Few sequels are as startlingly different from their predecessor as Joe Dante’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch. But some things remain the same: Dante and his writer, Charlie Haas, stuffed the frame with in-jokes, sight gags and Easter eggs galore. Read on to unearth them all...
Chapter 1, 0:11. Here’s our first clue that the 1990 sequel may be about to mine very different territory. Whereas the original was a horror-comedy, Joe Dante’s follow-up is live-action Looney Tune, as evidenced by this squabble between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (both voiced by Jeff Bergman) over ownership of the WB shield. “50 years of you hogging the spotlight is enough!” yells Daffy. It was Bugs’ 50th anniversary. At the time, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the movie underperformed, for it starts with a massive ‘WTF!’ moment and then gets even more batshit insane from there. The intro – and Daffy’s appearance during the end credits – was written and directed by WB animation legend Chuck Jones, a friend of Dante’s. For years, Dante has been trying to make Termite Terrace, a movie about the golden age of Warner Bros cartoons.
Chapter 1, 1.20. The opening shots introduce us to the film’s setting: New York. Or, more pertinently, Metropolis – for this is all stock footage, shot for Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.
Chapter 1, 2.41. A gag that’s made clear in the movie’s tie-in novelization, but perhaps can be missed on the big screen, we’re introduced to Robert Picardo’s slimy corporate suit, Forster, as he skillfully avoids stepping out of his limo and onto a dog turd. Picardo, perhaps best known for Star Trek: Voyager, is a Dante regular. They’ve made eight films in total, including The Howling and The ‘Burbs, where he plays a binman alongside Dick Miller.
Chapter 1, 4.32. Keye Luke, who plays Gizmo’s owner, Mr. Wing, would make just one more movie after this, appearing in Woody Allen’s Alice. He passed away in January 1991.
Chapter 1, 5.08. Gizmo’s hand appears and turns on the TV. And what does he see? Yes, folks, Sylvester Stallone in First Blood: Part II. “To survive a war, you gotta become war,” he says. Gizmo clearly listens.
Chapter 2, 5.57. Our first look at Clamp Centre, Daniel Clamp’s glistening megalith in New York. The Clamp sign is no longer there, but the building is. It’s on 40th and Park.
Chapter 2, 7.08. This is the first time we see Gizmo walk in the series – the technology cracked by Rick Baker, who replaced Chris Walas on the film. Walas had just made the move into directing with The Fly II.
Chapter 3, 8.03. The film was released in 1990, but a quick glimpse of a poster for Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing in this Times Square shot places the filming of the movie around June 1989.
Chapter 3, 9.02. This tour guide is played by Page Hannah, sister of Daryl.
Chapter 3, 9.34. Haviland Morris, who plays Billy’s corporate-climbing boss Marla Singer, is now a real estate broker. And according to Zach Galligan, her hair was that colour.
Chapter 3, 10.39. Among Billy’s possessions: a copy of Batman And The Outsiders, a comic book that ran for just 46 issues. He also has a copy of DC’s Firestorm. He’s clearly a DC kid.
Chapter 3, 11.58. The poor Clamp employee being fired for sparking up a sneaky fag? That’s Henry Gibson, who had starred as Dr. Klopek in Dante’s The ‘Burbs just the previous year.
Chapter 4, 12.43. Robert Prosky’s Grandpa Fred – based on Al Lewis from The Munsters – may introduce this cheap-looking horror flick as The Attack Of The Octopus People, but don’t be fooled. This is actually Rick Baker’s first movie, Octaman, from 1971. We’d love to think that was Baker in the costume.
Chapter 4, 13:06. Meet Joe Dante.
Chapter 5, 15.00. This brain in a jar belongs to W.H. Donovan. The same W.H. Donovan from Curt Siodmak’s classic 1942 sci-fi horror novel, Donovan’s Brain? You betcha!
Chapter 5, 15.08. Tight! Tight! Tight! The delivery man who picks up the earworm from Gizmo? It’s Raymond Cruz, perhaps now best known for playing the terrifying Tuco in Breaking Bad. Nice try with the nametag, ‘Bob’.
Chapter 5, 16.03. Casper, the lackey to whom Christopher Lee’s Dr Catheter hands a snot-filled tissue, is played by Charlie Haas, the film’s writer
Chapter 5, 16.05. An elephant in the Splice Of Life genetics lab. At one point there was going to be an Elephant Gremlin, but that idea was dropped.
