Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Horror Of...Halloween Night, Mr. Boogedy - The Boogedy Saga

Halloween looms ever closer. And as it does, the veil between the living and the dead parts. (...I may have just read that in a comic book.) And everywhere seems to get just full up of ghosts. Damn, spectral tourist.

To get away from the knocking and moaning around my abode I thought I'd head for a more rustic vista. Ghosts don't like musty old places without electricity or Internet, right? Or is that kids? ...I suppose I should figure out things like this before acting.

Well, while I look for a dictionary, let's preemptively haunt ourselves with some Mr. Boogedy.

Mr. Boogedy was produced by Disney and put on TV in 1986. It was for another of the Disney shows, Disney Sunday Movies. It wasn't at Halloween, yet we somehow got The Last Flight of Noah's Ark (No. I will never let that go.). Still, it did quickly become a Halloween staple on repeat.

The movie has an interesting history. It made its way to screens along an odd path. In interviews with the director, Oz Scott, he mentions that originally the writer, Michael Janover, had wanted to make more of a spoof movie for the big screen. Originally it was called, Cheap Thrills. It would have been something more along the lines of Airplane!, likely to be starring Cheech and Chong. He wanted to to have several celebrities pass through the movie. Included in this would have been Max von Sydow, as a priest trying to give a holy water enema to the movie's dad. The movie would seem to have largely been a play off of The Exorcist. (...Oh my god. I think I know when that movie would and did look like...And it did star Leslie Nielsen and Linda Blair...I hope I don't have to review it someday.) The ideas didn't sit well with those initial producers. So it was passed on.

But it found itself at Disney eventually. And there, it was turned into less an adult movie and more a kid friendly movie. (And if I ever look at that movie, we can consider if this kiddie switch was for the best.) It was not a priority project, and got little support. The makeup artist on the movie, Rick Stratton, was given little, an old mask mold of a disfigured face, and he did some magic. He reworked and painted it, and there arose the ghoulish figure of this film, Mr. Boogedy. It proves to be an effective result. And it's a credit to Stratton's skill. It is not a face you want to meet.

Somewhere along the lines, in my youth, I started to think of Boogedy as Mr. Booger (I was such a cultivated child.). I have been reminded in rewatching the film of the old (Is it even remotely in use anymore?) phrase, "Boogedy! Boogedy Boo!", used as a variation on saying "boo" or "oooo". (The writer actually has said that he was inspired by the use of the word "boogedy"  in the Stephen King movie,Cat's Eye.) But I used to know that phrase well enough as a kid. So I have no idea where the booger thing came from...except he looks like one, and I was an obnoxious little...kid.

Also the bugeting can be seen in production. It is structured to run during an hour of TV programming, with ads. Also the cast is very tightly set. No more than absolutely needed. When you see the town they are in, it's empty. When they do a flashback to the past, everyone, but the named characters keeps silent (Meaning no added expense.).

While producers might have thought of this movie as a trivial little fill-in, it proved to find an eager audience, getting a great response from viewers. And it has maintained a passionate fan base for nearly 3 decades now. And even led to a sequel.

And, as a ghost story it works quite well. It's simple enough. The story of a cruel and greedy man who makes deal with the devil, steals a child, and leaves the child's mother in eternal torment, unable to be with her child. So you have one vindictive haunter, one trapped child spirit, and a mother's spirit trapped just outside the doors, weeping. All three either unwilling or unable to move on. All good ghost stories needs their tragedy.

And it feels like classic ghost story, passed down through the generations. If you do ever hear or trade ghost stories, you've likely heard a story like it. And placed in this little tale we have a family (the Davis family) moving into a new house and trying to settle in. And as a result, the spectral status quo is in upheaval.

The special effects are fine...for 1986. Kids today could be unimpressed, but kids can be more forgiving than film connoisseurs.

And the cast is made up of solid actors who take on their roles in the spirit the movie intends. It is a scary ghost tale, but also partially ridiculous, with a family that is prank obsessed. So there is a jokey quality. And you have John Astin, walking around in an outfit that makes him look a bit like the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But he is throwing himself into his role, and I think what he's doing will work great with kids. But he's always a treat to watch.

It makes for a satisfying and short movie that can engage kids and be amusing for families.

And it's capable cast help the movie keep moving, and helps you to care for these people as they get face their haunted home.

