John Landis and Rick Baker on the set of Schlock (1973)
(Above) A monkey-masked John Landis guides the action on the set of his directorial debut Schlock (1973). Landis, who also wrote the script and played the simian lead, was only 21-years-old at the time the monster movie spoof was shot in 1971. Makeup effects master Rick Baker, seen standing to the left of Landis, was only 20. Baker had the budget for just one ape suit, part of which was constructed by gluing hair and a rubber chest piece onto a pair of long johns worn by Landis.
Here’s Baker’s recollection of Schlock, from Anthony Timpone’s book Men, Makeup & Monsters: Hollywood’s Masters of Illusion and FX.
“We shot in Agoura during a heat wave, like a hundred and twenty degrees. And John was sweating like mad – the hair was dripping wet and just kept falling off. We lost about half the hair on the first day! And it took a while to lay all that hair on there. So we started taking the suit off him between takes if we could, and fortunately it cooled down some. It was an experience.” – Rick Baker
And here’s Landis’ story of his first time meeting Baker, from an interview with Ain’t It Cool News.
“…I knew [special effects makeup artist] John Chambers, because I was a mail boy at Fox when they made BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES. In fact, I acted in BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF APES, but I wasn’t an ape. So I went to John, and I told him I needed a missing-link suit and I wanted it to be more apelike than manlike, and we discussed it, and he said, “Well, let me see what I can do.” He came back and said “It’ll be about a $150,000.” SCHLOCK was made for $60,000. [laughs]
So, then John suggested I got to [special effects makeup artist] Don Post. You probably wouldn’t remember, but in the back of Famous Monsters magazine, they used to sell Don Post’s rubber mask to put over your head of the Frankenstein monster and The Wolfman and stuff. So I went to this place in Burbank that made these rubber masks and I asked them. And my original idea was for a bad gorilla suit, since I was basically doing a remake of TROG, and so I wanted a bad gorilla suit, and then they wanted like $75,000 dollars to do a bad gorilla suit. [Laughs]. I was like “Jesus Christ!” As I was leaving, Don Post Jr. was painting a mask, and he said to me, “Hey, I’ve got someone for you.” Then he gave me a business card that said “Rick Baker, Monster Maker,” and it had a phone number, so I called the number and it was Rick’s parents house in Covina, and I drove out with the producer.
So, we drove our to Covina, which for me could have been Kansas, it was far away, and went to this lower-middle-class neighborhood and went into the house. Rick had lovely, lovely parents, and he was an only child and went into his room and he was really skinny with long hair and bad skin. But I looked at the work that he had done and I had been working in films for some time, I thought “Holy shit, this kid is brilliant.” [laughs] I said, “My goodness.” At that time he was still corresponding with Dick Smith, who had a similar reaction as I did, but Dick eventually hired him to assist on THE EXORCIST. Dick saw the same thing, “This kid is brilliant.” So, Rick made the costume. I think his budget was $5,000. The molds for the body of SCHLOCK had to be no larger than his mom’s oven. I remember Mrs. Baker said that her pies smelled of foam rubber for years.” – John Landis