Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Introducing The Scientific Wonder Of Our Age: "Cats"--A Turkey That Meows!

"Cat Scratch Fever": Their maniacs! Maniacs! On the floor! And their dancing like they've never danced before!

Hello and welcome, movie lovers.

I open this article with a question directed squarely at Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber: Andrew, honey, sweetie, who hurt you?

Seriously. What abuse, rejection or trauma did you endure that made you so angry, twisted and hell bent on revenge that you've forced countless theater goers to endure your unique brand of bat-shit crazy musicals?

And what do you have against cats? Did a cat urinate on one of your precious scores? Did a kitty cough up a hairball in your slippers? Did a cat drop off a dead mouse in the kitchen for you to find? Whatever some cat did to you, it in no way justifies what you did to an entire species when Cats debuted on the West End in 1982.

Simply put, your record breaking "mega-musical" was just nonsensical nightmare fuel in Lycra tights.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's creative process explained.

And don't get me started on the "breakout" tune "Memory", which taints every elevator and waiting room like the stench of an over-flowing litter box.

 Which brings us to the movie version of your play Cats, (also called "Cats"), a flick so loathsome The MacGuffin called it "a spectacular disaster" and "a drug induced hallucination brought to life." Not to be out done, Fortune declared it "a deranged freak-fantasia" and Metro Archive dubbed it "a triple decker weird burger."

Yes, yes, I know critics ripped you a new one with their scathing "Cats" reviews--and you deserved everyone of them. And, yes, the flick came out a year ago and everybody--especially you-- just wants to forget the whole thing.

However, Andrew, you haven't heard from from me yet--and I'm a cat lover, a movie lover, a musical lover AND a die-hard NON fan of ALL your work. So until I've had my say, the CATastrophe that is "Cats" (2019) is far from over.

As furious as I am at this movie (and at you, Andrew), it was a challenge to say something new about your flick. I mean, after an avalanche of withering reviews, sweeping the Golden Raspberry Awards and being called "a triple decker weird burger", what else is there to say about "Cats"?  So I decided to skip the traditional movie review and instead present the following theory for consideration:

A poster for "Cats". If you have one, you can shred it and use it for cat litter--which is what critics did to the movie.

(Ahem): I submit that "Cats" is not really based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, but is in fact a musical remake of the sci-fi cheese platter "Logan's Run" (1976).

Preposterous, you say?

I disagree.

The movie "Jonathon Livingston Seagull", after all, is a partial re-telling of the Christ tale acted out by an all seagull cast. And "Matango: Fungus of Terror" is a combination of No Exit, A Long Day's Journey Into Night and "Gilligan's Island" with mushrooms. Once you take that into consideration, the idea that "Cats" could be a remake of "Logan's Run"(with a small assist from T. S. Eliot, I'll grant you) shouldn't really surprise anybody--especially bad movie fanatics. 

Ruminate on this:

"Want some tuna?": Logan and Jessica meet the Old Man and his many "Cats."

*"Logan's Run" takes place in a world where humankind lives in a domed shopping mall. The setting for "Cats" is a junkyard, although a big chunk of it also takes place in a hotel with a domed ceiling.

*In "Logan's Run", when people hit the big three-oh, they must participate in something called "the Carrousel", where citizens are "renewed". In "Cats", a tribe of "Jellicle cats" participate in something  called "the Jellicle Ball". This is where one cat is chosen to be transported (via spaceship and/or hot air balloon--no kidding) to the "Heavyside Layer" where they're "renewed."

Of course, there is a key difference in "Logan's Run": the chance to "renew" is a lie. In reality, the people on "the Carrousel" are zapped and killed with a laser beam. The government does this to prevent over-population and to keep the public under its control. To make sure people don't evade "the Carousel", the government employs a police force known as "Sandmen" who track down and kill people (called "Runners") who try to escape.

In "Cats" the chance to be reborn is real. However, it's up to Old Deuteronomy to choose who that kitty will be. To become "the Jellicle choice", the felines make their case in totally nutsy production numbers that celebrate the joys of eating garbage, stopping trains and teaching cockroaches to tap dance. Naturally, there are cats who want to skip this process and just renew.

* In "Logan's Run", the hero is "Sandman" Logan (Michael York) who, with partner Jessica (Jenny Agutter) learns the truth about his world. In "Cats", the heroine is a white kitty named Victoria (Francesca Hayward, a dancer from the Royal Ballet), who learns about the Jellicle cats after she's abandoned in the middle of the night. She also hooks up with a kitty crush named Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) "a magician cat" who isn't very good at his job.

Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) apologizes for lining his litter box with left over scores from Andrew Lloyd Webber's other musicals.

*In "Logan's Run", after Logan and Jessica escape their domed city/world, they run into a dotty Old Man (played by Peter Ustinov) who lives with hundreds of (yes!) cats!

Meanwhile, over on the set of "Cats", the counter-part of the Old Man is Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench). Like Ustinov's character, Old Deuteronomy has lived "many lives" (she's a cat, after all) and is  wise and gentle.

* In "Logan's Run", there is a character called "The Box" (voiced by Roscoe Lee Brown). He's a pre-R2D2 robot and at first seems OK--except he's been created to catch any Runners who slip by the Sandmen. Once caught, the Box turns the Runners into frozen popsicles--nude frozen popsicles, by the way--which are later harvested for food back home.

The Box character in "Cats" is Macavity (Idris Elba), a flashy bad guy cat who wants to be "the Jellicle choice". To improve his chances, Macavity catnaps the top contenders (Jennyanydots, Gus the Theater Cat and Bustopher Jones, played by Rebel Wilson, Sir Ian McKellen and James Corden, respectively) and imprisons them on a boat. Like the Box, he sneaks up, pretending to be a fan of the chosen kitty, but then puts the zap on them.

*In "Logan's Run", all the major functions of the city are run by computers, which allows the humans to live carefree lives where they shop, have sex, work out, have sex, walk around, have sex, go to discos, have sex and have sex. You never see anybody reading, knitting or doing their taxes.

Bombalurina (Taylor Swift) flaunts proportions few felines can aspire to.

"Cats" has the same hyper-sexual vibe going. The screen kitties slink around in skintight cat suits (helped along with CGI), their twitching tails often used as phallic symbols. In one scene, the tabby Jennyanydots enjoys scratching her nether regions a little too much. Macavity's moll Bomalurina (Taylor Swift) boasts a bust line Jane Mansfield would envy. Then there's Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), a Mick Jagger-type cat with a sex drive to match.

(Yes, yes, I know cats can be extra frisky, which is why responsible pet owners always spay or neuter their cats.)

However, the slinky/kinky antics of the cats in "Cats" does beg the question: How come Grizabella is shunned and slut-shamed for doing what everybody else was doing?

And how come the male cats appear to have nothing between their legs?

*Finally, both "Logan's Run" and "Cats" end the same way: with the sun rising on a new day. The citizens of Earth leave their domed city (which has blown its top--don't ask) and realize turning 30 isn't a death sentence. As Grizabella flies away to the Heavyside Layer, Victoria finds a new home among the Jellicle cats and kitty crush Mr. Mistoffelees. 

"Before we go any further, I have to ask: do you have fleas?": Kitty cuddlemates Mr. Mistoffelees and Victoria.

