Nether Regions 06.28.11: The Mr. Boogedy Double Feature
Posted by Chad Webb on 06.28.2011
This week I tackle two made-for-TV Disney gems from the mid-80's, Mr. Boogedy and Bride of Boogedy. Step into a time machine and rediscover a couple movies you probably haven't thought of (or even knew about in the first place) in years...
Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find. Now it is a column all its own! You might ask, "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. Every time I review a new film I will have a list of those I covered below so you can see if they have been announced for DVD release, or are still out of print.
Starring: Richard Masur, Kristy Swanson, and David Faustino Directed By: Oz Scott Written By: Michael Janover Running Time: 45 minutes Original Air Date: April 20, 1986 Missing Since: See above Existing Formats: None Netflix Status: Not Available Availability:Extremely Rare
Mr. Boogedy and its sequel Bride of Boogedy were both made-for-TV movies that appeared as episodes on the anthology series The Disney Sunday Movie. In the first half of the 1980s, Disney did try their hand at the horror genre with films like The Watcher in the Woods (1980) starring Bettie Davis and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) starring Jason Robards. However, these ventures did not fare well at the box office. It wasn't until 1986 that they would find a hit with Mr. Boogedy, but of course this was not a theatrical release.
A bug-eyed John Astin warns the Davises.
These movies have a fervent cult following, although I must admit, I did not know they existed until recently. I did catch The Disney Sunday Movie every now and then I guess, but it was a friend who suggested these when I explained the nature of my column. He handed me an old VHS tape with both movies recorded on them in appropriately sloppy handwriting and said they have never been released on DVD. Sure enough, after some research, I discovered that these are hard to locate unless you know the right channels for bootlegs. It's a shame really, because this two-part saga is great fun all around and represent one of Richard Masur's (The Thing, Encino Man) most entertaining roles.
The first movie is very short, and revolves around the Davis family, who has just moved to the small New England town of Lucifer Falls (outstanding town name) into a spooky old house. They are met by Gomez Addams (John Astin). Ok, Astin plays Neil Witherspoon, an exceedingly strange dude who warns them that the house is haunted and to beware of the Boogedy man. The family consists of Carleton the father, Eloise the mother, and their children: a super young Kristy Swanson as Jennifer, Bud Bundy himself David Faustino as Corwin, and Benji Gregory (Brian Tanner from ALF) as R.E. Carleton is opening a new store, Gag City, which is part of a chain and sells, surprise surprise, gag related items. Not only does Carleton run this store, but he plays with his inventory on a constant basis. Imagine if Joey Gladstone from Full House had his own family and business and you have a general idea of what Carleton Davis is like.
Soon enough the family begins to have odd experiences in the house in the form of mysterious sneezing, strange glows, objects disappearing, and so forth. The parents dismiss all this, but the kids investigate further by questioning Mr. Witherspoon, who happens to manage the Lucifer Falls Historical Society. He tells the story of William Hanover, a pilgrim who was not popular 300 years ago. He was in love with the widow Marion (Katherine Kelly Lang), who did not reciprocate his feelings. As retaliation, Hanover made a deal with the Devil for a magic cloak that grants him powers. He uses this to kidnap Marion's son Jonathan (Jaimie McEnnan) and the first spell he casts is to destroy his house, killing all three of them. So the trio become ghosts and Marion wants to be reunited with her son, but Hanover, a.k.a. the Boogedy man, holds him hostage. The hauntings lead to a confrontation with the Davis clan.
Corwin and R.E. are startled by a moving toaster.