Chapter 5, 16.19. The twins here are real-life identical siblings, Don and Dan Stanton, who also popped up in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Their character names? Martin and Lewis.
Chapter 5, 16.53. The song Gizmo dances to is Fats Domino’s I’m Ready, but it was initially going to be Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself.
Chapter 6, 20.18. The monkeys here were terrified of Gizmo, thinking it was a real creature, and stayed well away. It’s not known if they threw any poo.
Chapter 6, 20.35. “Hey pal, I sure hope you washed those hands.” The voice of the building is Neil Ross, a London-born voiceover artist.
Chapter 9, 26.21. Notice how Grandpa Fred said earlier that “Mr Clamp only likes colour…”? Here’s the building talking about a new version of Casablanca, “now in colour, and with a happier ending!”
Chapter 9, 26.46. This is John Astin – father of Sean, and Gomez Addams in The Addams Family TV show – as Joe, a janitor who unwittingly unleashes hell on the Clamp Centre.
Chapter 9, 28.05. Meet the new Mogwais, about to make Gizmo’s life a living hell. The buck-toothed chap is Lenny, the stern-looking one is George (yes, as in Of Mice And Men’s Lenny and George), there’s Daffy – named after a certain duck – and the evil leader, Mohawk.
Chapter 9, 30.41. Daffy sitting on top of a model with biplanes buzzing around his head? Yes, this is a King Kong reference.
Chapter 10, 33.33. Yes, this is Rand Peltzer’s orange pulping machine. And seconds earlier the blender that Daffy breaks was a nod to the blender scene from the original movie. This time, Gremlins get their revenge.
Chapter 12, 37.58. This chap, who comes across like a blend of William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee? That’s the film’s genius composer, and long-time Dante collaborator, Jerry Goldsmith, and his wife, Carol Heather (on the left).
Chapter 12, 38.25. In the background, Spencer Gifts is named after the film’s production designer, James Spencer.
Chapter 12, 39.29. The jobsworth security guard trying to stop Billy from carrying out what looks like like a terrorist attack? That’s Rick Ducommun, so brilliant as Art in The ‘Burbs.
Chapter 13, 41.27. This Gizmo puppet was specially constructed so that it would wave its arms and legs as it fell.
Chapter 14, 43.43. The Clamp security team ripping the piss out of the rules was directly inspired by questions Dante and his team had been bombarded with – mainly by kids – over the years. Rightly so – technically speaking, isn’t it always after midnight?
Chapter 14, 45.12. The guy getting munched on by Mohawk is Archie Hahn, an American actor and comedian who appeared on several episodes of the British Whose Line Is It Anyway? in its early years. He’d also worked with Dante a couple of times before this.
Chapter 15, 47.13. George is instantly distrustful of a microwave, in a clever nod to the first film’s most infamous method of Gremlin dispatch. Do all Gremlins have a shared memory somehow?
Chapter 17, 50.43. Look closely and you can see that Clamp’s corner office is so high it’s above the clouds.
Chapter 17, 50.58. The letter being shredded by Clamp’s secretary? It’s from the Vice-President of the United States, thanking Clamp for a contribution. Impressive detailing, props department!
Chapter 17, 51.15. What’s that behind Clamp on the monitors? Why, it’s It’s A Wonderful Life, now in colour! With a happier ending?
Chapter 18, 55.34. How’s this for meta? Here, we see film critic Leonard Maltin, on his own CCN show, give the original Gremlins one heck of a panning (as he did in real life), only for the green goblins to exact revenge and break both the fourth wall and his face. Maltin referred to this as a ‘gratutious cameo’ in his review of Gremlins 2.
Chapter 19, 56.50. The genetics lab subplot came from the need to have different Gremlins for Rick Baker to strut his funky stuff, which he does with aplomb here. Vegetable Gremlins, Electro-Gremlins and, of course, the piece de resistance: the Brain Gremlin, brilliantly voiced by Tony Randall. The mechanism used to match Randall’s pre-recorded dialogue to the puppet’s mouth was called a gilderfluke.
Chapter 19, 57.06. Yes, that is Dr Catheter holding a pod from Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers.
Chapter 19, 58.42. The close-up on Lee’s face as he sees the bat-Gremlin is priceless. He used to play Dracula, you know. The Brain Gremlin’s speech about the formula designed to nullify Gremlins’ allergy to bright light was a last-minute addition by Haas and Dante, when they realized the Bat-Gremlin couldn’t venture outside without getting fried. And yes, that’s a rather subtle Batman insignia joke.