However, upon further reflection, the endings of "Cats" and "Logan's Run" aren't as cheerful as you'd think. For instance, the human survivors in "Logan's Run" don't know how to do anything but have sex, so they'll need to learn a whole new set of skills of if they're going to survive. Are they up to it? Meanwhile, Victoria may have joined the Jellicle cats, but she's still homeless, will have to scrounge for food and if she doesn't get a "kitty operation", she'll be fighting off every Tom in heat.

Personally, I don't her life has improved at all.

So, I rest my case. "Cats" is really a musical remake of "Logan's Run", with a bit of T. S. Eliot's poetry thrown in. Of all the things said about the movie "Cats", I don't think anyone else has said this. It's a bold theory, but I stand by it.

On this triumphant note that I end my post. To Andrew Lloyd Webber I say: get some therapy. To movie lovers everywhere: Save the Movies!

Joel and the 'bots from "MST3K" show off their "Andrew Lloyd Webber Grill", which burns Andrew's scores instead of charcoal briquettes. If only this were real!

















  

Thursday, December 24, 2020

It's Time to Discuss the Birds and the Bees with "Mom and Dad"


One of the more subtler ads for "Mom and Dad" (1945). 

Greetings, movie lovers.

Our feature presentation is the ne plus ultra of exploitation films. It's also one of the top grossing flicks of the 1940's--AND has been added to both the National Film Registry and the Academy Film Archive.

Directed by William "One Shot" Beaudine and exhaustively promoted by H. Kroger Babb, ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Mom and Dad" (1945).

Sustained applause.

The story "Mom and Dad" tells isn't new. A young gal ignorant of "the facts of life" meets a smoothie from out of town, has sex with him and is shocked shocked! to later learn she's preggers.

  "I'm not bad. I'm just directed that way.": Jack Griffin (Robert/Bob Lowell from "I Accuse My Parents") puts the moves on innocent Joan Blake (June Carlson).

However, what set "Mom and Dad"s apart from other run-of-the-mill exploitation films were the outlandish promotional gimmicks producer Babb unleashed to sell the picture. These included "eminent hygiene commentator Elliot Forbes" (actually an actor) lecturing the audience about STDs during intermission; nurses (actually actresses) hawking safe sex manuals in the theater lobby; paid protesters denouncing the film on street corners and passing out handbills to passersby (who promptly headed for the movie house); letters to various newspaper editors attacking the film (which were written by Babb himself); separating audiences along gender, age and racial lines; various lawsuits; and a "C" or "Condemned" rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency.

Yet I'm of the opinion that "Mom and Dad" didn't need all those gimmicks to cement it's place in the Bad Movie Hall of Shame. Take away all of Babb's promotional razzle-dazzle and you still have a badly made, super-cheap, poorly acted, genuinely nutty flick that will delight any Junk Cinema devotee.

Start with the director of the film, William "One Shot" Beaudine. Will's nickname derived from the fact that he rarely shot a second take of anything. This lack of attention to detail meant not only did his actors have little time to "finesse" their roles, but any blunders managed to stay in the final print (such as John Carradine burning his finger in "Voodoo Man", another Beaudine baddie reviewed in this blog). 

 Will began his career in silent movies. However, he either didn't realize or care that the advent of sound in 1929 required a more realistic approach to screen acting. Thus, his actors went over the top in a style better suited for 1918 than 1945. And because the script for "Mom and Dad" was so thin to begin with, Beaudine was perfectly happy to pad out the flick by inserting ready-made sex education films, bearing such piquant titles as "An Explanation of Sex Cycles." For his casual approach to film making, Will earned a coveted Golden Turkey Award nomination as the "Worst Director of All Time", but lost out to the mighty Ed Wood.

Next, the speed at which "Mom and Dad" as filmed ensured the final product couldn't help but be shoddy: the flick was shot on five different lots in six days! Talk about a runaway production...

Last, the script (provided by Mildred Horn, the future Mrs. Babb) was filled with the wacky touches bad film fanatics crave: a character named "Fish Face", a teenage tumbling troupe, a group of jitter buggers, footage of various forms of childbirth (including a C-section), graphic shots of people with advanced VD, the most hysterical mother on the planet and an attempt to provide an "up lifting" ending despite a still birth.

"What's all the hub-hub, Bub?": Crowds flock to the heavily hyped "Mom and Dad."

In other words, something for everyone!

Before our story begins, the National Anthem is played. Then the producers provide a lengthy forward explaining the high-minded purpose behind "Mom and Dad." The main character, Joan Blake (played by the puffy-haired June Carlson) is a "sweet, innocent girl", but she's burdened by having a ninny for a mom. Unfortunately, Mrs. Blake "like many mothers" thinks "innocence is a guarantee of virtue." The producers want viewers to understand that "the boys and girls of today aren't bad!", they're just badly educated about the realities of "personal hygiene". "Youth is entitled to a knowledge of hygiene," the crawl declares. "A complete understanding of the Facts of Life."

"Ignorance is a sin-knowledge is power," the crawl intones, in case anyone still misses the point.

The forward concludes by announcing that if "Mom and Dad" leads to "commonsense solutions" that reduce STDs and out-of-wedlock births, "it will have been well told!" (Sounds of the producers and investors patting each other on the back.)

And now our tale can begin.

"Strangers on a Train"? Nope, it's just "Mom and Dad."

Riding on a train from The Big City to their home town of Centerville are three members of the Blake family: dad (George Elderdge), mom (Lois Austin) and teen daughter Joan (June Carlson). While Mr. Blake reads the paper, Mrs. Blake, a prissy hysteric with a tent-pole up her ass, prattles endlessly about the lewd behavior of the other passengers (i.e. an old coot offers a young gal some booze). Later on, she nearly faints when Joan goes to get a drink of water and somebody whistles at her. Horrified, Mrs. Blake begins to wonder if Joan should be allowed to attend the school dance that evening. Then she informs hubby that the minute they get home, she's ringing up "all the members of my club" to discuss this flourishing public indecency.

At the train depot, the Blake family runs into Mr. Blackburn (Hardie Albright), a high school teacher very popular with the kids. Unfortunately, Mrs. Blake finds him too progressive for her tastes. After all, he wanted to teach "personal hygiene" to the high schoolers! When son Dave (Jimmy Clark) forgets to pick up the fam, Mr. Blackburn (not one to hold grudges) gives them a lift home.

Later that evening, Joan appears in her bias-cut formal. Tonight is the big dance and her escort is Alan Curtis (Jimmy Zaner), better known as "Fish Face." When Alan and Joan arrive at the dance, all Fish Face can say is how "swell" everything is. When Joan asks her date if he can say anything other than "swell", Fish Face wracks his brain and says, "Well, it's super swell!" Seconds later, in walks prep-school smoothie Jack Griffith (Robert/Bob Lowell, last seen in "I Accuse My Parents") with his cousin.

"Say, Tommy, who's the little blonde over there in the green dress?" Jack asks.

"You mean the one dancing with Alan Curtis?" Tommy replies.

"Like shooting Fish(Face) out of a barrel.": Suave preppy Jack muscles Alan Curtis' date.

"Who's Alan Curtis?" Jack retorts.