Mr. Boogedy is a simple, unpolluted horror comedy that is sure to satisfy. It's not particularly dated, aside from the special effects, and is a positive type of corny. The performances are decent all around, with Richard Masur acting incredibly enthusiastic as Carleton Davis. This man's life is all about messing with gag toys. His two boys do the same, though Jennifer seems annoyed at times by the daily tricks. It's no wonder they moved away. I doubt this family was invited to many parties or gatherings. They're always looking for a quick laugh with some cheap gag toy: rubber eggs, hand buzzers, and a rigged vacuum cleaner to name a few. Mimi Kennedy is fairly standard as the mom, Eloise, but someone told her to use this obnoxious chuckle every time Carleton delivers a prank (which is often). The laugh is easily the worst aspect of both movies. Kristy Swanson is the bitchy teenage girl, and is swamped by a horrid baggy, brightly colored wardrobe. David Faustino and Benji Gregory are typical young boy characters. Nobody is overly irritating, though Eloise comes close, and even if it's a blast to make fun of the Davises, they are still a genial group.
Oz Scott, a television director, supplies average, basic results, nothing more, nothing less. It was rather neat to take a family who owned a gag shop and have them be haunted by a creepy ghost. I wouldn't call many ghost movies inventive necessarily, but this put a fresh spin on a common horror setup. After titles like Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, and many more of that period, the notion that Mr. Boogedy doesn't take itself too seriously makes it increasingly accessible. It has dabs of brilliant and terrible, but that could be said for countless 80's flicks. If you like The Goonies or The Monster Squad, you should check this out.
Final Rating = 8.0/10.0
BRIDE OF BOOGEDY
Starring: Richard Masur, David Faustino, and Tammy Lauren Directed By: Oz Scott Written By: Michael Janover Running Time: 100 minutes Original Air Date: April 12, 1987 Missing Since: 1987 Existing Formats: None Netflix Status: Not Available Availability:Extremely Rare
One year later, the sequel Bride of Boogedy would arrive due to the success of the first movie. Sadly, Disney decided to stretch the running time to 100 minutes, turning it into a full-length movie. That would have been delightful had the sequel not largely backtracked as a retread of what we'd seen previously. The pacing for this adventure, again directed by Oz Scott, tires every now and then because you're just waiting for the story to reach the climax. Aside from that, this follow-up tale is also plagued by numerous recastings.
Eugene Levy gets possessed by Boogedy.
On this old VHS tape recorded from TV, I was able to watch the introduction where former Disney CEO Michael Eisner explains to the Disney characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy) that Mr. Boogedy is just a character and isn't real, while strolling through the Davis home. As he rambles, he is raised off the ground. Oh that Eisner. The first change in the cast is one we're not totally sure about until later, and it's Neil Witherspoon. He's portrayed by Leonard Frey, in his last role before his death, instead of John Astin. This would not be an issue, but Frey plays him as a zany goofball, whereas Astin attempted to accentuate the creepiness factor overe the quirks. He sums up the events of the first film to a bunch of kids sitting around the campfire, all of whom go out of their way to look terrified before anything actually scary is uttered. Then the action shifts to the Davises' humble abode, where their Uncle Elmer, who apparently has a higher position in the Gag City franchise, offers Carleton a promotion after observing the dump he lives in. The position is declined. Carleton is content fiddling around with his gag gifts in Lucifer Falls.
Carleton was appointed Honorary Mayor for Lucyfest, the town festival, in case were on the edge of your seat, much to the chagrin of Tom Lynch (Eugene Levy). He held the rather pointless post before and even had the festival on his property, but said no this year when Carleton is made Mayor, so they agree to have the festivities in the town square. Before they know it, the Davises are once again being haunted by Mr. Boogedy, who not only desires his cloak back, but is aiming to capture the widow Marion, who was never really his initially, but he still wants her nasty pilgrim lovin'. Even though he needs the glittery cape/cloak, Boogedy somehow can take possession of people's bodies and make them do things. He could have learned a thing or two from Lord Voldemort, but I digress. He takes over Carleton in hopes that he will use a skeleton key that was discovered, which opens a door that contains the cloak that vanished in the first story. I didn't realize how convoluted it all was. All this is happening as the Davises finally choose a location for their Gag City store (also old and abandoned), while they continue to plan Lucyfest. And since these events go above and beyond the knowledge of Mr. Witherspoon, they enlist the aid of Madeleinska, a gypsy who uses an electronic crystal ball. Through her they have séances and elicit all the necessary information about why Boogedy won't go the hell away.
