Friday, February 27, 2015

Fly Away Baby (1937)

Torchy Blane hunts down a international jewel thief and murderer. With the climax in a zeppelin! That's Our Torchy. Welcome to the second film in the Torchy Blane series, which hit theaters around six months the first one, Smart Blonde. Torchy, McBride and Gahagan are back. This time, in a less concise film that the first one but definitely a more globe-trotting one.

A well-respected jeweler named Devereaux is murdered and a whole mess of diamonds are stolen. All fingers point towards Lucien (Sonny) Croy, the son of the publisher of one of Torchy's rival papers. Sonny goes on a round the world publicity trip. Torchy, along with several others including Gahagan, join them. But, is Sonny the killer? Or is it someone else on the trip? Or is it me? (It's not me.)

Torchy Stuns Extra!

The second film in the series kicks into high gear with a police car roaring through rear-projected streets. In quick succession, the viewer: a) learns that Gahagan is leaving the police force to become a detective b) finds out that Devereaux has been murdered c) discovers that Torchy was going to get a marriage license for her and McBride d) meets Hughie Sprague from another paper and e) meets Sonny Croy, who is, to put it gently, an entitled jackass.

 What a jackass. Right?

The investigations begin. Croy seems more and more guilty. A showgirl he was seeing (played by Marcia Ralston who was in Sh! The Octopus, which automatically makes Fly Away Baby a great movie by association) gives him an alibi. But, Torchy isn't convinced. And they all wind up on that round the world publicity trip where Torchy doggedly pursues her belief that Croy is the killer. We also get to hear Torchy pronounce Honolulu as "Ho-no-lu-la." That's the way my grandmother says it. I wonder if she was a reporter at one time?

Picture speaks for itself (It's a map of the U.S.)

This film is less of a mystery than the first film. I'm not 100% sure what genre this is exactly but...  it's when things are mysterious throughout. Then, in the end, the explanations fly together fast and crazy. It all makes sense. But, there's really no way the viewer could have pieced it all together. (Giallo films do that a lot.) It's not bad at all. In fact, the big rush of facts from Torchy and McBride as they stand in the hallway of a zeppelin, while a porter stares at them, is quite entertaining. But, it does mean that: if all the plot is going to pour it in the last four minutes, there's going to be some very fast talking. The best example of this is when McBride yells to the killer in the hallway. He's yelling the plot, proving that they know what's up. But, McBride almost stumbles across his words. It's charming. But, the viewer does need to pay attention because the actors are not allowing for pauses. (And, there's a possibility that something important may have been left out. I was previously satisfied that everything got explained. But, now I'm not so sure.)

 Exposition Whirlwind!

The film itself, while being as much fun as the first one and providing for a lot more variety in location, is rather lopsided. The first 30 minutes consist of the investigation, alongside the slow buildup of the round the world trip. And then the last 30 minutes is the jaunt itself, taking in Alameda, Honolulu, Frankfurt and others. The first half feels like a bit of a repeat of most of Smart Blonde, except Torchy is fairly certain of who the killer is. The second half takes off and might be a little too jam packed for it's own good.

"Flying Against Men" Thanks, Morning Herald.

It could be the round the world aspect that's throwing me off a bit. The first film tossed us right into the world of these characters as if they were pals. Now, they're leaving New York City for half of the film. Usually, it's 4 or 5 pictures into a series before the location is drastically altered. (It's eight movies into the Bowery Boys series before they Go Out West. The Police Academy team didn't hit Miami Beach until Part 5.) It seems a little too soon to me to take Torchy out of her locale. But, one can't argue with the fact that Torchy is cool anywhere. So, I'm glad there is one where this happens.

 Enjoy this odd screenshot

Torchy and McBride are as argumentative as ever and then, when time permits, as charming as ever. Gahagan does branch out as a detective. SPOLIER! He fails. Which is too bad but it's good to have him back. Then, there are the two other main characters: Sonny and Hughie. Possibly what's throwing me off about the film is these two. Sonny is an entitled, arrogant jackass. He treats everyone who isn't him with contempt. And the viewer wants to see Torchy and Mcbride take him down. Frankly, Sonny is in far too many scenes being the exact same jerk in each of them.