"The one dancing with the girl in the green dress," Tommy explains.

As you can see, the boys of Centerville are a bunch of dolts. Against such competition, smoothie Jack has no trouble elbowing Fish Face out of the way.

"Mind if I cut in?" Jack asks as he waltzes Joan away from her stunned date.

When the music stops, the irritated Fish Face goes to get Joan some lemonade. Jack quickly suggests he and Joan "get some fresh air." While strolling outside, Jack tells Joan, "You look beautiful when you smile." Then he plants a big, fat kiss on her.

Jack and Joan ditch Fish Face "to get some air" (remember, fish get their oxygen from the water).

"I'm sorry, honey, I just couldn't help it," Jack says.

"You shouldn't have done it!" Joan gulps. "I've never been kissed like that before!"

"Yeah?" Jack smugly replies. "Well, I feel honored!"--and proceeds to plant another wet-one on her.

The next morning, Mrs. Blake comes into Joan's room, anxious to know all the details about her evening with Fish Face. To her shock and horror, all Joan wants to talk about is suave Jack, who totally "swept me off my feet!"

 As far as Mrs. Blake is concerned, Fish Face is the perfect life mate for her daughter: not only is his mother president the Morals Committee, "she and I agree on everything" and Fish Face is being raised "properly--not petting and making love to every girl he meets."

Open mouth, insert tongue: Joan and Jack get physical.

"Oh, mother!" Joan protests. "Alan couldn't make love even if his mother wanted him to!"

This makes Mrs. Blake even more hysterical, if that's possible. "My whole day is ruined with your foolish nonsense!" she announces. "What's the younger generation coming to?!"

After Mrs. Blake unloads all this intelligence on her husband, he casually suggests she have "a talk" with Joan about how girls "get into trouble" and "have out of wedlock babies."

"Talk!" Mrs. Blake sputters. "Why, all I've done is talk! And I'm not going to fill her clean mind with a lot of worldly knowledge!"

Meanwhile, Joan is sneaking out and meeting Jack on the sly--he insists his sister does it all the time and she's in college, so what harm can there be?

One of several sex-education films used to pad-out the running time of today's film.

On one such date, Joan and Jack are snuggling in the front seat of a car. Pretty soon, one thing leads to another, Jack pledges eternal devotion and, sure enough, our teenage cuddlemates are doin' the Nasty. Unfortunately, there is no Milky After Glow for Joan once the Deed is Done.

"I feel like a leper," she sobs, adding she also feels "unclean" and "ashamed to associate with my friends." Jack, on the other hand, isn't bothered: "It was just one of those things," he shrugs.

Later on, over at the high school, Mr. Blackburn holds a very tepid "personal hygiene" discussion. A male student (who has a brother in the navy) asks what VD is. Mr. Blackburn says he can't go into specifics, but he'll lend him a book on the subject. Well! That's the last straw for Mrs. Blake and her club. The ladies insist the educator be fired pronto and the weak-as-water principal agrees. Telling his boss, "You can't fire me--I quit!" (but not in those exact words), Mr. Blackburn busily sets up an insurance office instead. His former students even show up to help him move in.

Unfortunately, after doin' the Nasty, Joan's world falls apart. First, cuddlemate Jack leaves "for the west coast" to learn the family's aviation business. Next, it's reported in the local paper that Jack has died in an air plane crash. D'oh! Soon after, Joan starts noticing her clothes are too tight and she's throwing up every morning. Worst of all, a quick check of her calendar reveals Aunt Flow hasn't been by for about three months. Putting two and two together, Joan comes to a horrifying conclusion: she's "in trouble", 1940's lingo for pregnant.

What's a girl to do? After all, her reputation is ruined. He family's been disgraced. Her mother will be forced out of her club! And what about Fish Face?!

 Joan realizes she's "in trouble"--her perm has totally frizzed out (she's pregnant, too).

Overwhelmed and desperate, Joan tries to off herself, but brother Dave stops her. He then insists "Butch" (his nickname for her) tell her what's wrong.

"I'm in trouble!" Joan wails.

The shocked Dave declares, "Who is it, Butch? I'll break his neck!"

Since the guilty party is dead, Dave does the next best thing: he heads over to Mr. Blackburn's insurance office for help. The teacher/insurance agent is saddened and shocked, of course, but he assures Dave he will think of something. The next day, Mr. Blackburn heads over to the Blake's and is given a chilly reception by the lady of the house. When Mrs. Blake refuses to get her husband, Mr. Blackburn blurts out, "I just wanted (to tell your husband) your daughter is going to have a baby!"

The Blake's are horrified. "Who was the boy!" Mrs. Blake demands. "I'll have him arrested!"

Mr. Blackburn (Hardie Albright) attempts to teach his students "the Facts of Life", but local busybodies fire him instead.

Mr. Blackburn just shakes his head. "Why blame the boy?" he asks.

"Well, who would you blame?" she exclaims.

Fixing her with a withering stare, Mr. Blackburn replies, "I'd blame you, Mrs. Blake. You and every parent who neglects the sacred duty of telling their children the real truth!"

Ripping her a new one, he adds, "When your children have to go to someone else for advice, you've fallen down on your job!"

Prissy hysteric that she is, Mrs. Blake starts fretting about the family's ruined reputation and about how she'll be kicked out of her club. Once again, Mr. Blackburn slaps some verbal sense into her: "Mrs. Blake, if I were you, I'd stop thinking about myself and start giving Joan some of the consideration a girl has a right to expect from her mother!"

"Gosh, who could they be talking about?": Another title card from "Mom and Dad".

After that, things move pretty quickly. Seeing the error of her ways, Mrs. Blake wises up and takes Joan to "visit relatives out of town"--way out of town. Mr. Blake, meanwhile, insists Mr. Blackburn be given his old job back. A class in "social hygiene" is soon available at the high school. Under the direction of "Dr. John Ashley", the girls of Centerville (and the audience) watch such mini-features as "The Facts of Life", "An Explanation of Sex Cycles" and "How Conception Takes Place in the Human Body" (Hint: it's by intercourse). There's also a close-up view of a C-Section (eww!). Later on, the boys of Centerville watch movies about the dangers of VD, which includes graphic images of spores and deformed babies.

Strong stuff, to be sure, but medically accurate.

As for Joan, depending on which print of "Mom and Dad" you screen, she either A) delivers a healthy baby that is soon adopted or B) endures a delivery that nearly kills her and ends in a still birth. After she returns to her hospital room, the Blake's are able to visit their daughter. Relieved that she's going to be OK, brother Dave gives thanks to God for "saving little Butch."

It's on this uplifting note that "Mom and Dad" ends its broadcast day. Goodbye and don't forget to pick up your free safe sex manuals from the "nurses" in the lobby!

It's impossible to know, of course, what viewers in 1945 thought of "Mom and Dad". Were they shocked, informed, educated, entertained? Or did they laugh it off the screen? Clearly the selling point of the picture was not the soapy saga of Joan and her prissy mother, that's for sure. Every movie trope you can think of (and a few you can't) about dumb parents/bad mothers were duly trotted out: moms are hysterical busybodies; dads are laid-back; parents are more concerned about girls retaining their "purity" than their sons retaining theirs; sex makes girls feel dirty; boys who impregnate girls always die; the local teacher knows more about raising kids than parents do. I bet a good portion of the viewing public found these hand-wringing theatrics rather tedious. After all, it was the promise to learn more about sex that drew people in in the first place.

