Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Bad Ronald"(1974)d/Buzz Kulik

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I grew up in a (then)sixty-plus year old house,so I'm fully aware that every once in awhile your attention might be drawn to the sounds of a rat scratching and gnawing inside the walls.The subject matter that tonight's feature deals with is an entirely different,far more terrifying prospect that most people don't give a second thought to:A homicidal,socially retarded teenaged nerd living in the walls of your home.Directed by the late Seymour "Buzz" Kulik,who otherwise flourished in a long career in television,helming everything from Twilight Zone episodes to the Matt Helm series,as well as some uncredited work on the equally stellar 1972 telefilm,Crawlspace(which we'll look at here at the Wop soon enough),and adapted for the small screen from a novel by John Holbrook Vance,Bad Ronald debuted during the Halloween season,October 23rd,1974,and stands in many horror fans top genre made-for-television lists to this day.Certainly on mine.The cast includes the delicious Lisa "10 to Midnight" Eilbacher,Dabney "9 to 5" Coleman,Kim "Planet of the Apes" Hunter,and in an adequate starring turn as a sort of deranged Screech,Scott Jacoby,who,apart from genre work in films like "The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane" and "Return to Horror High",had a recurring role on television's Golden Girls,of all things.I'll refrain from making peephole jokes about Bea Arthur tonight,as I'm still feeling the sting of the loss of Rue McClanahan over here.R.I.P. to a true cougar.Now,let's get to business.
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"You know what your bratty little head could use,Carol? A cinderblock!"
Enter Ron Wilby(Jacoby).He's a shy,introverted nearsighted mama's boy who gets his stones busted at every juncture.After celebrating his sixteenth birthday at home with mom(Hunter) in true nutsac fashion,she presents him a nifty toolbox and some art supplies and they share some celebratory cake.Slow down,Syd Barrett.He decides to swing on by Laurie Matthews' crib next door,amidst the protests of his lone party guest,who tells him he shouldn't waste time on people who don't care about him.He finds the object of his desire splashing abight in her pool with a bevvy of sportos,meatheads,Ron Jeremy lookalikes,and cheerleader-types,who take five minutes out of their shallow day to abuse the kid's egg purse while Laurie teases him with bikini-clad teen curves that a dork like Ronald'll never get his sweaty mitts on.On his dejected walk home,he bumps into Laurie's younger sister,Carol,and knocks her clean off her banana seat,spurring the bitch-in-training to chuck a few more barbs his way,and when she paints the Wilby clan,doting mother included,with a weird paintbrush,Ron's had it.He hotheadedly pushes the young bitch to the ground,failing to notice the cinderblock,fantastic for head-pulverizing,below.After his initial panic subsides,he buries her in a shallow grave and runs home to mother.Hearing of Ronald's unfortunate chain of events,Mater Wilby naturally notifies the authorities and suggests her son turn himself in for ques-no,that's not what she does at all.She spends the evening walling off the downstairs bathroom,plastering over the door,and allowing for a pantry trapdoor,where she advises her son to hide until the coast is clear enough for the young murderer and his accessory to leave town for brighter surroundings in a month or two.
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One man's walled off downstairs bathroom is another's magical fairy kingdom,like they say.
After the police buy Mrs. Wilby's story about her son running away,it looks as though the duo has gotten away with murder,as Ron gets accustomed to his new home in the wall,doing exercises,writing fiction,and using his art supplies to craft drawings of himself as an armor-laden champion to the fairies of the kingdom of Atranta.Except when his mother goes into the hospital for routine gall bladder surgery,she selfishly dies from complications,leaving wall boy to fend for himself in the empty Victorian house.Shut off from the outside world,Ronald subsists on canned beans and candy bars,retreating further into his makebelieve world with each passing day,installing more trapdoors and peepholes into the walls(but no shower),which come in pretty handy when the Woods family,complete with three teenaged daughters move into the house.The eldest,Ellen,starts dating Duane Matthews,the brother of the dead brat that caused the whole mess in the first place,and relates stories of the creepy kid who used to live in the house to the girls,who hear strange noises and feel as though they're being watched by somebody.After being forced to dispose of Mrs. Schumacher,who drops dead of a heart attack after spying Ron raiding the Woods' fridge,in the crawlspace under the house,Ronald becomes more and more delusional,envisioning the youngest daughter,Babs,as the future queen of his fantasy world,and Duane as the evil duke that stands between the star-crossed lovers and their thrones.You know,when the Woods' leave their daughters alone while away on a weekend business trip,I'll just bet Ronald uses the opportunity to capture his would-be destiny,and take her into the wall where they can be married and start their lives together as Atrantians.What does transpire,you'll have to see for yourselves.I promise you,it's worth every second.
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Mrs. Schumacher pops round to pick up that myocardial infarction she'd left at the Wilby place.
Brrrrrrr,just when you thought all nerds were capable of was spending every waking hour sycophantically showering empty compliments and flattery on female D-list genre celebrities on Facebook or hermetically sealing their vintage 3 3/4" Star Wars action figures on the card while jamming to Daft Punk and counting the days until the release of the new Tron movie,comes this sobering wake up call.I'm kidding.In this informational age,your humble N only has an e-mail inbox filled with horrible middle aged Edith Massey lookalikes obsessed with getting a ride on the Great Equalizer.Like a fantastic remake,you can bet neither of those things are gonna happen anytime soon.I'm still the same sucker for petite top-heavy brunettes that I ever was.As for tonight's review,snag yourself a copy,you'll be pleasantly surprised.One of the better of its kind,for sure.Three wops.
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A peephole that Klaus Kinski would be envious of.
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2 comments:

M said...

Surprisingly a lot of actors tend to resembe Ron Jeremy. Is this accidental or on purpose? Check out Ron's first mainstream starring role in the new movie, "Beaches, Buns and Bikinis." An environemental saga for our time, Ron easily steps into a similar role played by comedian Morey Amsterdam in the 1960's "Beach Party." Ron portrays a wise beach sage who runs the coolest hotdog stand on the sand and dispenses love advice to the young.

beedubelhue said...

I'm thinking it's probably some sort of accident,nobody consciously sets out to look like RJ,not even RJ,I'd imagine.I like that he's still out there doing what he does,I grew up on his adult catalogue.


-Wop

 
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