You might think it would be difficult for a movie that already featured a flying dog and mind-controlling beer to get any weirder, but Dave Thomas says he and Rick Moranis could have made Strange Brew even stranger.
Released in August 1983, the movie marked the first and only big screen appearance of the duo’s popular Bob and Doug McKenzie characters. After the beer-loving brothers became the breakout stars of the Canadian sketch comedy show SCTV, the McKenzie characters reached an even wider audience with their 1981 album The Great White North, which featured Rush star Geddy Lee on the hit single “Take Off.“
The next logical step was to make a movie. Strange Brew finds the brothers somewhat unwittingly fighting an evil brewmaster who aims to control the world through a chemical placed in bottles of beer. You could argue that beer is actually the star of the film. At one point the brothers survive having their van submerged at the bottom of a lake… by drinking beer. At another, Bob McKenzie saves a woman’s life by – you guessed it – drinking thousands of gallons of beer. This brave act causes him to swell up to many times his normal size, like Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Luckily, when it’s time for him to relieve himself of all that beer there’s a large fire nearby that needs to be put out.
This all sounds plenty strange already, right?
Watch the Trailer for ‘Strange Brew’
How ‘Strange Brew’ Could Have Been Even More Strange
Thomas was pretty clearly joking when he said “there were some full frontal nudity scenes that Rick and I did, just for the hell of it, that were deleted by MGM” in a May 2000 online chat with IGN, But in a separate interview with that same outlet, he revealed that much of what fans have grown to love about Strange Brew wasn’t even in the initial script.
Thomas and Moranis were under the mistaken impression they would get sued by the executive producer of SCTV if they had anything to do with writing the script due to the exclusivity of their contracts. But after initially hiring another writer to do the job, they realized only they could truly bring the characters to life properly, and began tinkering with the script.
“We didn’t know how much we could rewrite without undoing the deal,” he explained. “Little did we know that we could have totally rewritten the whole thing and they never would have known, because they didn’t read the script at all.”
Thomas and Moranis ended up rewriting the first half of the movie, which begins at the problem-plagued premiere of the McKenzie brothers’ cheaply made post-apocalyptic movie Mutants of 2051 AD, in which Bob searches for (that’s right) beer while battling a mutant played by Doug. After the film reel breaks and an angry crowd demands refunds, the brothers give away their father’s beer money, forcing them to seek jobs at Elsinore Brewing, where Max von Sydow’s Brewmaster Smith is formulating his evil plan.
“The script was far more bizarre and conceptual in the beginning than it ended up being at the end,” Thomas said in the interview. “If we had been able to rewrite the whole thing, we would have made the whole thing like that probably, be we weren’t sure how far we could go with the studio.”
Why Wasn’t There a Sequel to Bob and Doug McKenzie’s ‘Strange Brew’?
In a 2012 interview with IGN, Thomas revealed that he, Moranis and fellow SCTV veteran Paul Flaherty had written the script for a Strange Brew sequel named Home Brew. “We didn’t try to project [Bob and Doug] as the youthful characters that could stop the ‘take over the world’ plot,” he explained. “This was a script about a bunch of old losers, of which Bob and Doug number two quite prominently. We tried to place them in their right age range…stupid but old…and still losers.”
Unfortunately, the financing for the movie fell through shortly before filming was set to begin, leaving Thomas holding the bag. “I financed most of the pre-production and ended up losing $750,000. Not only did I not get paid, I lost money on that one.”
When asked in that now decade-old interview if he and Moranis would still be up for making Home Brew if financing could be secured, Thomas replied, “It depends on how long it takes! There will be a point where we’ll be too old to even think about doing this. When we looked at the (late ’90s Molson Beer) commercials that came out, we thought, ‘Okay, we’re older, but we don’t really look that bad.’ It’s not like two bald guys with canes coming out trying to revive their old characters – and there was something perverse about waiting that long to reappear that we kinda liked too, you know?”
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