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.
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:
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.|
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 |
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?)
|Well...at least you can tell they're his sons.|
...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.
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.
|"Hey, sweetie, wouldn't it be funny|
|Electric skull. Just like in every house.|
|"Sadly Fester's light bulb addiction|
didn't end well."
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 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?"
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."
|Suddenly, for some reason, mom|
thinks back to the nice quiet
mortician she turned down for a
date all those years ago.
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."
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 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.|
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.
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."
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?|
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?
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.
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, 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 |
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.
|"Dad this hasn't been funny since|
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?"|
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 mom is now ready to go.
|"Honey? Why are the kids muttering|
about killing Piggy?"
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 |
|"Why do I always get the visions of|
the St. Paulie girl?"
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 |
|"That's it, Aurie! You kick that|
Jedi ghost's ass!"
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.|
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.
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.