Yet another promotional poster for "Mom and Dad". Note the name "Elliot Forbes" in the corner. This "expert" was actually an actor.

 The success of "Mom and Dad" inspired other such cautionary/exploitation films on similar themes, such as "The Desperate Women" (1958), "Street Corner" (1948) (about illegal abortion) and "The Story of Bob and Sally". The later, made in 1948 by Universal studios, was ultimately deemed too controversial to release. As always, these films' selling point was that they were grittier and more "honest" than the standard Hollywood studio "message" picture. When television arrived, the example of "Mom and Dad" no doubt inspired the "ABC After School Specials" that ran in the 1970's and '80's. These hour long dramas warned kids about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex. The flicks usually ran a disclaimer, encouraging kids and parents to watch the program together. Not to be left out were "the very special episodes" of sitcoms like "Family Ties", "Valerie", "Full House" and "Kate and Allie", where "social issues" (such as under-age drinking and sex) were explored, albeit with humor. We owe this to "Mom and Dad" as well.

So you see, movie lovers, Junk Cinema isn't just about monsters in rubber suits and actors like Vera Vague chewing the scenery. Well, actually, Junk Cinema is about monsters in rubber suits and actors like Vera Vague chewing the scenery...but it can be about important things, too. Consider this: several generations of movie goers received a better understanding of "the birds and the bees" from a movie shot in six days, featuring a family tumbling troupe and a character named "Fish Face" than they did from their own parents or respective school health classes. That's why Junk Cinema needs be seen as the valuable part of our cinematic heritage it is--and therefore needs to be protected, promoted and preserved.

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, ignorance doesn't protect anyone, and help me SAVE THE MOVIES.





 



























Thursday, November 26, 2020

"I Accuse My Parents" Or Neglecting Your Kids Can Be Murder

Jimmy Wilson accuses his parents in a rare newspaper ad for today's flick.

Hi-dee-ho, movie lovers. Sorry for the long delay between posts. Let's get started, shall we?

Being a parent may be the toughest job around. As Princess Grace of Monaco once said, "I don't think there is any formula for raising children. The best any parent can do is play it by ear and hope for the best."

However, even the most laid-back, hands-off parent would be appalled by the way Mr. and Mrs. Wilson (John Miljan and Vivienne Osbourne) treat their only son, Jimmy (Robert Lowell).

The Wilsons drink, party, sleep around, bicker, gamble, never clean house or cook healthy meals. They treat their child like an after-thought, if they ever think of him at all. No wonder, then, when Jimmy is accused of murder, he tells the judge "I accuse my parents"--which also happens to be the title of today's featured flick.

 Made in 1944 by PRC Pictures, "I Accuse My Parents" is an earnest yet hilarious cautionary tale that dares to show how neglectful, drunk folks can turn their children from honest shoe salesmen into mob errand boys due to their neglectful, drunk folks ways.

"His Finest Hour": Jimmy Wilson (James Lowell), essay contest winner.  

As noted earlier, Jimmy is the neglected son of self-involved, drunk folks. He also goes to great lengths to keep this information from his friends and neighbors.

How great a length, you ask?

When Jimmy submits an entry in an essay contest, it's titled "My Home and Family" and it paints an idyllic picture of a happy home with devoted, loving parents. The essay so impresses the judges, it wins first place. The principal of Jimmy's school even invites Mrs. Wilson to sit on the coveted Mother's Committee for his up-coming high school graduation.

Jimmy rushes home with the good news, but mom's not around. Even worse, cigarettes and empty bottles litter the living room, magazines and newspapers are scattered about. Suddenly sexy neighbor Shirley (Florence Johnson) strolls in. Seeing all the liquor bottles, Shirley twitters, "You can offer me a drink if you wanna--and I think you wanna!" 

Seconds later Mr. Wilson arrives and begins complaining about the messy house and uncooked dinner. When Shirley defends his wife, Mr. Wilson says, "You women do sure stick together, don't you?"

"Love Thy Neighbor": Mr. Wilson (John Miljan) shows more interest in neighbor Shirley (Florence Johnson) than in his teenage son.

"Not necessarily," purrs Shirley, wrapping her arms around Mr. Wilson. "I'd rather stick to an attractive man."

Before anything interesting (or illegal) happens, Mrs. Wilson shows up, looking like she's been sucking lemons.

"Home so early, Dan?" she asks.

"I was a half-hour late," Mr. Wilson retorts. "But at least I was only detained on business. I suppose you had more important things to do!"

 "You needn't be so cross about it!" Mrs. Wilson replies. "But the buses are so crowded and I couldn't get a taxi." She then turns to Jimmy and says, "Fix mother a drink, James, I'm exhausted." (From drinking so much?)

                      "Home, Sweet Home"?: The Wilson's engage in another bicker session.                 
                                     
"I don't suppose you could have left an hour earlier?" Mr. Wilson asks.

"No I couldn't," Mrs. Wilson snaps, growing more irritated by the second.

Sensing trouble brewing, sexy neighbor Shirley excuses herself  by brightly saying, "Well, may the best man win!"

The Wilsons then begin fighting, accusing each other of neglecting their familial responsibilities. Mr. Wilson accuses his wife of partying all over town. Mrs Wilson accuses her husband of gambling and staying out late.

"I've had just about enough!" Mr. Wilson thunders. "No decent meals on time! The house is always a mess!"
Jimmy Wilson assures him mother he'd never accuse her of anything.

"You do what you please, why shouldn't I do what I please?" Mrs. Wilson shrugs.

When Mr. Wilson threatens to leave, Mrs. Wilson screams, "That suits me! I'd have divorced you years ago if it hadn't been for Jimmy!"

"Mom, dad, please!" Jimmy interjects.

Too late. Mr. Wilson has stormed off and Mrs. Wilson has collapsed in tears.

Trying to console his mom, Jimmy tells her about his essay contest win and that she's been asked to serve on the Mother's Committee for his high school graduation. This perks Mrs. Wilson up and it looks as if things have simmered down...until Mrs. Wilson shows up at Jimmy's school drunk as a skunk. (Although to be fair, Mr. Wilson baited and insulted her, which probably drove her to start hitting the sauce.)

 
"I'm not not drunk! It's the rest of you who are sober!": Mrs. Wilson joins Jimmy at school.

"I'm Jimmy Wilson's mother," she slurs, trying to keep her hat from falling off.

"She's drunk!" one of Jimmy's classmates squeals.

"How shocking!" gasps the principal (who is a dead ringer for Eleanor Roosevelt.)

Jimmy quickly hustles his drunk ma back home, horrified that his idyllic home life has been exposed as a sham.

How will he cope with such a humiliation? By throwing himself into his work, of course.


A color title card shows the thrilling moment when Jimmy asks Kitty Reed for her shoe size.