So let's meet the main cast:

Richard Masur plays Carleton Davis, the dad. He's been in so many things over the years, including One Day at a Time and Rhoda, back in the day. As for horror, he was part of Stephen King's It and The Thing.

Mimi Kennedy plays Eloise Davis, the mom. She's also been in so many things over the years including Tales from the Crypt and Dharma and Greg.

Kristy Swanson plays Jennifer Davis, the daughter. She's well known to for many things. For being in movies like Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Mannequin: On the Move, The Phantom, and Swamp Shark. But a lot of us go right to her lead role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In the role of the sons of the family, Aurie and Corwin, we have Benjamin Gregory and David Faustino. Gregory may be memorable to many of us as the young son on the TV show ALF. Faustino is remembered by many as the son on Married With Children. He's also gone on to play a role in The Legend of Korra.

Then there's John Astin, as Neil Witherspoon. Astin is someone you must get to know. He's the iconic Gomez Addams of the original Addams Family TV series. He also was reoccurring on Night Court. And then there's Revenge of the Killer Tomatoes.

Finally, there's our lead ghost, Mr. Boogedy. Played by Howard Witt.

Unfortunately, this is NOT out on DVD. For some reason, despite it's fanbase, the Mr. Boogedy movies have not gotten more love from Disney. But here's one spot on YouTube it's currently available.

For those curious, here's the introduction, with Michael Eisner, from it's premiere:

So now let's recap this ghost story.

"Look out! Herbie's found us, and he's out for blood!"
Back at you movie.
It opens with a large RV travelling through the countryside. It's painted garishly, and pulling a VW Bug behind it. So you know it's got some wacky occupants...or hippies.

The music is a REALLY odd choice for an opening, with some circus/marching band type music. Not really the way to open a ghost story, to my mind. But it may be a desire to start out the film with a lighter feel, for kids, contrary to the spooky concept, or start out in the state of mind of the family we are about to join (because they are a circus). (Or, someone with the film is a huge John Philip Sousa fan.)

"Dad, I can't look you in the
And soon we are joining them, as they pull over to enjoy a meal at a park. Dad is lounging, wearing some "comedy" specs...have they ever been funny? (When someone is forced to wear them, they can be funny.) Dad is a gag seller. He sells joke items, like whoopee cushions, joy buzzers, and fake dog poop. ...I...

We learn, from the daughter that she's not thrilled at the move. Like every kid in a story like this she hates the change, and being away from the people she knows. Dad reassures her with some dad jokes and the great news that they'll have the only gag shop franchise in the area. (The thing every young girl dreams of hearing.) Mom also adds how excited they all should be to finally own a house. (Am I hearing the ominous howl of the the the Ghost of Housing Markets Future?) least you can tell they're his sons.
And then the brothers run up, and, oh look, they also wear the gag glasses...sigh...they drop some fake puke on their sister and laugh...

...People? I hate gags. No, that's not right. Gags are fine. I find hacky gags annoying though. And the idea of being around it day in and day out, with people who think every moment of the day is a chance to try out a gag on you...That wouldn't end well for someone. Blood on the walls, man...Wow! I went dark on this kid's movie fast.

What? Did the dad get here early to
put up a gag real estate sign?
Yeah. This is what I ended up with last time
I did a time share to.
I can forgive kids joking around, it's something you grow out of. It's the adults. And this dad is big on pranks and gags. I fear for his lack of sanity. Sir! You can back away from the wackiness once in a while. How about a dirty limerick, here and there?

So they get back on the road and reach their new house. With an odd real estate sign in front. (I am assuming the name Karloff on the sign is a Boris Karloff shout out.) The "Not Really Haunted" sign falls off and glows for a moment. I am guessing Devil May Care has that on all it's housing signs, to add that extra bit of whimsy to the buying process.

People! That isn't some quaint mist!
You have a major gas leak occurring!
They drive up with this on their RV,
and people think the ghost
will be the main scare.
Arriving outside the house, they marvel at it. A fixer upper. And no one seems to have been shown a picture of it before they bought it. Such trusting people. So, they walk up to it. Stumbling through a thickening mist.

