Gremlins is an American comedy horror film directed by Joe Dante and released in 1984 by Warner Bros. It is about a young man who receives a strange creature (called a mogwai) named Gizmo as a pet, which then spawns other creatures who transform into small, destructive, evil monsters. This story was continued with a sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, released in 1990. Unlike the lighter sequel, the original Gremlins opts for more black comedy, which is balanced against a Christmas-time setting. Both films were the center of large merchandising campaigns.

Steven Spielberg was the film’s executive producer, with the screenplay written by Chris Columbus. The film stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, with Howie Mandel providing the voice of Gizmo. The actors had to work alongside numerous puppets, as puppetry was the main form of special effects used to portray Gizmo and the gremlins.

Gremlins was a commercial success and received positive reviews from critics. However, the film has also been heavily criticized for some of its more violent sequences. Critics alleged these scenes made the film inappropriate for younger audiences who could be admitted into theatres under its PG rating. In response to this and to similar complaints about other films, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reformed its rating system within two months of its release.

In this film, the Amblin Entertainment logo makes its first on-screen appearance, displayed as “An Amblin Entertainment Presentation” as part of the end credits in place of the original logo.


The idea for these creatures was born in a loft in Manhattan’s garment district that was home to NYU Film School graduate screenwriter Chris Columbus. “By day, it was pleasant enough, but at night, what sounded like a platoon of mice would come out and to hear them skittering around in the blackness was really creepy.” Columbus recalls.

Unbeknownst to Joe Dante and Michael Finnell, Steven Spielberg was a big fan of The Howling (1981). After he came across Chris Columbus’ writing sample, he fell in love with it and bought it. Then he decided that Dante was the guy to make it into a movie, took the project to Warner Bros. and also produced it with his own company, Amblin Entertainment.


Originally planned and scheduled for a Christmas release, the film was rushed into production shortly after Warner Bros. found out that it had no major competition against Paramount’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) or Columbia’s Ghost Busters (1984) for the summer movie season.


Generally credited (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)) to influence the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, as many felt the scenes of violence in both movies were too much for a PG rating, but not enough for an R rating.


Chris Columbus’ script went through a few drafts before a shooting script was finalized. His original version had the creatures killing the dog and cutting off the mom’s head and tossing it down the stairs. These elements were never shot due to the fact that both, Joe Dante and Warner Bros. wanted the movie to be more family oriented.


In the original draft of the script, instead of Stripe being a Mogwai who becomes a Gremlin, there was no Stripe the Mogwai and Gizmo was supposed to turn into Stripe the Gremlin. Steven Spielberg overruled this plot element because he felt Gizmo was cute and audiences would want him to be present at all stages of the film. This became stressful for Chris Walas who had designed the Gizmo puppet only for the actions that happened in the first half of the movie.


In a deleted scene, Billy and Kate discover Gerald in the bank vault. This scene was added to the NBC TV showing.


Billy says he bought a comic at Dr. Fantasy’s. Dr. Fantasy is a nickname for executive producer Frank Marshall.


Like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Mrs. Deagle has little tolerance for young people and dogs.


While Rand Peltzer is talking with his wife at the inventor’s convention, the machine from The Time Machine (1960) can be seen in the background winding up to full power. The scene cuts to the house, and when we cut back again, the machine has gone, leaving only a wisp of colored smoke.


Mrs. Deagle, the richest lady in town, has named her cats after different kinds of currency (including Kopeck, Drachma and Dollar Bill).


The “Rockin’ Ricky Rialto” billboard shows a man dressed like Indiana Jones, holding a microphone like a whip, and the “Rockin’ Ricky Rialto” logo in the Indiana Jones typeface.


This was the first movie in years to use Warner Bros’ “shield” logo


In Cantonese Chinese, mogwai means devil, demon or gremlin. The Mandarin pronunciation is mogui.


The film that the students are watching in Mr. Hanson’s class is Hemo the Magnificent (1957) (TV), actually an episode of a TV series called “Science” that aired in the late 1950s and was sponsored by the Bell Telephone System (broken up as of January 1984).


The movie that Lynn Peltzer is watching in the kitchen is It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).


Both Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez were considered for the role of Billy.


There are several references to The Howling (1981), also directed by Joe Dante. The smiley face image on the refrigerator door, some lobby cards from that movie are displayed on the interior of the local theater and most notably the inclusion of the exact same character/actor, the television reporter Lew Landers as portrayed by Jim McKrell.


While watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) on the local cinema, one of the gremlins wears some Mickey Mouse’s ears.