Bride of Boogedy is saturated with nicely whimsical bits, but it has some flaws. The main one is that Boogedy's return is never adequately explained. He's just...around one day and darnit, he wants his cloak and his woman! Inexplicably, William Hanover (a.k.a. Mr. Boogedy) had a statue erected in the cemetery after his death. This is a head scratcher since, well, no one liked him and he made a deal with the Devil. Perhaps that contract included an intimidating statue as a bonus. Ray Girardin's Uncle Elmer serves ummm, zero purpose other than some brief pranks between himself and Carleton. Elmer dresses as a Gorilla late in the movie to frighten everyone. Michael Janover's script lags because the formula is almost identical to what we saw in the 1986 movie, just longer and with a couple extra characters. Boogedy shocks and horrifies the kids, the parents don't believe them, eventually he materializes in front of the parents, and the epic showdown occurs.
Sexiest Man Not Alive: William "Boogedy" Hanover
Since this is a made-for-TV movie, the replacement cast members are not fabulous. The primary one is Tammy Lauren, a.k.a. the hot little number from Wishmaster, stepping in for Kristy Swanson as Jennifer. To be truthful, Lauren plays the character the same, and I think she's just as good to look at, so that one is a win regardless of the fact that Jennifer is now a brunette. Joshua Rudoy takes over for Benji Gregory, and there isn't much difference there either. The ghost of Jonathan is also new, and the boy looks completely different now, which is baffling. Richard Masur, Mimi Kennedy (and her grating laugh), and David Faustino all reprise their parts and are quite fulfilling. The recastings are not poor as much as they are just noticeable, and it can take you out of the story a bit. Eugene Levy is unbelievably cheesy as the jealous Tom Lynch. In one scene, I kid you not, he pushes a baby carriage down the sidewalk in anger. You also have a character named Mrs. Hooter, who glides around being peculiar constantly. She does have a line where she confesses to loving chocolate...ice cream. The gravedigger Lazarus (Vincent Schiavelli – the head ghost from Ghost) is also shoehorned in to have one brief scene as a ventriloquist. Don't ask me.
I should mention that Howard Witt is Mr. Boogedy, and for the sequel, he occupies a heartier portion of screen time. The majority of his dialogue is maniacal laughing and the famous catchphrase "BOOGEDY-BOOGEDY BOO!" Family Guy would "borrow" this phrase years later, but Witt joyfully unloads it around every corner of this rinky dink town. His face is described as grilled cheese or something in the first film, and that is pretty much accurate. He really sinks his teeth into the role, so it would have been wiser to give him some more lines as his energy level overwhelms everyone else except Masur. It is amusing to observe Richard Masur and Eugene Levy, both of whom have a ball, being manipulated by Mr. Boogedy in various ways. That might sound perverted, but it's not. The special effects are not exactly top-notch, but they are commendable considering the circumstances (buidget and decade).
It's important not to overanalyze movies like Mr. Boogedy and Bride of Boogedy. When sitting down to watch made-for-TV efforts, I try to put myself in that mindset. The most remarkable achievement of these movies is how they still hold up. I would gladly recommend this to children ahead of half of what we see nowadays. These two titles being absent from DVD are examples of why Disney's "Vault" policy can be idiotic. Skimming the net, I stumbled upon many fans, and how hard would it be to stick both of these on one DVD and price it for $10 or so? But no, Disney must keep it locked in the vault...because they can. I did not adore the sequel as I did the original movie, as Oz Scott definitely had trouble taking the substance to 100 minutes, but these are harmless and agreeable stories that might not be masterpieces, but are worthwhile enough that people should be able to purchase them via legitimate means.