"Hey, sweetie, wouldn't it be funny
if..." "No!"
Once inside they find themselves lost in the dark. Jennifer wants the lights on, but dad is a bit distracted. One of the sons offers him a flashlight. And it's a gag flashlight (Cause they are totally a thing! -- I hate you kid...No idea why this is getting to me...But gag flashlights? Perfect for every emergency. Sold beside the gag life vest.).
Electric skull. Just like in every house.
Finally mom finds a lamp, and when they put light on it, it's a skull...Because lamps and skulls are so similar...? (Okay. It has a cord connected to it. But, why?) Still it is a scare to find a skull sitting in your living room, unless it's been fashioned into a coffee mug. Then it's awesome.

"Sadly Fester's light bulb addiction
didn't end well."
While they are freaking out at the skull type thing, they notice a silhouette across the room, and freak out some more. But it's just Mr. Witherspoon (John Astin! Squee!!!)

He takes the skull up and flips a switch in it, turning on the lights. (...Why? I would want to know why the house I just bought had a skull based lighting system. It might be important! And if there a Funko Superman alternative?) He welcomes them and then tells them to leave. (And when he shakes the dad's hand, he gets some joy buzzer fun...Only the Joker can make that funny!)

"What do you mean, only Frank
Gorshin played the Riddler?!"
He tells them that they need to get out, because Mr. Boogedy will come after them. And when Jennifer wants to leave after that, the front door closes on her.  Witherspoon nicely amps up the creepy, as only John Astin can.

He yells out, "Boogedy, boogedy, boogedy, BOO!" And strides out the house.

Well, he's interesting. They should just do a movie where he lives in a creepy house with his family...and a strange butler...and a hand creature...

"...Chibi Mrs. Bates?
Where are you?"
The family decides to split up and check out their new home. Jennifer looks around some upstairs rooms, and starts hearing some sneezing, but is all alone in the area of the house. The brothers wander into the basement and find various items laying around that they rummage through. Aurie finds a tiny rocking chair, and puts his teddy bear in it, and continues looking around. When their dad checks on them, Aurie finds the bear is missing. He wants to tell his dad, but he isn't interested. (Oh, now your all serious. Thanks, dad.)

When they leave the basement, the rocking chair begins rocking away on it's own.

Squirting Egg Plates. Banned by
the Geneva Convention.
"Dad! The judge said you had to
feed up real food! And not just when
you find it funny to do."
The next morning, Jennifer isn't any more thrilled about the house. But dad has a brilliant plan to win her over. Can you guess? Gag eggs! Huh! Brilliant! Better yet, they are squirting gag eggs. If Hell was real, their would be a special place in it for the inventor of these kind of gags.

Suddenly, for some reason, mom
thinks back to the nice quiet
mortician she turned down for a
date all those years ago.
Then the toaster suddenly moves on mom, and she's startled. Then dad shows he set up a string. You know, if that had been the one gag he'd done this morning, it would actually have been funny, and slightly clever. But mixed with the rest I wonder how much sleep he's missing out on laying out a days worth of wacky japes.

Jennifer brings up the sneezing she's hearing in the house. But dad just disregards it. (Hey! If it isn't gag related...)

"I just had this horrible dream where
my dad was an obnoxious gag
"I swear, at this point if this is a
poltergeist, I may just let it take
me into the TV."
That night Jennifer hears the sounds again, and goes looking for it. As she enters a corridor, she sees a door with green light coming from around it's edges. So she slowly approaches, to check it out. When she opens the door, she screams and faints.

When her family finds her, she tells them that she saw the Boogedy Man. But no one believes her. So she points out that the walls are covered in slimy footprints.

"Damn you, Lionel Richie!"
And when they look, they are there.

And dad decides to investigate them. He discovers that they can be peeled off the wall and stick to anything. They're great!

Yeah. Weird unknown footprints appear in his house, and he loves it!

He's starting to feel like the dad that gets distracted and leaves his kids in various places.

"Hey, Eloise! This is how I'll look
after you divorce me!"
Hmm. This might be a clue.
He decides that Witherspoon must have done it. And by it, I mean he broke into their house, snuck around, and placed footprints on their walls.

And this makes dad giddy.

Are you serious?! You think a guy, a relative stranger, broke into your house. And that is a good thing...Wow!

This guy would be great in some full on horror movie.
"Hey, kids! Look at that guy with the weird mask and the butcher knife covered in 'blood'. No! Stay still kids! He's coming over here. This is going to be HILARIOUS!!!"
I just...