 The gadabout is the one with the white hat & cane

Then, there's Hughie. He has a wealthy wife that he doesn't like. And he is what I would call a gadabout or possibly even a gadfly. He gets to humiliate Gahagan in the film so there's one point against him. Plus, he's a wiseacre who never actually does anything amusing. I'm not 100% sure how I was supposed to take that. And, most odd of all, he's never once the suspect for the murders. He's just some jovial fellow who thinks the world of himself and joined the trip.


None of these reservations should stop you from watching the movie, though. I do not like Fly Away Baby as much as Smart Blonde. It's a little looser and more diffuse. It has several characters that rub me the wrong way. Torchy doesn't get to be as smart as she was in the first film. And, it really does feel like the writers forgot to include an explanation for the movie's events. Watch the last five minutes and feel the exposition whirlwind blow back your hair.

It's Torchy and McBride 25 years down the line!
And German 

 I'm goofing with you. Here's the couple relaxing on a dirigible

I like this movie. But, it's a bit of a sophomore slump. Albeit a slump with Torchy giving it her all, traveling around the world and chasing a man with a gun through an airship.

 McBride always got tense when Torchy was about to whistle

Thursday, February 26, 2015

BJ And The Bear S1 Ep1: Odyssey of the Shady Truth

Originally Aired: February 19, 1979
Teleplay by Kenneth Realman & Michael Sloan
Story by Kenneth Realman

It happened! BJ And The Bear, the actual series, has begun. After a successful TV movie in October of 1978, the show was picked up by NBC as a mid-season replacement. It had ten episodes to prove itself. And it had a strange twist of pop culture providence to help it along. As I mentioned in the review of The Foundlings, Glen A. Larson's newest venture seemed to hit every pop culture button at the time. However, it actually came two months before Every Which Way But Loose when truckers and simians became all the rage. And, it was three months before The Dukes of Hazzard began.
 Even our Big Macs are corrupt

Odyssey of the Shady Truth aired a month-in-a-half after the Clint Eastwood vehicle became a huge hit and one month after the Duke boys began racing up the ratings. So, what seemed like it was ahead of itself four months previous was now right in with the zeitgeist of the times. That's planning.
 Jo Ann, pre-being nice

The story behind the first of the episodes ends up being a condensed variation of the pilot movie. A woman named Barbara Sue (played by the awesome Jo Ann Harris) gets BJ to head back into Orly County to pick up a load. But, it's a trap. Sheriff Lobo with Perkins, as a Deupty now, jail BJ. But, Barbara Sue can't let BJ rot in jail so she breaks him and some others wrongfully imprisoned by Lobo out. The race for the county line is on again!

No caption required

It does seem a little bit remiss of BJ to want to head back into Orly. (Or, in fact, to be eating at a diner anywhere near it.) But, one imagines that he thinks Lobo has probably been put away for a very long time for the awful stuff he did in the pilot movie. Strangely enough, he hasn't been. In fact, Lobo is doing better than ever and Perkins, his main accomplice, is now second-in-command. Not sure how that happened unless Orly County is the most corrupt county in the United States. (And that could be true.)
 When is a jail not a jail? When it has no wall

Everyone in Lobo's cell, including a man named Banjo who hauled moonshine, one of those TV drunks who is drunk all the time regardless of whether he has access to booze and two young women, one played rather hysterically by Randi Oakes, has been wrongfully imprisoned. And, Lobo is stealing shine from the supplier and selling it on his own. It's all very shady. Luckily, Barbara Sue ties a chain to the jail cell window and, using BJ's rig, rips the brick wall off the side of the building. It's pretty cool.
Randi? Are you thinking about Battle of the Network Stars?

Then, the mayhem begins. This time a little more playful than in the pilot. Many, many police cars are destroyed in assorted and amusing ways. Lobo and Perkins have their car slowly whittled down piece by piece. That's pretty funny. It all culminates with a ride on the Shady Truth. That is a river barge owned by Barbara Sue's uncle. And the image of the barge hauling the big red rig behind it down the river is very cool.
See? Cool

For being a, more or less, remake of the pilot, this episode acquits itself well. It has heroics, excitement, drama and humor. And, yes, a bunch of great chimp action. (Although, Bear doesn't have quite as much to do as he did in the pilot.) BJ's wit and intelligence are going strong in this episode. Plus, he has a little bit more of a romantic squeeze on Barbara Sue than he did on Stilts. Once BJ is free from the jail, he sets up a series of tricks, diversions and stunts to get him and the bunch he's with around the roadblocks of Lobo.
 That's a Comedy Car if ever I saw one

