dir. Ray Dennis Steckler
"Everywhere he goes, he brings his guitar with him because he never knows when he'll be called upon to sing. Lonnie will sing a song anytime, anywhere. Lonnie likes to sing"
As I mentioned last week, in a very thorough critique of the movie Blind Fury, my friend Roger and I are currently working on a cum-inducingly, mind-blowingly awesome screenplay. I have been writing screenplays semi-regularly, sometimes half-heartedly, for a few years now. Although I haven't sold anything yet, I have continued to write as an exercise to keep the ol' creative juices flowing and because I find it enjoyable. The things I tend to write, however, are the sort of personal, self indulgent rubbish that even I wouldn't plop down twelve dollars to see. When Roger told me about his movie idea, I was so impressed by everything about it that I quickly invited myself to co-write the thing with him. [I am shameless about riding other people's coattails.] Suffice it to say, it was the first piece of writing, which I have taken part in, that I have been extremely excited about. I became inspired. To stay in an inspired sort of mood, I have been doing what I always do when working on screenplays, watching movies that get me excited about movies.
Of the many movies that I enjoy, there are only a few that get me so excited as to make me want to make movies--movies that make me wish I had made them first. Paul Thomas Anderson's movies always do this for me, even the flawed Magnolia. Once Upon a Time in the West also gives me a huge movie making boner (my dvd of this movie, incidentally, I accidentally left in a bar Saturday night/Sunday morning, after a friend whom I had lent it to, returned it to me. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of this dvd, I would greatly appreciate some info). Oddly, the works of such schlock-meisters as Herschell Gordon Lewis and Ray Dennis Steckler, although not necessarily the types of movies that I would like to write, in their own odd way, also work to inspire me. Steckler's work in particular has the joyous hand-made, DIY, goddamnit-it's fun-to-make-movies aesthetic/attitude that is fucking infectious as hell.
Of all the movies in Steckler's catalogue, perhaps none exemplifies the fuck-it-all, let's make a movie attitude more than Rat Pfink a Boo Boo. What began as a lurid exploitation crime picture entitled The Depraved, evolved halfway through filming into a campy, "Batman" spoof comedy romp. Setting a, soon to be reversed, scary tone, Steckler opens Rat Pfink with the nighttime mugging/beating of a defenseless woman by a trio of ruffians. Aside from beating people, this group also gets its jollies by making obscene phone calls to helpless women. These three goofs each have their own specialty. The first villain (Mike Kannon) uses a hammer, the second one (George Caldwell) uses a chain, and the third one (James Bowie) is black. Although Steckler's use of his black actor could be viewed as racist, in that it shows blackness in and of itself as being scary enough that the character wouldn't need any weapons to further accentuate it, the more likely reason for Bowie's lack of a trademark weapon is that Steckler didn't have enough money to buy a third prop.
[An incongruously expertly framed shot from the opening scene.]
Thrown in to the mix is sensational pop superstar Lonnie Lord (Ron Haydock) and his buxom girlfriend Cee Bee (Carolyn Brandt). Things have been going swimmingly for this wildly successful power couple, but things soon go horribly wrong as things are wont to do. After receiving obscene phone calls from the terrible trio, Cee Bee goes and gets herself kidnapped by this dastardly group. Lonnie, reacting the only way he knows how, sits in Cee Bee's apartment, while playing his guitar, and belts out a ballad (mysteriously accompanied by an unseen full band). The Falknerian idiot man-child handyman Titus (Titus Moede) watches on. After finishing the song, Lonnie wonders nonchalantly about what should be done about all this kidnapping meshugganah. Lonnie then tells Titus that they might as well change into their superhero outfits and go fight some crime.
[Cee Bee uses her reinforced tits to poke out the eyes of evil-doers.]
While filming the movie, Steckler became bored and unhappy with the way the crime film he started out making was progressing, and decided halfway through, to turn the Lonnie and Titus characters into superheroes. Why not? This, of course, results in a joyously, ineptly fractured film. The first half is unintentionally funny, and the second half is slightly more intentionally funny. Whether Steckler was fully aware or not, the second half of this film expertly riffs on the ridiculously over the top homo-eroticism of the "Batman" TV show. When Lonnie and Titus decide to don their Rat Pfink and Boo Boo alter ego outfits, they walk into a closet. They get trapped in the closet. Danger's outside the closet. But they're inside the closet. They unlock the closet. They walk out the closet. The film then turns a pinkish hue when Lonnie and Titus emerge in their garish costumes. Enough said.
["Maybe we should remove our butt plugs before fighting crime."]
The crime-fighters soon track down the baddies at their suburban lair. They fight the criminals. The criminals escape. They pursue the criminals. They beat the criminals. And then a motherfuckin' ape shows up and kidnaps Cee Bee. Wait, what just happened? An already ludicrous movie has now just bought a first class ticket going non-stop all the way to crazytown. Although I am not completely well versed on the filming backstory of Rat Pfink, I think it would be safe to assume that, while filming, Steckler found out that a friend of his had a gorilla costume lying around, and so he decided to use it in his movie.
Yet again, the duo rescues the damstel in distress. [Them dizzy dames always be getting themselves mixed up in crazy shenanigans.] The gorilla's effeminate handler (Romeo Barrymore) becomes reunited with his precious pet and gives him an affectionate kiss. The superheros don't have time to witness the consummation of this beautiful man/beast relationship, however, because, when learning of the superhero duo's bravery, the local town holds a celebratory parade in Rat Pfink and Boo Boo's honor. So it's off to the town's main street to get their glory on. And then this happens:
A go go party is about as appropriate a way as any to end this film. It certainly wasn't unprecedented in Steckler's oeuvre. His earlier feature, Wild Guitar, also ended in a similar fashion. Of course, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo frequently breaks into non sequiturally delicious musical interludes, anyway, so it is appropriate within the context of this film. Incidentally, here are couple of the film's other songs:
["You Is a Rat Pfink"]
Part of Rat Pfink(and indeed all of Steckler's films)'s awesomeness lies in the fact that, whatever absurd half-formed thought appeared in Steckler's head, immediately ended up on celluloid. Like Chaplin, Steckler would work without a script and figure out his movies as filming progressed. Whereas someone who had taken the time to write and develop a story might work out kinks, ponder the implausibilities of certain scenarios, and develop characters; Steckler just said to himself, "I think it would be cool if this happened", and then he made it happen. Rat Pfink is some of the purest, most unadulterated, personally expressive filmmaking I have ever witnessed--plus it's got gorillas.