 Shortly after graduation, Jimmy is hired at an upscale shoe store. It's there, while cleaning the windows, that he first feasts his eyes on the blindingly blonde Kitty Reed (Mary Beth Hughes, who received top billing). She's come to purchase shoes, naturally, and Jimmy, so smitten, stumbles all over himself  trying to help her. Eventually Kitty settles on a pair of black suede slippers and Jimmy agrees to deliver them to her apartment...even though the store doesn't do deliveries. Once there, Jimmy and Kitty start talking and we learn A) Kitty comes from a broken home, B) she's the featured singer at the Paradise night club and C) she's the arm candy of mobster Charlie Blake (George Meeker). Actually, Kitty doesn't tell Jimmy that she's a mobster's arm candy; we learn that later. After Jimmy leaves, room mate Vera notices how dazzled Kitty appears to be by Jimmy. She takes it upon herself to remind her gal-pal that Charlie Blake "is madly in love with you"--and he wouldn't take kindly to learning that his doll was hooking up with a shoe salesman.

"But Jimmy's so sweet," Kitty says. "He's the kind of kid every girl dreams of..."

"Now don't tell me this is love at first sight!" an incredulous Vera snaps.

"Well, what's so wrong about that?" Kitty asks before flitting off to prepare for her show.

When Jimmy arrives home, he's anxious to talk to his parents about Kitty. The Wilsons, however, have invited their friends over for a party. While his mother dances the two-step with an unidentified man, sexy neighbor Shirley is sitting on Mr. Wilson's lap. Then a fellow partier suggests they all head over "to Jack Taylor's beach house." As the guests dash for their cars, Jimmy corners his parents and reminds them that "tomorrow is my birthday." Instead of canceling their plans, the Wilsons hand Jimmy $20 bucks and tell him to celebrate with his own friends. 

"Oh, we were just leaving.": Jimmy's parents ditch him yet again for a party at Jack Taylor's beach house.

His parents gone, Jimmy makes the fateful decision to see Kitty at the Paradise night club. It's here that "I Accuse My Parents" showcases Mary Beth Hughes' singing skills. Her first number is an up-beat toe tapper called "Are You Happy in Your Work?" While singing, Kitty moves among the club's patrons, warbling, "Are you grateful/You're alive?/Is your day full/nine-to-five?/Livin' in the rhythm that I'm speakin' of/ You'll be happy in your work /If you're in love." Jimmy's so entranced by Kitty he looks as if he'd been hit in the back of the head by a 2x4 or shot in the neck with an elephant tranquilizer.

Later on, dapper Charlie Blake arrives. Although Kitty tells her mobster cuddlemate "to lay off" Jimmy, Blake can't help but see the infatuated shoe salesman as a potential patsy. When he, Kitty and Jimmy head over to another night club (a western-themed place), Charlie schemes to put Jimmy in his debt. As Kitty sings "Love Came Between Us", the mobster orders expensive alcohol and tells the head waiter that Jimmy will pay the tab. When the bill turns out to be $78 bucks (!), the shocked Jimmy doesn't want to seen like a needy, nerdy loser, so he writes a personal check--even though he doesn't have the funds in his account to cover it!

Wracked with guilt, and desperate not to bounce a check, Jimmy heads over to Charlie's office the next day and asks for a job. Of course, Jimmy doesn't tell Mr. Blake he's in need of funds for himself; instead, he lies and says he's wants to earn extra cash "to help a friend." Soon enough, Charlie has Jimmy delivering "packages" to all sorts of places at all hours of the night. Jimmy never asks what's in the "packages" and he it never occurs to him that Charlie might be involved in anything, oh, illegal. 

Meanwhile, his romance with Kitty is heating up. In a series of montages, we see Jimmy and Kitty eating out in fancy restaurants, Jimmy and Kitty dancing in ritzy night cubs, Jimmy showering Kitty with expensive presents--and he only graduated from high school a couple of weeks ago! Strangely, Kitty never tells her cuddlemate that she's also seeing Charlie...nor does Kitty tell Charlie she's seeing Jimmy. However, when Jimmy starts throwing money around, Kitty asks Jimmy if he has a new job or something. Jimmy lies and says no. Later on, Kitty asks Charlie if Jimmy's working for him. Charlie lies and says no. Then Charlie asks Kitty if she "built him up" to Jimmy like he asked her to. Kitty lies and says she did. Since nobody appears to be worried about all the lying they're doing, I guess we shouldn't, either.

As for Jimmy's parents, they have only a passing interest in what their son is doing. After Jimmy leaves for yet another night on the town with Kitty, Mrs. Wilson asks her husband if he's noticed that their son "has changed", pointing out that some nights "he doesn't come home at all!"

Open Mic Night at the Grand Ole Opry? Nope, it's singer star Kitty Reed wowing 'em with her rendition of "Love Came Between Us."

"Maybe he stayed with a friend," Mr. Wilson mumbles from the couch. "It's a little late to start asking questions now."

"After all, you're his father!" Mrs. Wilson protests. "You ought to keep an eye on him!"

"You're his mother!" Mr. Wilson snaps back. "If you stayed home once in a while, you might know what he's up to."

And with that dismissive remark, Mr. Wilson heads off to his club to play cards.

Charlie once again has a "package" for Jimmy to deliver, but this time the errand seems a little fishy. See, the contact gives Jimmy a letter and tells him to deliver it right away. When Jimmy returns to Mr. Blake's office with the note, Charlie is furious--until he reads the message. Then he has Jimmy go rent a car and meet some fellow "associates" later in the evening. On his way out, Jimmy rings Kitty on one of Mr. Blake's phones. Unbeknownst to the cuddlemates, Charlie is listening on the other end--and is furious when Jimmy calls himself Kitty's "boyfriend"!

Jimmy wonders if Charlie is happy in his work.

Rushing over to Kitty's, Charlie orders her to end it with Jimmy--or else. And to make sure Kitty does what she's told, Mr. Blake hides in the bedroom.

Needless to say, Jimmy is devastated when Kitty suddenly blows him off, ridiculing his career as a shoe salesman and implying that he'll never be successful enough to support her in the style she's become accustomed to. Jimmy stomps off and meets the other "associates" of Mr. Blake's at a warehouse. While sitting in the rented car, Jimmy hears gun shots. Suddenly the other "associates" (dragging a painting) tell Jimmy to step on it. Back in Mr. Blake's office, Jimmy finally learns that Charlie deals in stolen goods--and those "packages" were all illegal merchandise! When Jimmy vows to go to the police, Charlie slaps him silly and tells him that he's in too deep to play innocent. Instead, the mobster tells Jimmy to "lay low" and skip town for a while, "until things cool off." Jimmy agrees and staggers off for home. Once he's gone, Charlie orders his two other "associates" to kill Jimmy.

Desperate, over come with fear and grief, and sweating bullets, Jimmy arrives home to an empty house. When he calls for his dad at his club, Mr. Wilson, busy with a poker game, refuses to take the call. The next day, the police visit the shoe store asking for Jimmy. He manages to dodge the cops, but later on he runs into two of Charlie's "associates", who proceed to beat him up. Feeling the walls closing in on him, Jimmy packs a suite case, leaves his parents a note, swipes his dad's gun (!) and heads for the hills. In yet another montage, a worried looking Jimmy is seen walking down endless streets, hopping freight trains and thumbing for rides.