The episode is very entertaining. It's got a nice pace to it. The set-up, getting BJ into prison, happens quickly. The sequence in the jail cell is just long enough to establish that Lobo is corrupt and sleazy but a little goofy. And then the chasing begins and it doesn't stop until the end. There were only two problems I had with this episode as it went along but neither of them is a big cause for concern.
 Not a scene from Planes, Trains & Automobiles

The first is that darn county line. In The Foundlings, it was nebulous. BJ was passing through and took the job. They were stuck in the woods a lot. One hoped that they were moving towards it but one was never sure. In this episode, the county line is still--  where is it? There's a lot more water involved in this episode. One would think the rather lengthy trip down the river would have helped. But, they never seem to actually get any closer to getting out of Orly. Which leads to the second problem.
 I feel like this guy was in The Milpitas Monster

The resolution of the episode. Shady Truth has the same ending as the pilot. BJ and his passengers run and run and run. Eventually, the day is saved by them coming across someone who can stop Lobo from going any further. In The Foundlings, it's the Army. In this episode, it's Seth McClellan, the moonshine man that Lobo is ripping off. Yes, the day is saved. BJ and pals make it out safely. But, BJ doesn't actually save everyone. He just keeps everyone out of harm's way until someone else can come along and do it. That's not so great for a show with a hero in it. If BJ was played by Don Knotts, that would be one thing. But, here, the hero should be doing the saving. Time will tell.
The top half of Lobo's car goes a'reelin'

Odyssey of the Shady Truth, flaws aside, is an entertaining opening episode for the series. If you watch this one and like it, there's a very good chance that you will get a kick out of the nine remaining episodes from this season. I enjoy them. Granted, Lobo is only in three more episodes. So, don't get too comfortable with him.
 The basic face one sees in The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

X-Caliber: Warriors of the Night (1986)

Side 1: Runaway (5:35), Warriors of the Night (6:44), The Sword (5:21), Tell Me Why (3:56)
Side 2: Rock's Alive (4:36), Don't Say Goodbye (4:56), Told You Not To Run (7:14), Someday (2:38)

From Pittsburgh, PA, X-Caliber stepped out bold & proud to rain down 41 minutes of rocking majesty upon the world. Then, they vanished. Where did they go? Why didn't they put out more music? If Warriors of the Night is anything to go by, these guys had a few cool rocking tricks up their sleeve. It alternately saddens and fascinates me when I come upon a great band that put out one album and then...  who knows? So, let's look at what we have here. And, after we wander through the record, you can read my nutty idea behind what I think it's all about.

The album begins with the song Runaway, which has one those great metal riffs that you feel like you've heard before (maybe you have) but it pulls you in and gets your head moving. The sound is a bit on the primitive side. It has that crunchy guitar that a lot of independent American metal bands had around this time. I'm not sure what it's from. I always imagine that they're not quite getting the sound of the guitar recorded right. But, the sound is cool and the riff is nice. The song stops for the verses to give us some acoustic strumming and then the electrics kick in again. It's about a young man who has had problems with love and has, basically, run away from his life. Don't let the 5 1/2 minute length scare you off. The rocking intro mixed with the acoustic verses keep the time cooking along.

Warriors of the Night  is the epic title track that begins with stormy sound effects and acoustic guitars. And, yes, an echo-laden, portentous voice. The voice begins to speak of an old system weakened by the forces of evil. It talks of the new system formed from the strongest warriors. Then, the song rocks to life. Yes, that portentous narration is almost a staple of quite a bit of 1980s heavy metal. If one had the gumption, they could put together quite a collection of songs with medieval-themed narration. But, this song plays a bit of a trick...  After the chorus, things fade and the narrator returns. When the song kicks back in, it doesn't do another verse-chorus. It runs through a raucous instrumental section. The unexpected moment of variety boosts the song and makes a good song even better.

The next song is, like Runaway, a good straight on catchy, classy rockier. The Sword had got a strong riff and a good chorus. The beat during the verse has got a great bounce to it. The warriors have banded together and now they're singing a song about themselves. One of the things that always worries me about albums like this is that there will be a lack of variety or that the album will just fade, interest will be lost as it goes along. Luckily, this one keeps it moving.