Sometimes you really just have to
leggo the eggo. Or die!
If they think this is odd, wait until
they go out to the living room and see
the hysterically laughing deer head.
Well, the next day the boys are screwing around in the kitchen when the toaster starts moving again. And dad is no where around. They check on it, and it suddenly becomes red hot.

Then the rest of the kitchen kicks off, doors and cabinets opening and shutting. It's pandemonium.

"Tried to get the gig as Mad Hatter.
David Wayne clocked me."
"I though we were going with the
paranormal researchers?" "They
were less useful than dad."
They run out of the house and get Jennifer. Together they decide to try and find some answers. So they head to the historical society to see if there's information on their house.

At the historical society, they find Witherspoon, who seems to run the place. They ask him to explain what is going on. And he does it in the only possible way. With a pop book. (Who would finance an expensive looking popup book of a local ghost? The historical society? ...The Book Worm?)

Five authors went mad completing this book. And it was pretty rough on the guy who wrote it to.

And you thought I was joking. Cue the flashback!

Way back to the days of Puritans...and mimes...?

Surely someone will call this mime a witch soon, right?
 A mime...Fine.

And in this settlement, with a mime, there lived a man named William Hanover. He was not a mime, so I already like him.

But actually he was a huge prick. Humorless. Mean.
On the one hand, I'm not supposed to like Hanover. On
the other hand, he's anti-mime.

"Bogart! Boomer! Boehner! ...Shoot!
I'd sell my soul for the right
Wait. Is someone going to be
stealing these costumes and
unleashing a curse?
He took pleasure in scaring kids. He'd jump out and scream "BOOGEDY!" at them. (Hence the nickname, Mr. Boogedy.) (Though jump out at people and giving them a start, doesn't that sound like a great gag...)

Well, he eventually got lonely, and wanted a wife. And he eyed the Widow Marion, who had a young son named Jonathan. He wanted her for his own.

This must be from the annual
Mr. Boogedy pageant in town.
So he plotted to get the devil's help, as people do.

And, it should be said that the way they do this flashback is interesting. They have a clearly staged and dreamy background, more it's a pantomime. It makes for an interesting (and cheap) way to present the story within the story.

"Don't worry, sir. It will ride up with
So he "makes a deal" for a magic cloak. Something to make him invincible, and powerful enough to take the widow for his own.

So, as Marion's sick son was on his way to a doctor, Hanover lept out and kidnapped him. He let Marion know that if she didn't marry him that night, her son would be lost to her.

But to ensure his will would be done, Hanover decided to try cast a spell. A powerful spell. One that backfired and destroyed his house, Jonathan, and him. Dead. Marion died soon after in grief.

Every house that has been built there since has ended up haunted. And all three haunt the area. Boogedy chasing people in the house. Jonathan sneaking around, sneezing, and trying to hide. And Marion, just searching for her son.

"Wow, dad. You're really aping it
With this new information they head home. And dad tries to scare...I mean do a gag. He puts on an ape head, and plays at being Mr. Boogedy. But when they turn and see him, they know it's just him.

See! This is what I'm talking about. If you are perpetually pulling pranks and gags, it's first, annoying. But, more important to pranksters, it gets kind of obvious, and people just get dulled to your efforts.

"Oh, look. Someone in an ape mask is behind us. Who could that ever be."

They try and tell him about what they learned. And, again, dad is not listening. (If it's not gag related...)

Hey! A representation of how
seriously your dad takes your fears.
Then dad asks them to turn on a vacuum for him, and it turns out to be a Jack in a Box. (He had it built to bring to the house...Who buys stuff like this?)
"Dad this hasn't been funny since
Captain Kangaroo."

Then he starts firing ping pong balls at them from the hose of the vacuum.

Then he pulls out a shoddy looking mummy doll.

"Dad? Have you ever seen Irreconcilable Differences?"

Buddy? I appreciate loving your job, but your kids have come to you desperate to talk about something. Drop the freaking shtick for a minute and try being a parent. This is just obnoxious.

Luckily, Mr. Boogedy agrees with me and he begins howling throughout the house. We all have threshold for wacky pranks. He's hit his.

Mummy attack on dad. Scary? Or,
And dad STILL won't listen. So Boogedy starts screwing with stuff in the house. He plays a piano in the room, he gets the lousy mummy doll up and walking, flashes the lights, and throws other stuff around the room.

And mom is now ready to go.

"Honey? Why are the kids muttering
about killing Piggy?"
But dad is desperate not to move. So he begs them to all camp in the living room instead...cause that will stop the ghost...?