The poor dope ends up in a one-horse town, tired and hungry. Outside a cafe, Jimmy spies a portly chef named Al Frazier (George Lloyd) counting his money. Intending to rob him, Jimmy enters the cafe and orders a hamburger. Al, however, knows a hard case when he sees one. While cooking him up a burger, the folksy Frazier shares his philosophy of life: "Share what you've got and you'll never want." He talks Jimmy out of robbing him and instead offers him a job and a place to live. Jimmy quickly agrees. There is one condition, though: Jimmy has to attend church with Al. He's an usher, you see, and it wouldn't look right if Jimmy didn't worship with him.

"Six days a week I work for myself," Al explains. "On the seventh day I work for the church."

Al Frazier (George Lloyd) offers life hacks along with hamburgers.

Weeks, even months pass, and Jimmy begins to rebuild his life--and broaden his cooking skills--under Al's mentoring. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson haven't notice that their son has vanished into thin air. Kitty, however, is deeply saddened by her cuddlemate's departure. At the Paradise night club, leaning against a grand piano, Kitty croons the mournful ballad "Where Can You Be?", obviously inspired by Jimmy. When her set is over, Charlie tells her not waste any more time mooning over the long lost dope and to do the town with him. Reluctantly, Kitty agrees.

Despite his new purpose driven life, Jimmy eventually realizes he must "square accounts" and return home. Al joins him. His first stop is to visit Kitty, who tells him that Charlie made her say all those awful things and break-up with him. Then Jimmy confronts Charlie, informing him that they're going to tell the police everything about Blake's illegal crime ring. Naturally, Charlie refuses and pulls out a gun. Naturally, Jimmy tries to wrestle the fire arm away from him. Naturally, just as the cops, Kitty and Al converge en masse at the gangster's head quarter's, shots ring out. Naturally, we find poor Jimmy staring at the floor, while Charlie Blake lies lifeless nearby...

Then it's back to the court room where this whole sordid saga began. Facing the judge, Jimmy wails, "I tried to take the gun away from him! But it went off!(Author's note: Funny how that ALWAYS happens. I mean, am I right?) Oh, I know I've lied, I've cheated...but maybe I wouldn't have started lying to my schoolmates if I hadn't been ashamed of my home life. (Pause.) If I hadn't been ashamed that my parents were denying me the understanding I was entitled to. (Another pause.) The love and protection a boy needs. (And another pause.) The guidance that sets him straight."

 Jimmy then turns away from the judge, faces the courtroom, takes a deep breath and declares, "And that's why I accuse my parents!"

Whew!

The judge (John B. Anthony) accuses Mr. and Mrs. Wilson of being lousy parents.

The judge soberly considers what Jimmy has said. He replies that much of the testimony given at the trial backs up Jimmy's version of events. His Honor declares Jimmy not guilty of killing Charlie Blake. Yes! However, the judge does find Jimmy guilty of working in cahoots with a crime ring and sentences him to five years at the Big House. No! Then the judge reduces Jimmy's sentence to a two-year suspended sentence. Yes! Court is dismissed and Jimmy is released into the custody of his parents--WHAT?!!!

Didn't we just spend 60 minutes of our precious time watching Jimmy being neglected by his parents? Didn't he just finish blaming them for all his troubles? Didn't the flashbacks clearly demonstrate that Mr. and Mrs. Wilson aren't fit to raise a fern? Why is the judge sending Jimmy back to them? Why isn't Al appointed his guardian? Or Kitty? Your honor, in the name of Junk Cinema, I object!

"I Accuse My Parents" never explains why Mr. and Mrs. Wilson are suddenly off the hook for all their parental malfeasance. Nor are viewers given any reason to believe this couple has suddenly turned into Ozzie and Harriet.  Instead, the flick launches into a sober monologue that would do Tucker Carlson proud. The movie judge states that disinterested, drunk folks like the Wilson's turn their kids into mob errand boys "by pursuing their own pleasures". Therefore, they better stop or their kids could end up like Jimmy. End of story.

PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation), which is responsible for "I Accuse My Parents", was a "Poverty Row" studio that ran from 1939 to 1947. They managed to churn out 179 feature films and never spent more than $100,000 on any of them. Typical PRC fare included "The Devil Bat" with Bela Lugosi, "Misbehaving Husbands" and "Jungle Man." Yet they were so proud of "I Accuse My Parents" PRC arranged to have it shown free of charge to servicemen overseas.

The website Oldies.com describes our featured flick as "a pious potboiler" that declares "exactly who is to blame for juvenile delinquency: mom and dad!" They also called it "a shameless exploitation film."

The police accuse Jimmy Wilson of shooting mobster Charlie Blake.

Well, "I Accuse My Parents" is an exploitation film. These kinds of low-rent "cautionary tales" thrived from the 1930's until the early 1960's, promising movie goers a more honest portrayal of life's hard truths than their bigger-budgeted Hollywood counter-parts (who were hemmed in by the Motion Picture Production Code). Unfortunately, their much hyped "gritty realism" was just promotional razzle-dazzle; exploitation flicks rarely delivered the kind of shocks they promised. In fact, they were often preachy and tone-deaf, offering simple solutions to complex problems like addiction or parental neglect. However, they're fun to watch and provided Junk Cinema with some of its more colorful characters.

Like Mary Beth Hughes, the top rated star of our flick. Best known today as Henry Fonda's cuddlemate in "The Ox-Bow Incident"(1943), she had bit parts in "The Women", "The Dancing Co-Ed" and the musical "Fast and Furious"(all made in 1939). Although she was placed under contract at different times at MGM and 20th Century-Fox, Hughes failed to land significant roles at either studio; eventually, she found her way into B movies and TV appearances. Tired of auditioning for "sexy grandmother roles", Mary Beth worked as a receptionist, telemarketer and salon manager, while still appearing in nightclubs. She dated Robert Stack for a year (against the wishes of her studio) and married three times herself. Hughes does all her own singing in "I Accuse My Parents" and toured in a musical production of "Alice in Wonderland" while in her teens. It's too bad Mary Beth wasn't able to get a better toe-hold in movies because she did show quite a bit of promise.

James Lowell, as the hapless Jimmy Wilson, appeared in the ne plus ultra of exploitation films, "Mom and Dad" (1944). He played the dashing flyboy who impregnates small-town innocent June Carlson, then has the nerve to die in plane crash seconds later. "Mom and Dad" and "I Accuse My Parents" appear to be the most prominent roles of his career. After that, Lowell appeared in bit parts in flicks like "Jiggs and Maggie in Court" (1948), "Two Guys from Milwaukee" (1946), "An American Romance" (1944) and "Sound Off" (1952). Then in 1994, he showed up as  the "old priest" in "Hellbound". As Jimmy, Lowell is earnest as all get out, but the basic stupidity of his character (and situation) undercuts his acting. The flick's preachy tone doesn't help, either. Perhaps the most realistic part of "I Accuse My Parents" is John B. Anthony, who played the judge. In real life, Mr. Anthony was the moderator the radio program "The Court of Goodwill", so he was well versed in family drama.  

Now we come to the part where I ask, "What have we learned from watching 'I Accuse My Parents'?"

We learned that neglectful, drunk folks become neglectful, drunk parents.