And, Tell Me Why is a great way to change it up. Song #4, the final song on a very solid Side 1, is a great catchy, almost pop, number but with a touch of the hard rock/ metal in it. The lyrics are straightforward ones about a man questioning why the love of his life, in fact, loves him. Hey, it's something we all wonder on from time to time. And, after two epic tracks about warriors and swords and such, it's a surprising one to hear. It's also a very good one.

Side 2 opens with another obligatory 1980s metal/ hard rock staple: the song where the band sings about how much they love rocking. Whether they sing about playing metal or rock & roll itself, every band seemed to have to have one of these in their repertoire. When your repertoire consists of eight songs, it better be a good one. Luckily, X-Caliber have done it right. The song opens with some cool electric guitar noises culminating in that thing where the guitarists run their pick up the neck of the guitar and it sound like music being ripped apart. Then, the song kicks in and Rock's Alive! Not the best song on the album but it's to the point, catchy and it has a nice bridge.

Don't Say Goodbye is from the same realm as Tell Me Why, a catchy almost-pop rocker about a guy having trouble with his love. (This being 80s metal, I'm guessing it was a gal.) This tune isn't quite as good as Tell Me Why but, having said that, I like it. It rocks. It's catchy. I can feel the emotion in the singer's voice. One wonders why the rocking of the previous songs got blended in with these two more pop-ish numbers. But, again, if you've only got one album, include everything you can do on it.

Now, we reach the penultimate song: the longest one on the album, Told You Not To Run, which, lyrically, is more aggressive than the other ones. As with the rest of the album, there is a great riff. The two guitars bounce off each other nicely. The melodies are catchy. But, this one breaks it down about halfway in. The acoustic guitars start up and the singer begins a more soulful rendition of the title. Then, the middle instrumental section kicks in and it is almost prog rock-like. Some great guitar. The drums and bass are kicking ass. (In fact, the bass is the unsung hero of this album. Coming in with some great rhythms and melodies throughout.) This instrumental section is possibly my favorite 2 or 3 minutes of the album. The rhythm they beat out at the end is awesome.

The album closes with the very odd Someday. Much shorter than the other songs on the album. It's all acoustic guitar and mournful, slightly distant and echo-laden singing. It's a melancholy closing to the album. And a strange one. The implication of the song being that something has ended. Something big and important.

Could it be X-Caliber itself?

Here's where I go loopy:

I think Warriors of the Night is a concept album. Bear with me. I have several interpretations. I will give one now.

There is a young man who has trouble with a lady friend. Their relationship has been a stormy one. But, he thought it was for real, for true. It has ended by her choice. So, he ends up looking inside of his own life and finding nothing there. He leaves his life for pastures new. (Runaway). He meets up with some guys and they form a band. (Warriors of the Night) A righteous metal band that is going to change the face of music. They're doing their own thing. They're full of energy and life. The New Kings of Heavy Metal! (The Sword)

Pretty straightforward. Here's where things become open for debate.

Although they believe that they are the New Warriors of Rock & Roll, they end up doing what most guys do: writing love songs. The Warriors are no different and the young man writes one harking back to his time spent with the gal who ended his previous life. It's much more catchy and status quo than they expected. (Tell Me Why) But, it gets them some attention. And they start to gain in popularity. And when one is being paid attention to one draws attention to what they're doing to get more attention. (Rock's Alive) Although that song is in keeping with their original band intentions.
Then, their big hit comes out (or maybe only a big hit in their mind), the follow-up to Tell Me Why: Don't Say Goodbye. Another pop number about his ex-. The band is at the height of their popularity.

(Whether that is worldwide popularity or just headlining a small club is unknown.)

Now, either the guy gets back together with the gal and begins to treat her badly or, more likely, he imagines himself back together with her and not treating her very nice. The band's final big song (Told You Not To Run) is much closer to their original intentions. It also has a darkness that is not fitting in with the rest of the Big Hit music they had. So, when band members begin to work in contradictory directions, they break apart. But, it's not with animosity. The most that the singer can say to his fellow band members as they come apart is that "You're so wrapped up in policy/ All of the time." The band comes apart, maybe to reunite one day. (Someday)

I have other interpretations of the material. One is that the two poppier love songs are actually flashbacks playing in the head of the guy while the band writes the other material. But, this could go on for an eternity.