So they sit by the fireplace, and the boys want a ghost story. (I guess they aren't as bothered now as when they were when they were begging to move earlier.) The story freaks out Jennifer. And then the boys play a scary hand prank on her. (...)

I guess everyone is over the haunted house, except the daughter.

"Ichabod! You have...Wait. Wrong
haunting. Sorry!"

"Why do I always get the visions of
the St. Paulie girl?"
So, everyone goes to sleep, but mom is awoken by an impulse for a snack. (Also, in his sleep, dad's dreaming about pulling gags on people...There's a cell in Arkham waiting.) In the kitchen, she hears crying outside, and sees Marion, the ghost mom.

Marion explains that she's trapped outside, and that Boogedy is keeping her out, away from her son. The only way it can all end is if Boogedy getting driven from the house. Then she can reclaim her child. The key is getting the magic cloak from him.

Mom, the living one, returns to the family to rouse them, and tell them about what she saw. The kids are impressed. And one of the boys asks if she had fangs like a vampire. And that's ridiculous ghosts don't...You know, I'm flashing back to The Midnight Hour...So, nevermind.

So the family sets out to go after Boogedy.

You know, I am now flashing to the opening scene
of Ghostbusters.

"That's it, Aurie! You kick that
Jedi ghost's ass!"
Aurie is again drawn to the basement. When Corwin follows him, he finds a light show. Aurie is wrestling a ghost.

When he's separated from the ghost,Aurie explains that the ghost has his bear. The sneezing ghost says he was just lonely. The ghost kid is Jonathan.

Jonathan tells them about all the people that have been scared off. Then they hear Boogedy coming/

When the kids race back to their family with what they've learned, Mr Boogedy decides to make his big appearance.

"So be it, Davis."

Having taken his time for a big introduction, he wastes no time nailing the family.

Wow. That's a dark end.
He zaps mom, dad, and Jennifer.

As he does this, the boys decide to take down Boogedy, with pranks...

So Aurie grabs some sneezing powder. And Corwin grabs a fireplace poker. The sneezing powder does cause Boogedy to sneeze. But he blows everyone back.

Mr. Boogedy wants to wrap things up, so he starts levitating Corwin. Then zaps dad. And blows back Jennifer and mom.

Then he turns the gag vacuum on Aurie, turning it from blow to suck. It chases his around some, then when Aurie tries to hide behind Boogedy, things go bad...for Boogedy.

With the cape pulled away, Boogedy is in an awkward situation. His power source is gone.

So he vanishes.

And with Boogedy's domination of the house at an end, ghost mom and kid can reunite.

"Thank you, Aurie...Now we can harvest your soul."

So it's all over...

Or is it?

Yes. This movie is over.


Next time, Bride of Boogedy. ...Hey, that kind of reminds me of the sequel to James Whale's Frankenstein...

Freakin'...Just had to screw with that, huh?

Well, I guess we'll see how that works out next week.


In closing, you can notice that they make sparing use of Mr. Boogedy in person. No doubt it helped the effects budget. But he is still a presence in the movie from the moment we see the house. Either through small acts, or people being scared of him appearing, he is there. And that is something always possible and sound in a ghost story.

Much of the background for our characters is sparse, but I think it doesn't kill the story, and, as it is 44 minutes long, you can see why we don't get more into their lives and personalities. If this was a full length movie, I might be more picky.

But the parents...I really have issues with wacky parents. I don't know. At some point in watching sitcoms I started getting weirded out by parents who came off as dangerously bad parents. I remember one show where, for a punchline, the parents were putting down their depressed kid...And it just jolted me.

So when you see a way too jokey dad, he is going to rub me the wrong way. When I was a kid, I didn't notice or care. And for most kids today, I think they would just like the dad who acts like a kid.

Overall, the simplicity of this film and it's charm help it carry a lot of nostalgia. And for kids today, who can sit still for an hour, they may find something they will long remember.


Also. I was a little rough on gags. I don't hate them. The idea of a 24/7 prankster, I hate that. It's a nightmare (...I think I know a horror movie along that line...hmm.). But the ridiculous? That's fine. Yet...

Really, is this funny?

Granted, I look strangely like a character in the next movie...

Now. Boogedy, Boogedy, Boogedy, leave me alone! I'm wackied out.

No comments: