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14 Alrighty Facts About Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

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Jim Carrey’s physical, over-the-top comedy was a staple of the sketch comedy show In Living Color. But it wasn’t until he starred as the titular pet detective searching for Snowflake, the Miami Dolphins’ mascot, in 1994's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, that Carrey achieved super-stardom. Here are some facts about the film to read with the laces out.

1. IT WAS DIRECTED BY SOMEONE WHO ONLY HAD ONE (MADE-FOR-TV) MOVIE ON HIS DIRECTING RESUME.

Despite the belief it was a “Fletch for the ‘90s,” Morgan Creek could not come up with a way to get Jack Bernstein's script for Ace Ventura made. So the production company's CEO hired Tom Shadyac (Bob Hope's youngest-ever joke writer) to direct the film, despite his inexperience. (They had been impressed by a short film he had directed.) It was Shadyac’s idea to go after Carrey for the lead.

2. RICK MORANIS WAS MORGAN CREEK’S FIRST CHOICE FOR ACE.

Rick Moranis was approached about the lead, but turned the filmmakers down. In 1994, the year Ace Ventura was released, Moranis starred in The Flintstones and Little Giants.

3. CARREY WORKED ON THE SCREENPLAY AFTER IN LIVING COLOR TAPINGS.

The screenplay is credited to Bernstein, Shadyac, and Carrey, but writer Steve Oedekerk (who would later write and direct Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls) and Carrey would work on jokes for Pet Detective from midnight until 4 a.m. after working “15- or 16-hour” days on the Fox sketch comedy show. Oedekerk described himself and Carrey as “two giddy idiots tossing jokes around.”

4. THE ASS-TALKING STARTED AT IN LIVING COLOR.

Frustrated one day with Keenen Ivory Wayans’s constant rejection of his pitched sketches, Carrey stood up and read a sketch from his butt, in Wayans’s direction. The two almost fought before Wayans walked out of the room. "Later, we sat down, talked, and everything was cool," Wayans said.

5. THE MOVIE'S CATCHPHRASES WERE BY DESIGN.

Shadyac claimed in the DVD commentary that Carrey came up with “Alrighty then” and other lines specifically because he thought they might catch on. The hand gesture Ventura gave before leaving the police station was also something Carrey intended to become popular. It did not.

6. LAUREN HOLLY AUDITIONED FOR MELISSA.

Lauren Holly and Carrey met during auditions. She would later co-star with Carrey in Dumb & Dumber, which was also released in 1994. The two were married from 1996 to 1997. Courteney Cox landed the role of Melissa.

7. CARREY BASED VENTURA ON A SMART BIRD.

“I based Ace Ventura off of a smart bird,” Carrey told James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio. "A cockatiel or a parakeet of some kind. The clothing I picked was all ... like a colorful bird, a tropical bird. The walk was bird-like. Everything was about a bird, when I spoke … Everything was based on a bird, even the hairstyle.”

8. CARREY SPECIFICALLY WANTED THE BAND CANNIBAL CORPSE IN THE MOVIE.

Jim Carrey was a fan of the death metal band and requested that they make a cameo. Cannibal Corpse turned them down at first, because they had a European tour lined up. The band got another call a few days later to say they had rearranged the shooting schedule so that there would be no scheduling conflicts. Once they got to Florida, Carrey met the group and requested they play “Hammer Smashed Face” in the movie.

9. RAY FINKLE WAS UWE VON SCHAMANN. AND SEAN YOUNG.

Miami Dolphins kicker Uwe von Schamann was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to Fort Worth, Texas at 16 years old. He played for the Dolphins for six seasons, including in Super Bowl XIX in January 1985, when the Dolphins lost to the 49ers 38-16. Footage of Finkle missing the field goal was of von Schamann. The Dolphins team picture with Finkle was, in fact, Sean Young—in a wig and fake mustache. Pete Stoyanovich, who was at the time the real kicker for the Dolphins, kicked for Finkle/Einhorn at the warehouse.

10. SHOOTING THE SEX SCENE AT ACE’S APARTMENT WAS NOT EASY.

"All the animals had to be chained to their positions," Courteney Cox remembered. "But the squirrel would get loose and jump on the penguin. The penguin would bite the cockatoo and soon all hell would break loose and I'd find myself under the blanket with a macaw."

11. THE CRYING GAME SPOOF WAS ADDED LATE.

It wasn’t in the screenplay, as The Crying Game was not released until production on Ace Ventura was already under way. Using the music and the idea for parodying it was a last-minute decision.

12. SHADYAC WAS WORRIED THAT THE MOVIE MIGHT END HIS AND CARREY'S CAREERS.

“When I first saw Jim, I thought he was doing stuff that was so new it was scary,” Shadyac admitted in 2011. “There was fear when I showed Ace Ventura to an audience because we thought maybe we were ending our careers. There was also fear when we made the choice to play that character so over the top, but we moved through it because we thought there was something really fun there.” The film ended up making over $107 million worldwide. Shadyac would go on to direct two other Carrey movies: Liar Liar (1997) and Bruce Almighty (2003).

13. THE DIRECTOR’S CUT IS SHORTER THAN THE THEATRICAL RELEASE.

Shadyac’s “when in doubt, leave it out” approach led him to cut the scene where Ventura poses as the dolphin’s trainer in the theatrical cut, only to add it to the DVD and every time it’s broadcast on TV. He also took out a part in the Finkle house when Carrey made hand puppets off the movie projector light (it would be recycled for When Nature Calls.) A subplot where Ventura successfully convinces a gas station employee to delay killing himself was also dropped because it was deemed too dark for the movie. A similar reason was given for cutting a dream sequence involving thousands of pigeons.

14. THERE MIGHT BE A REMAKE.

In 2015, Morgan Creek announced it was hoping to keep the rights to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective with the intent of remaking the movie.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
Troma Entertainment
Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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