's, like The Wilderness Family. The film borrows heavily on the Zucker style of comedy, with the use of sight gags and literal interpretations of words and situations. And frankly, The Outdoorsters segment could very easily be added as a segment in The Kentucky Fried Movie without missing a beat. Yes, most of the jokes you can see coming from miles away but theyíll still crack you up. But others you should have seen coming, and repeated viewing is required to get them all. Read on...

Finally reaching the wilderness, the family is surprised to find it has valet parking and set to work building a cabin and getting in tune with nature. With a lot of sweat, and several jump cuts, the cabin is soon completed and Greg is amazed at how the animals are attracted to him and stick around. (Of course they stick around if you chain them up.) Taking off his shirt, he starts splitting some wood, much to the delight of a very foppish native Indian who's been secretly watching him. Greg is also proud of the way his kids are adjusting ... Billy has tagged every rock and tree with graffiti and is running several scams on the local animals. Bambi, meanwhile, takes it one step further and makes friends with several animals. (Maybe a little too friendly?) As she tries to head deeper into the woods, the crossing lights are against her and she has to wait for the signal to change. (Was that a camel?) Eventually, Bambi finds an elephant (-- and where the heck are they again?), but she canít keep him because her folks said to stay away from carnival people. Later, the girl finds a bear and, after removing a thorn from his paw, the bear falls in love with her. Turns out the feeling is very mutual and the two go for a *ahem* roll in the weeds.

The next day, after Greg clears a good portion of the woods by taking a massive dump behind a large rock, as he heads back to the cabin, we see the native Indian perched above him holding a knife. But Greg is in no danger, heís just collecting hallucinogenic mushrooms. But then the Indian reaches too far and falls off the cliff. Luckily, Greg finds him and hauls him back to the cabin to fix his *groan* wounded knee. From his insurance card, they learn his name is Weejun. (David Strathairn! -- and it took me half the movie to recognize him. Iím a huge fan of Strathairn, and this is his inauspicious screen debut but he honestly does nothing to embarrass himself.) Turns out Weejun is from the Kay-O-Pectate tribe, and for only $125, offers to give them a three-week crash course in wilderness survival skills. (Cash up front. Non-refundable after the first day. Not responsible for accidents or poison ivy.)

Our film is then abruptly interrupted for an emergency drill on what to do during a nuclear attack while watching a movie at this theater. First: The film may be out of focus during the blast, but this will pass. Please bear with us. Second: Pick an aisle captain to distribute the dehydrated milk duds. Third: Use the sticky substance under your seat to form a sugary protective radiation suit. Fourth: If you catch on fire, please observe the smoking and non-smoking section signs. And fifth: Hang on to your ticket stub. 

Thank You for Your Cooperation 

-- The Management.

And now, back to our movie.

As Weejun tries to teach them how to fish with their hands, he only manages to nearly drown Billy. The language barrier appears to be the main problem, and Weejun just doesnít get through until John Cameron Swayze (-- who most of you young sprouts wonít recognize, but us old farts will --) comes out of the woods and translates for him. And then, as he goes into a big spiel about the balance of nature and survival that degenerates into a commercial for Timex watches (-- that take a licking, but keep on ticking. Remember him now?), Weejun and the Van Waspishes sneak off while he rambles.

Next stop is a very sacred place -- the Wilderness Drive-In, where theyíre showing a stag film, and, you guessed it, itís an X-rated movie starring *groan* Doe Derek. And when the films starts, complete with heavy breathing on the soundtrack, two very real deer start humping each other on screen. As the family finds some seats amongst the animals, Greg asks Barbara if it gives her any ideas. Now, Barbara is turned on by what she sees, but jumps on a guy in a deer suit instead.

I pause to point out that since the beginning of the film, Greg has been trying, without much success, to have some kind of intimate contact with his frigid wife. But she constantly refuses his advances, and the closest he gets was slamming on the car brakes so he could sneak a feel of her breasts while holding her back in the seat.

The next day, Billy is dejected that the EPA has rejected his plan for paving over the entire forest. While his attention is drawn to a crow that's trying to take a dump on him, a cougar closes in for the kill. But Weejun springs from nowhere, and violent struggle ensues. (They switch from shots of Weejun wrestling a real cougar to shots of somebody in a cougar suit giving him karate chops and kneeing him in the family jewels.) And in the middle of the battle we break for intermission:

It begins with the typical call to the concession stand, where animated cups of soda, popcorn and hot-dogs that resemble a bunch of dancing turds lurk. Things start to skew when we next see a martini glass with a very happy olive submerged in it. This leads to a marihuana plant that magically transforms into a joint, followed by two lines of cocaine and a couple of nose creatures who snort it all up and then blast off. (I remind everyone that at one point, casual drug use was considered high comedy in the cinema before we all just said no. Well, some of you did.)