Where are X-Caliber? Did they have more material? Is my interpretation of their album complete and utter nonsense? Frankly, it's a great album. You should give a listen, especially if you love obscure 1980s metal from the heart of America. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

HAPPY DAYS S8 Ep1: No Tell Motel

Originally aired: November 11, 1980
Written By Lesa Kite & Cindy Begel

Note: I watched this episode for review off of a DVD-R. When I returned to it the next day for screenshots, it wouldn't play past the first two minutes. So, rather than include screen shots of the credits or Mr. & Mrs. C watching Perry Mason, I went without. As soon as I get a replacement copy, I'll add screenshots. Also, one or two points might be a little vague as I can't re-watch the episode.

What Happens: Mr. Cunningham is afraid that Joanie and Chachi are getting too serious in their relationship. He asks Joanie to take a Chachi-related moratorium. Joanie agrees. But, when Chachi shows up with Beach Boys tickets, it's too good to resist. Jenny Piccalo (in her first on-screen appearance) tells Joanie's parents that Joanie is staying with her for the night. The young couple goes to the concert in Chicago. It's awesome. (They played "Chug-A-Lug!")* But, their car breaks down on the way home. And, they must spend the night at a cheap motel...  in the same room...  with only one bed.

What I Saw & What I Thought: No Tell Motel is a very good opening to the first season without Richie and Ralph. It explains (in a slightly shoehorned manner) where they've gone (the Army) and puts the romance of Joanie and Chachi in the forefront, while giving the Fonz good stuff to do. It's funny, which always helps. It introduces us to Jenny in the most streamlined fashion. She is 1) boy crazy as she chases Potsie and 2) she plays by her own rules and always courts trouble. Erin Moran and Scott Baio are both very good in this. One could see how a spinoff might be created around these characters.

It's also a very odd opening episode because it wasn't meant to be the opening episode. The next one (Live and Learn) had that original honor. And that episode makes more sense in this spot. In that episode, Fonzie returns from a trip to Italy for the summer and begins teaching. Henry Winkler was now the main star of the show. So, that settles it nicely. But, the producers decided to go with this one. Which throws some chronological rocks into the mix (the timeline is-- this episode-- then The Fonz goes away for the summer-- then he returns for the next episode?) but puts the romantic plot-line at the front. It also does shortchange Richie and Ralph by limiting the talk about them to the opening scene.

There was no sign at the end of the previous season that they were leaving. The last episode of Season 7 is Ralph's Family Problem, which gives Ralph some good stuff to do but doesn't hint at what would happen here. Plus, that episode was actually made early in that season. Halfway through Season 7, Arnold's burns down and goes from 50s diner to 60s Swiss chalet. But, in Ralph's Family Problem, it's the old Arnold's. The episode before that one, The Roaring Twenties, only features Richie. Everyone else is in Fantasy Scenes from the 1920s. More will be made of Richie going away as the season goes on but this episode doesn't make much of it.

(America had to wait for two big TV cliffhangers to get resolved in the summer/ fall of 1980. Who Shot J.R.? and What happened to Richie and Ralph? We just didn't know about the second one until after it happened and the guys were no longer around.)

At this point, Joanie & Chachi haven't been together too long, episode-wise. So, there's an excitement to their romance. It doesn't have all the bickering and angst that would come out in Season 9 and in Joanie Loves Chachi. They're just two kids having fun. Yes, Mr. C is worried. but, isn't he always? It turns out that when they arrive at the motel their biggest worry is that Joanie's reputation will go down the toilet. There's some fun slapstick around trying to get comfortable in the room but not too close to each other. And, when the Fonz shows up everything, of course, gets awesome. The conceit that they can sneak off to Chicago and see a concert without Joanie's parents knowing but they will not sleep chastely in a large motel bed is lovely and very innocent and very Happy Days.

Turns out that if you want pervs, just ask Mr. C to get you one. He sets up Joanie on a date with one of his hardware store employees. The man is a super nerd! Except when he's alone with Joanie. Then, he's a pervy monster. And, Mr. C is worried about Chachi? Chach is always a gentleman, Mr. C. Like the Fonz.

No Tell Motel puts us into the Brave New World of the show post-Richie fairly smoothly. Joanie and Chachi are the cute couple. The Fonz is the Fonz. Jenny appears as she will remain. And the gradual reduction of Potsie's character has begun. For folks who felt that the show was about Richie, it all ended an episode ago. But, if the show is actually about the Cunningham family, then it's only right that Joanie (who we first saw when she was so young) steps up to the plate and gets her time to shine. And in a very different character arc than her brother had.