Hoyt Axton was always the foremost choice for Rand Peltzer. Pat Harrington Jr. was also considered. Pat Hingle was said to have delivered the best screen test, but was passed on because it was feared Rand’s character would take over the picture as a result of Hingle’s excellent performance.


When the gremlins disrupt Mr. Futterman’s roof television antenna, he changes the channel, and it briefly lands on a scene from Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (1950).


Although it is not clearly visible, “Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf”, by Joe Dante (senior) is on Billy’s nightstand. Joe Dante said his father criticized him for not making the title more visible.


In Mrs. Deagle’s house, Edward Arnold is shown in a few photographs as Donald Deagle. The permission for their use was granted by his estate.


The movie on Billy’s TV when he feeds the mogwais after midnight is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)


The set for Kingston Falls is the same one used for Back to the Future (1985). Both movies were filmed in the Universal Studios backlot.


In addition to restoring the classic Warner Brothers logo to the opening of the movie, it was hoped to release the film along with the classic Looney Tunes short, Falling Hare (1943), where Bugs Bunny is harassed by a plane gremlin during WW II. This fell through, but, highlights from the short do appear as part of the Behind the Scenes featurette, that has also been included on the Special Edition DVD.


The picture of Rockin’ Ricky Rialto is a picture of Don Steele.


Little to no actual dialogue for the Gremlins and Mogwai exists in the script in itself. In addition to several instances of on stage rewrites changing or adding to much of the script, the voiceovers were all mostly ad libs, repeating snippets of just performed dialogue or in reaction to other sound effects or environment. To this end, Howie Mandel recorded Gizmo’s lines phonetically for foreign dubs of the movie, where localized dialogue and in jokes helped make the picture successful with audiences world wide.


In the classroom the students are watching Hemo the Magnificent (1957) (TV). The character of Hemo the Magnificent was played by Marvin Miller, who also does the voice of Robby the Robot at the inventor’s convention (and in Forbidden Planet (1956)).


It was Frank Welker who suggested Howie Mandel perform in this film.


At Dorry’s Tavern, one of the gremlins is playing Star Wars (1983) (VG).


Though he followed the basic outline of the script, Hoyt Axton is said to have improvised nearly all his lines.


At least one of Phoebe Cates’s screams in the scene at Dorry’s Tavern is genuine. An enormous cockroach crawled out in front of her during one take.


During one night shoot, problems with the Gremlin puppets were so severe that the entire cast fell asleep on the set during the delay.


The footage of Santa on the roof that Mr. Futterman is watching in his home is of Red Skelton in a Christmas skit from one of his shows.


After watching his earlier short films, Steven Spielberg considered Tim Burton to direct the film. But decided against it because at the time Burton had never directed a full feature length film.


Jon Pertwee and Mako were both seriously considered for the role of Mr. Wing.


In one scene, Billy is trying to play Gizmo’s song on an electric keyboard. In the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), the humans try to communicate with the aliens by making music with their computers.


The theater that blows up was subsequently involved in another accident when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in Back to the Future (1985), smashes into the front entrance at the end of the film. The theater then burned down with the rest of the buildings in the fire that happened right after the filming of Back to the Future Part II (1989).


In the scene where Billy shows the newly-spawned batch of mogwais to his father, one of them is playing with a vintage tabletop Donkey Kong game (a toy released to cash in on the then-rampant popularity of the Donkey Kong arcade game).


Among others, the voices of the Gremlins were done by Michael Winslow.


Kenneth Tobey and Belinda Balaski also appeared in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), playing both a different character.


According to Joe Dante and Michael Finnell, the original rough cut of the film ran 2 hours and 40 minutes.


In this film, the Amblin Entertainment logo makes its first on-screen appearance.


The scene in the department store where Stripe attacks Billy with a chainsaw was not in the script. It was added by Joe Dante and Zach Galligan as a homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).


Edward Andrews, Judge Reinhold and William Schallert received roles that were reduced after the film was edited.


Within the story, Gizmo was capable of singing or humming. Jerry Goldsmith wrote Gizmo’s song as well, but Howie Mandel never sang it. A girl member of Goldsmith’s congregation was hired to sing Gizmo’s song, although she had never worked in films before.


The movie that Gizmo is watching in Billy’s bedroom is To Please a Lady (1950).


After Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), this movie marked the second collaboration between Joe Dante and Michael Finnell with Steven Spielberg.


The last film project of Scott Brady and Edward Andrews.


Filed under: FantasyHorror

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