Next comes a plea from G. Gordon Liddy for donations to help stop the spread of Jerry Lewis Impersonator Disease. Sure, we all that was cured years ago, but now itís spreading again. We then see the horrible effects of the disease (-- a psycho ward chock full of Jerry Lewis impersonators running amok. Nice LAY-DEEE!) There is no cure, so give until it hurts because we have to stay ahead of the Russians. I mean, we've already lost France.

Meanwhile, the dancing hot-dogs have gotten into the coke and a wild orgy has erupted at the concessions counter. (Ah, the pleasure of watching two hot-dogs humping each other.) Luckily, before it gets any more graphic, we return to the film.

Weejun and the cougar continue the fight until Squirt the dog (-- whose having a little trouble with the whole concept of the "going for help" routine --) runs the cougar off into the trees. But when Squirt doesnít come back, they search the whole winter but it appears that the dog is gone for good. (Ah, doggone.) As winter gives way to spring, it's time for Weejun to say goodbye. All the animals come to say goodbye, too, as the family plans to have a going away dinner, and Weejun offers to make soup for the feast. (And we notice most of the animals that came to see him wound up in the pot.) The meal begins with Bambi saying grace -- and the familyís eyes grow wide as she concentrates mostly on giving thanks for a very well endowed bear. With that out of the way, the evening turns into a roast for Weejun, with Myron Cohen serving as roast master.

Dawn breaks, and from the evidence lying around, it must have been one heck of a party. After Weejun empties all the animals out of his sleeping bag, he prepares to depart. The family comes to see him off, and as he heads down the path, he turns around and warns them, in plain English, that the cougarís back -- and heís pissed.

Barricading themselves inside the cabin, it isnít long before the walls start shaking and something monstrous starts pounding at the door. (What? Did these guys open the Book of the Dead or something?) Bambi suggests they feed Billy to whatever it is, then maybe itíll leave them alone. Billy says itís probably the bear looking for her and some sloppy seconds. (Ouch. Score one for Billy.) With their fates sealed, the family turns on Greg for dragging them to the middle of nowhere, and they all want to go home. But Greg takes up the rifle just before the door breaks down, revealing a battered Squirt as the attacker. (Did I mention Squirt is a little Poodle?) When Greg says they canít save him because heís gone wild, the whole family gleefully tells him to just blow the dog away. So he does.

The next morning, we find out that it was only a tranquilizer gun, and Squirt is happily sleeping the drugs off. And as Greg takes in the beauty of nature, Squirt wakes up and drags the rifle to him, wanting another hit. That gives Greg the idea to tranquilize his wife, and then maybe he can finally get somewhere with her and make another little Van Waspishes. Drawing a bead on her, before he can pull the trigger, Barbara says she has some great news. Lowering the gun, shot- and shut down once more, he's told she and the kids took a vote and decided they like the country and want to stay permanently. The family embraces -- until Greg spots something and lets them go, tells them to back, and that they're leaving immediately. When asked why, he points to the horizon, where we spy a run down tenement with more on the way. Apparently, the city has followed them here, and Weejun has gone into real estate and become a slumlord.

With that, The Outdoorsters theme kicks in, and I encourage you all to stick around through the credits as we find out what happened to all the animals that appeared in the film. 

Trust me.

The End

The most refreshing thing about When Nature Calls is that at no point did the film stop to tell you it was a spoof -- or even a comedy; it just sets up the gags, and we do see a lot of them coming, but it didn't commit the cardinal sin of winking at the camera and played it straight. (It never breaks its poker face and holds the bluff.) The great ones like Airplane and Blazing Saddles never did this, either, or used it rarely. It also doesn't rely on gross-out jokes or demeaning humor. And, the film is interrupted several times by several strange vignettes and cameos by people ranging from those already mentioned, to Willie Mays (-- part of a maize, what you people call corn joke), to Morey Amsterdam commenting on Eleanor Rooseveltís tits (-- he said it, I didnít), to Classy Fred Blassie (-- a wrestling psychiatrist, ya pencil necked geek.) Also watch for a segment dedicated to Ingmar Bergman.

Parodies and spoofs (-- heck, comedies in general --) have been in a horrible rut lately. I'm tired of being in on the joke, or asked to take pleasure in the pain and humiliation of others, and would rather the jokes just play out on screen. It used to be about being clever and not about taking the time out of the movie to show how clever you [the creators] are. Yes, this film could be considered a whole can of stupid, but, dammit, it's a highly entertaining can of stupid.

Regardless, if you liked Airplane, early Mel Brooks movies, or films like Top Secret, then you too will probably love When Nature Calls as much as I did.

Originally Posted: 11/29/01 :: Rehashed 05/21/10

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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