"What's a five letter word for someone who plays around on his wife and neglects his kid?": Mr. Wilson doesn't think anyone would accuse him of being a bad parent.

We learned that earnest sincerity on the part of a film's leading man can't over come a bad script, uninspired direction and the bad acting of other cast members.

We learned that when your boss asks you to deliver "packages" at all hours of the night, you might want to ask why--and inquire what's in the packages, too.

We learned that if you're going to enter an essay contest, your entry must be honest and truthful, not some made-up fantasy, because you will be found out.

We learned that movies like "I Accuse My Parents" might be be low-rent and nutty, but Junk Cinema is the perfect place to protect and preserve them.

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, the drunk, neglectful folks of today begat the mobsters of tomorrow. And help me SAVE THE MOVIES!


"But will you still respect me in the morning?": Robert Lowell puts the moves on June Carlson in "Mom and Dad" (1944). This is one of the films Lowell appeared in before going AWOL from the movies.






























Friday, October 23, 2020

Donald J. Trump: Will You Please Go Now? (Inspired by Dr. Seuss)


The time has come.

The time is NOW.

Just go.

I don't care how.

You can go by foot.

You can go by cow.

Donald J. Trump, will you please go now?!

You can go on skates.

You can stay at one of your estates.

You can go on skies.

Just please go. Please!

If you like you can go in an old blue shoe.

Just go, go, go.

And take Mitch McConnell, too.

Donald J. Trump, I don't care how.

Donald J. Trump, will you please go now?!

You can go on stilts.

Or hop over the fence.

Whatever you choose, just be sure and take Mike Pence.

Get on you way!

Please, Donald J.!

You've packed the Supreme Court, you've schmoozed with dictators.

You've ignored Neo-Nazis and encouraged QAnon fabricators.

Civil rights you detest, veterans you scorn.

You insult our allies and ignore your first born.

You dismissed COVID-19, claiming it would "just go away".

Yet over 200,000 have perished--and what did you say?

"It is what it is."

And, frankly, that's just not OK.

So on your way, Donald J.!

You can go by balloon.

Or broomstick.

Or jet.

I don't care how you go.

Just as long as you GET!

      Please gather your enablers and pack up your spouse,

Climb into an Uber and leave the White House!

A free and fair election, that's what I demand!

No meddling from Russia or obstruction by your hand.

Don't cry "Foul!" if the vote goes Joe Biden's way.

Just remember it's We, the People, who have final say.

So Donald J. Trump,

Wherever you are,

Hit the bricks--and take A.G. William P. Barr!

Head for Mar-A-Largo.

Go, go and go!

It's time to pack up this "reality show."

So get in on a plane, a boat or canoe.

A twelve-seater bike--anything will do!

For the time has come.

The time is now.

Donald J. Trump:

Will You Please Go Now?!!


This poem was inspired by Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now? written by Dr. Seuss and copyrighted in 1971.

















 

 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Meghan And Harry's Netflix Deal Is A Real Royal Knock Out

Prince Edward and the Queen are not amused with Netflix.

Huzzah, movie lovers!

With all the crazy s!%& happening in the world at this moment, you'd be forgiven if you failed to notice that Harry and Meghan (the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to you) just inked a big bucks deal with Netflix to produce "uplifting" content, like documentaries and such.

While this announcement produced polite interest in the USA, it raised collective blood pressures in the UK. Remember, the Sussex's decamped for North America last winter and "stepped back" from their roles as "senior working royals". This remains a very controversial move and feelings are still raw. Some British Netflix users even threatened to cancel their subscriptions when they heard the announcement! Making things even worse,  H and M "forgot" to properly inform HM QE II about the deal. A simple over-sight, I'm sure.

However, the one "royal" I bet who is really stewed about this Netflix thing is Harry's Uncle Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex. Why?

Because as Junk Cinema lovers know, Ed Windsor is the Ed Wood of the royal family.

A royal inspiration?: Ed Wood relaxes between takes.

No, not because he's an angora sweater fan.

It's because, like Ed Wood, Ed Windsor is--or rather was--a film maker/producer with great ambitions, but very little talent.

Let me explain.

Way back in the mid-1980's, after he finished his university education, Ed, QE II's youngest child, joined the Marines. This was not unusual. In fact, for decades, royal males who had little or no chance of inheriting the throne were regularly farmed out to the armed services. This tradition A) got the guys out of the house, B) kept them out of trouble (at least until shore leave), C) gave them something worthwhile to do and D) made the royal family look patriotic.

Unfortunately, mere weeks into his military training, Ed decided to opt out. As this had never happened before, the hyperactive British tabloid press went into a frenzy. His folks weren't too happy, either. Yet Edward stuck to his guns and left the service. However, that begged the question: what was the prince going to do now?

 To the shock of his queen and country, Edward announced he was going into show business. 


The House of Windsor (and the British public) were shocked when Prince Edward left the Marines to enter the entertainment industry.

First Ed worked for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatre company. Then he decided to strike out on his own to make movies and TV programs.

In true Junk Cinema fashion, Ed had never studied film or television production, directing, script writing or anything related to running a production company. In this way, he was following in the hollowed foot-steps of such Junk Cinema luminaries as Hal P. Warren and James L. Wolcott, who also quit their day jobs (as a fertilizer salesman and an accountant, respectively) to follow their dreams of becoming film makers...with delightfully dreadful results (see "Manos: The Hands of Fate" and "The Wild Women of Wongo").

Edward's first production was a made-for-TV extravaganza titled "It's a Royal Knockout!" (1987). Imagined as a fundraiser for various charities, "It's a Royal Knockout!" appeared to be inspired by the cheese-fest "Battle of the Network Stars", where "network stars" from ABC, NBC and CBS competed in various athletic competitions. However, further research revealed it was actually inspired by a British TV show titled "It's a Knockout!", where citizens from rival towns competed against each other in silly, humiliating "contests." Apparently, this was a favorite show of Ed's, providing an uncomfortable peek into the young royal's personal tastes--or lack there of.

As conceived by Ed, "It's a Royal Knockout!" featured various stars ( like Meat Loaf, Sheena Easton, John Travolta and Jane Seymour, among others) dressed up in mock medieval costumes while they ran crazy obstacle courses, got drenched with water and had pies thrown in their faces. This was done in front of a cheering (?) crowd of spectators and the BBC recorded every magic moment.

The teams of participating celebrities were each headed by one of Ed's royal siblings: Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Andrew's future ex-wife Fergie (it was 1987, remember) and Edward himself. These "senior working royals" were also dressed in mock medieval finery, with Edward looking every inch like Mr. B Natural in mustard tights, pixie boots and a feathered cap. Although the royals were "the team leaders", and spent much of their time on the sidelines, Anne, Fergie, Andrew and Edward  did participate in some of the japes, like having fake hams pelted at them.

"It's a Royal Knockout!" was a ratings hit and raised a nice chunk of change for charity. However, critical reaction to show was universally negative, even scathing, which came as a complete surprise to Mr. Windsor.

"Say Cheese!": Fergie, Edward, Andrew and Anne smile bravely through their royal knockout.

The first hint Edward had that his debut production had not gone over well came shortly after "Knockout" ended its broadcast day. The producer/prince went to the press tent and asked the assembled reporters, "Well, what did you think?"