*That's a lie. No setlist is provided with the episode.

Monday, February 23, 2015


This is a spread from the Cracked Collectors' Edition #17 from 1977.
It looks like a reprint from around '65/'66.
Thank you Pierre L.!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Smart Blonde (1937)

The first film in the nine-film Torchy Blane saga. Glenda Farrel plays fast-talking, super-sharp Torchy, reporter for The Morning Herald. Her boyfriend is the hard-working, not-as-smart Detective Steve McBride, played by Barton MacLane.

Smart Blonde is a murder mystery revolving around the death of 'Tiny' Torgensen. Torgensen has recently purchased a popular nightclub from a semi-shady guy named Fitz Mularkey (which is a semi-shady name if ever I heard one). A group of people working and living in and around the nightclub all becomes suspects. McBride (known as "Skipper" to Torchy) and Torchy investigate. Sometimes in the same direction, sometimes not.

Mularkey? What's the derivation of that?

Glenda Farrell had been around for a while. She'd been in the very popular (and super entertaining) Gold Diggers of [Whenever] movies. She had also appeared in The Mystery of the Wax Museum as a wise-cracking reporter. Torchy is a lot like that character. We first see Torchy getting out of a cab and getting onto a moving train, hobo-style, to talk with Torgensen. She has a quick chat with "Tiny"before he is shot outside of the train station. She's clearly awesome from the get-go.

Stunt Torchy!
 McBride is the standard movie cop of his time. He can be super sweet to Torchy and then they're arguing with each other in the very next shot. He slowly moves closer and closer towards the solution of the mystery. While, almost off to one side, Torchy pieces together exactly what's going on. In fact, the film misdirects us for a bit as McBride investigates and investigates, while Torchy doesn't seem to be accomplishing much. 
Along with those two characters, we also meet Gahagan, the officer who drives the car for McBride. He's a big bruiser of a guy who loves poetry and gets very excited when he is allowed to put the sirens on. McBride treats Gahagan with slight indifference and condescension. Torchy clearly thinks he's the bee's knees. She relies on him quite a bit and he seems to enjoy helping her.

Gahagan about to spout some poetry.
 Early on in Smart Blonde, things happen quickly. The film dives right into the story. There are no pauses to really introduce characters to us. Things happen and the viewer is left to piece it all together. We meet Torchy and McBride. We meet the other police officers and newspaper employees. We meet all the suspects. We get a slew of names for assorted characters. And quite a few of the gals look kind of similar. And I confused Fitz with Chuck at one point. But, in the end, it all makes sense.

Torchy & the boys
 Somewhere about halfway in the film slows down a bit. (It gets perilously close to becoming a "McBride or Torchy questioning different people in different rooms that all look similar" movie. But, the Torchy-McBride interactions are thrown in at decent intervals to break things up.) I was able to get a handle on everything that was going on and who all of these people were. The only thing the film does that kind of throws a slight wrench into the mystery is that there aren't quite enough suspects in the end. But, the final revelations were good ones. Not exactly news to me but presented well and you want to cheer Torchy on when she explains the case.

Throughout it all, Glenda Farrell whirls through the film having a good time.  She is very charming and has the reporter world wrapped around her little finger. She's having a tougher time with McBride but he'll come over to her side eventually.

Smart Blonde is not the best of the Torchy Blane series. The quick fast opening means that one may want to go back a second time to get all the characters down. But, for a light B-picture, it's a hoot. There were so many fun series like this made at that time. For me, they actually overshadow many of the big productions from that era, simply because this is so much more fun.
 McBride questions, Torchy wonders about the dog

Oh, all 9 Torchy Blane movies are available on a Warner Archive set: Torchy!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)

Directed by Nathan H. Juran

From the year of my birth comes a werewolf movie with a pretty great title. It conjures up the image of a bratty child who loves monsters and keeps pretending that he sees them to bother his family. Then, a real werewolf eventually shows up and no one believes the kid. So, the kid gets mauled and, possibly, eaten alive. Or whatever it is that werewolves do exactly. Having just written that, the movie feels a bit more like a short film idea than a feature. But, it's OK because that's not what The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is anyway.