Chapter 20, 1.00.40. Baffling cameos time – here are Dick Butkuss and Bubba Smith – yes, Hightower from Police Academy – waiting in line at a salad bar when they’re attacked by Gremlins. Dante says they had dialogue at one point, but it was cut, reducing them to blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em and ‘was that…?’ status.
Chapter 20, 1.01.38. Another nod to the first movie, and another subversion of the original as Phoebe Cates is surprised by another Gremlin Flasher – and this time kicks him right where his swingers should be.
Chapter 22, 1.04.47. onwards. Now here’s a little slice of awesome. Dante, as playful as they come, planned for this sequence to fool cinemagoers into thinking that the film had broken down, even for just a split-second, before the Gremlins take over. On VHS, and in the original UK cut of the movie, Hulk Hogan’s cameo was replaced by footage of John Wayne from Chisum, taking out Gremlins with his trusty guns. The Duke’s voice was provided by Chad Everett.
Chapter 22, 1.05.27. This is Paul Bartel, legend of American indie cinema, as the theatre manager. “This is worse than the first one!” says Belinda Balaski, while Kenneth Tobey as the projectionist wails “all they wanna do is see Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs”, the film the Gremlins watched in the first movie. The fourth wall, by this point, isn’t just broken, it’s been pounded into dust.
Chapter 23, 1.09.59. RIP Dr Catheter. Originally, he was meant to transform into several Albert Einstein-like creatures. Why? Nobody really knows.
Chapter 24, 1.13.51. This idea – that cable networks might have messages prepared to air at the end of the world – may seem daft, but Dante included it in the film after hearing that major US networks have actually prepared similar messages.
Chapter 24, 1.15.03. Here, the Gremlins are watching Ray Harryhausen classic, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.
Chapter 25, 1.16.02. The production only filmed in New York for a handful of days. Here, Daniel Clamp’s secret exit deposits him on a Manhattan sidewalk. Actually, it was a booth that had been lowered into a manhole, and was raised up by a crane. Must have smelled pretty ripe in there.
Chapter 25, 1.17.56. As the clocks are put forward, Dante tracks in on a clock and a picture of a young baby. This is Rick Baker’s young daughter, Rebecca.
Chapter 26, 1.18.57. The Gremlins’ ability to procure miniature clothing and props at short notice is astounding, but our favourite can be found here: the Gremlin in the anti-Gizmo T-shirt. Amazing.
Chapter 27, 1.20.46. During filming of this scene, Dick Miller fell down one of the holes in the set where the Gremlin puppeteers were stationed.
Chapter 27, 1.21.07. Two in-jokes for the price of one! Vectorscope Labs is a reference to Dante’s own Innerspace, while that Dr. Quatermass guy really is the pits.
Chapter 27, 1.23.45. Another light skewering of the original movie, as Kate embarks upon another macabre story about her bummer of a childhood, only for everyone to get bored and leave. Probably a good thing, as it’s clear that her story was about to get very, very dark.
Chapter 28, 1.24.44. Some of our favourite Gremlins in The New Batch: the Chippendale Gremlin, Suit Of Armour Gremlin and Phantom Of The Opera Gremlin. We also like the little critter getting the WB shield logo as a tattoo shortly after this.
Chapter 28, 1.25.24. In a glorious reference/homage/piss-take of Busby Berkeley’s Dames, the Girl Gremlin emerges. God, she’s gorgeous. By this stage, the film has descended into nearly plotless anarchy.
Chapter 29 1.32.19. This trigger-happy SWAT team guy? That’s Dean Norris, aka Hank from Breaking Bad as SWAT Team Leader. He would also play SWAT Team Leader in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, raising the tantalizing possibility that the universes are connected somehow. Norris also continues a grand, though admittedly entirely coincidental, tradition of Breaking Bad alumni turning up in Gremlins movies, after Jonathan Banks’ brief appearance in the first movie. If they ever make a Gremlins 3, Bryan Cranston is nailed on. 8
Chapter 30, 1.35.03. “You know what I see?” asks Daniel Clamp. “Dolls with suction cups staring out of windows.” He’s a true visionary.
Chapter 31, 1.37.25. The last shot of a Gremlin in either movie sees Girl Gremlin advance towards the camera, ready to get married to Forster and consummate their relationship. But isn’t that dangerous? After all, we all know what happens if a Gremlin gets we [that’s enough viewing guide stuff for now. Ed.]
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