HRH was first met with silence, then nervous laughter.

"Well, thanks for being sounding so bloody enthusiastic!" Edward screamed, before stomping off in a huff.

Public reaction was even harsher. Citizens at all levels of British society acknowledged that "It's a Royal Knockout!" might have raised considerable funds for charity, but it did so at the expense of the royal family's public image as bastions of respectability, decorum and integrity, not too mention good taste.

Furthermore, critics, pundits and regular Jacks and Jills also wondered how such a nutty idea ever made it past the armies of courtiers and PR gate keepers employed by Buckingham Palace to make sure such things never happen in the first place.

"I should point the camera where?": Royal filmmaker Ed Wood consults with an expert before beginning filmming.

One of the great things about Junk Cinema is not only the films--which are priceless--but also the back stories of how those films were created--which are also priceless. And the back story behind "It's a Royal Knockout!" is no exception.

See, when Ed began pitching his project, neither the flunkies at BP or his royal parents thought this was a good idea. According to the British newspaper The Independent, Prince Philip thought his children's involvement in such a program was "unwise and unwelcome". Pops also wondered why Edward and his siblings didn't "let the TV people get on with it and just turn up to accept the cheques? He's making us look foolish."

According to royal biographer Ben Pimlott (author of The Queen), even QE II believed her son's TV program wasn't a good idea. Quoting one of her friends, Pimlott wrote: "She was against it. But one of her faults is she can't say 'no'." Another source added, "'There was not a single courtier', one recalls, 'who did not think this was a mistake.' Their advice was confounded by youthful enthusiasm and the Queen's maternal indulgence."

Therefore, while  Prince Philip and the Queen thought "It's a Royal Knockout!" was a disaster in the making, they couldn't bring themselves to stop it. Penny Junor, author of The Firm, told the British newspaper The Express that queen's private secretary, Bill Heseltine, tried to halt the program. However, the combination of the Queen's reluctance to confront her son and Edward's insistence that the project go forward proved insurmountable. Therefore, once the queen gave her OK, the courtiers had no choice but to allow His Royal Halfwit to merrily bobsled straight into the bowels of PR hell.

Incidentally, there was one person in the royal orbit who did have the balls to see this project for what it was and refuse to associate himself with it: Prince Charles. Not only did the Prince of Wales refuse to participate, he wouldn't allow his future ex-wife Diana to join in, either, much to Di's reported distress.

Doting royal mum Queen Elizabeth's reaction to son Edward's "It's a Royal Knockout!" 

For having the brains to stay out of this lethal lunacy, Charles proved his right to be king.

Unfortunately, his foresight was not taken seriously by his fellow royals. 

In her first memoir (My Story, with Jeff Coplon) published shortly after divorcing Andrew in 1996, Fergie recalled, "When Charles and Diana declined the invitation, I remember feeling miffed...Later I realized how smart they had been--that you can't put your neck on the line when there's an 'HRH' by your name."

Indeed, while "It's a Royal Knock Out!" was Edward's baby, and it was the Queen who gave final approval, it was Fergie (in her opinion) who ended up receiving an unusually large portion of criticism for the program itself, seriously damaging her public image.

As Fergie admitted "It's a Royal Knockout!" "was all in good spirit and for a good cause, but it ended in a public relations debacle." She added, "I was ready to take my share of heat from the show. I was not prepared to be cast as the villain of the piece...but that is exactly what happened." Fergie would go on to lament, "'It's a Royal Knockout!' would be analyzed as my first great blunder. It seemed so unfair to me. As captain of the blue team, I might have mugged and cheered more freely than the rest, me being such a fun-loving sort. I was the new girl on the block--why should I be singled out as course and vulgar? What of Edward and Anne and Andrew, whose lead I was following? Why should I be blamed?"

Andrew: "I say, what's burning over there?"
Fergie: "I looks to me like our reputations."

For the record, Fergie felt because she was merely "royal by marriage" instead of "royal by birth", she was "expendable" and therefore the courtiers of BP felt no need to protect her as diligently as they did her in-laws.

After masterminding such an awful public debacle, one would think Edward would get the hint that film and TV production were not his thing. Or perhaps he would realize he needed some serious training and enroll in film school. Ah, no. Instead, Ed forged ahead and created his own production company called "Ardent". Unlike so many other Junk Cinema aspirants, who often had to make do with skimpy budgets and cheap equipment, Ed had deep-pocketed pals like the Sultan of Brunei to back roll him (Ray Dennis Steckler, on the other hand, got his nickname "Cash Flagg" because he would only accept cash payments from investors. That came about after too many backers wrote him checks that bounced).

Although money wasn't a problem for Ardent, coming up with projects that people actually wanted to see was. Other than documentaries about royalty, Edward had a hard time coming up with other ideas. Without anything interesting to pitch, Ardent quickly became an in-joke in the British entertainment industry. By 2011, Ardent closed its doors for good. The only time Ed's company posted a profit was because they hadn't been charged for office space...and since the office space in question was located in Ed's house, that seemed only fair.

With his dream of becoming another David Lean quashed, Ed returned to the royal family fold and devoted himself to his duties as "a senior working royal".

However, "It's a Royal Knockout!" would take on a life of its own. It would be mentioned alongside of Edward VIII's abdication, Fergie's topless toe-sucking photos, "The War of the Wales'" divorce conniptions, Charles' tampon confessions to future wife Camilla and Princess Margaret's affair with a hippie 17 years her junior as one of the more embarrassing events in 20th century royal history.

Edward, on the other hand, doesn't agree. Whenever he's asked about "It's a Royal Knockout!", Ed stoutly defends his production, asking how anyone could deem a program a failure when it achieved high ratings and raised about a million pounds for charity.

"Not Their Finest Hour": Actual contestants from "It's a Royal Knockout!"

To which I would respond, "Have you actually watched the show?"

Since he's still defending "It's a Royal Knockout!" some-30 years after it was made, Ed reminds me of Phil Tucker, the genius behind "Robot Monster" (1953). Like Ed, Phil had little or no experience in filmmaking and "Robot Monster" was his first directorial effort. Like "It's a Royal Knockout!", "Robot Monster" was met with howling critical disdain--so much so that Phil suffered a nervous breakdown as a result. After he recovered, Tucker would continue to defended his movie, pointing out he did the best he could under the circumstances, just like Ed.

So it's not too hard to imagine, is it movie lovers, that if the Queen is miffed about Harry and Meghan's Netflix deal (and secretly worrying about another "It's a Royal Knockout!" is in the works) Uncle Edward is probably fuming? No doubt he's sitting his study, nursing a brandy, complaining to anybody who will listen that if he had been given a deal with Netflix, just imagine the "uplifting content" he could have produced! 

Well, it's not all bad, HRH. For daring to go where royals should never tread, for convincing his siblings to make asses of themselves on TV, for joining the ranks of Phil Tucker, Hal P. Warren and James L. Wolcott (among others) by making a jaw-dropping and eye-popping cinematic suppository that has stood the test of time, Prince Edward earned the admiration of bad movie fanatics everywhere.

In other words Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Junk Cinema salutes you!


His Royal Haughtiness: Ed Windsor (back in 1987) upbraids the press for failing to properly respect "It's a Royal Knockout!"