It's the story of Robert and his son, Richie, who go to a cabin in the woods. They are attacked by a werewolf. Dad kills it but gets bit on the arm. There is a new werewolf in town! Unfortunately, no one believes Richie when he says he knows who the lycanthrope is. Throw in some family drama with Robert's ex-wife Sandy. Add George Gaynes as a psychiatrist who has many, many patients. And then throw in some Jesus Freaks who are staying down by the river and yelling about Jesus...  a lot. There's your movie.

Mobile Home...  Now with werewolf!

It's too bad that it's not a fantastic movie. I really wish it was. Don't use a title like that unless you're really going to make it the best. Seriously. Nathan A. Juran's direction is fine. It's never that exciting but the camera's generally pointed in the right direction. The acting is solid. The werewolf makeup is fun, even if it reminded me of The Werewolf of Woodstock a bit. The film is just never that involving, never that interesting. Part of that, I believe, comes from the misuse of the inherent ramifications of the title.

The kid in The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the story, is a jackass. He's a little brat who gets his comeuppance and we all learn a valuable lesson. But, this movie doesn't follow the tale. Richie and Robert are out for a midnight stroll. They get attacked and Robert has a long fight with what is clearly a werewolf. When the werewolf is killed, it turns back into a man.

He fell on the one pointy thing in the field.

But, we all saw that it was a werewolf. however, as they tell the Sheriff about it, Richie is shouted down for even suggesting it was a werewolf. The Sheriff doesn't believe it. And even Robert, who just fought the damn thing, tells Richie not to let his imagination run wild. The rest of the movie is Richie trying to prove that it was a werewolf and that his dad is a werewolf...  even though Robert should be backing his son up (at least about the first werewolf). There's an almost automatic assumption that what Richie says must be his imagination (or a lie). Only the psychiatrist seems to believe Richie a bit. Sadly, he may be a little screwy.

What time of the day is this?

The whole movie is one of those sort of endless "When exactly will everyone in the movie come to grips with what is going on so we can all get on with it?" kind of movies. And, if Richie had been a little liar, it might have been fun to see him try to get people's trust back. He's not a liar and so it becomes confusing and a bit frustrating... But then, I realized that maybe the dad doesn't see that it's a werewolf. I was looking at the day-for-night shots of the fight and thinking that Dad must have seen the werewolf. But, if everyone is pretending it's pitch black, maybe Robert didn't see it. But then, the impaled dead werewolf is completely visible. My mind boggles.

Possibly the confusion over what Robert sees mixed with the quick rejection of Richie may have been some sort of production problem. Maybe something got cut or didn't get shot? Later on in the movie, the psychiatrist is shown killed, clearly by the werewolf. But, there's absolutely no reason for the werewolf to have been there to kill him. Something is missing there. Plus, the main characters keep going from town to the mountains to the woods...  and so forth. And there's no real concept of where anything is in relation to anything else. For all I know, the whole thing is meant to be about a family that lives on the Universal Studios back lot. It's tough to say. Then, there are those Jesus Freaks.

That's a group of Jesus Freaks, all right.

The main Freak, who is a Jesus lookalike/ Super Hippy, is fun to watch. (The character is played by the film's screenwriter.) He gets to take part in two of the best scenes in the film (which I'll mention in a moment). But, there's a lot of time spent with the Freaks and apart from the leader, none of them are characters. It feels almost like someone got their Hippy Film in my Werewolf Movie and they decided to keep them combined. They're entertaining for a bit. They don't really do much.

The two scenes I mentioned are 1) the Jesus Freaks joining hands and creating some kind of "love circle" that Robert finds he can't enter and 2) a scene where the lead Freak performs an exorcism on the werewolf at the exact same moment that the sun comes up. The werewolf changes back to Robert and the head guy is thrilled with himself. But, I just realized that Phil Hardy's Encyclopedia of Horror Movies, on page 271 of the Second Edition, says those are their favorite bits too. So, I might just be ripping them off.

He hates them hippies!

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf isn't that great. It does have a cool title and a few decent scenes (some horror, some comedy). Plus, a boatload of Jesus Freaks. That might be enough to get you hooked.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


5 pages from the February 1980 "Those Cracked Monsters" Cracked Collectors' Edition

Pages 26-27 & 48-50

Scans provided by Pierre L. from Cracked Magazine Reviews.