Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I just think adding superheroes to something instantly makes it more interesting. I have a friend who says every movie should either be a Spider-Man movie, or at least have Spider-Man in it. [Laughs.] I thought it was such a brilliant quote. It kind of is true, in a weird way. Have you watched a low-budget British movie, you know, about a guy who’s unemployed trying to make ends meet, and how does he feed his family now that the coal mine’s closed? If you suddenly had Spider-Man in it, you’d be a little more interested. [Laughs.] If that guy had super powers or a costume or something. On some craft level, I think there’s an element of truth to that. I just find that superheroes instantly make a story more interesting.
-Mark Millar, to the AV Club
This happened once. From 1966, the year of Batmania and The Monkees, I give you:
That’s right, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo. It’s real, it’s here, you can Netflix it. One hour and twelve minutes. And if you don’t nod your head a little bit when the guitar line kicks in as he swings that cape around toward the camera then buddy, you know a different Silver Age than I.
And yes, according to legend, director Ray Dennis Steckler — best known for 1964’s The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, but prior to that a cinematographer on legendary writer/producer/director/star Timothy Carey’s brain-searing, Frank Zappa-scored The World’s Greatest Sinner — was supposed to be making a perfectly normal ultra-low budget suspense picture, except after a while he got bored/panicked with the project’s development and, as I’d hope we’d all do in that situation, put together a pair of superhero costumes from stuff off the rack at Sears and finished the shoot in style. Someone has a gorilla suit? BOOM – action scene. A parade scheduled that week? They crashed the parade in costume and stole the footage for a set piece. However, the corollary legend, that Steckler didn’t want to pay to fix a fairly evident grammatical error in the title, is apparently not true – it was a little chant one of his kids started saying, so damn it, that was title.
Rat Pfink a Boo Boo is a lot like Kick-Ass, in that they’re both about superheroes in a ‘real’ world that obviously a total fake. But Steckler’s picture accomplishes this by purely cinematic and almost certainly accidental means, in that it ‘answers’ the completed footage of the crime movie it was supposed to be with acutely improvised capes ‘n tights antics, sprinkled with barely-relevant home movie footage cut A Hard Day’s Night-style to songs by leading man Ron Haydock, a rockabilly crooner supporting himself by writing scores of disreputable adult novels (and a few comics scripts for Warren magazines on the side, under the pseudonym Arnold Hayes). All boundaries between reality and fiction and art and assemblage are obliterated by the movie’s frantic lunge toward saleability, and by its effort it exhausts itself into a shambling heap of genre suggestion – if the Batman show was a slickly professional, comparatively desexualized variant cover of, say, Mike & George Kuchar, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo doubles right back to source material, the old Batman serials, transmitted in the form of a child’s daydream, half-understood real world anxieties careening into romper room escapades set to whatever’s on the radio nearby, pretty much. Like, there’s no sync sound or anything.
Wasn’t that last shot the end of The Warriors? I don’t think this has quite the same appeal – actually I suspect most people will find it to be lethally inane if not completely unwatchable, but there’s something to be said for a hard-headed exploitation film that does literally everything wrong, to the point where its very commercial intent is called into question. Pair it up with straight-arrow bullshit like Jerry Warren’s The Wild World of Batwoman from the same year and the difference is plain – Steckler is coming from a deeply goofy, weirdly personal place, committing to film the most inexplicable longbox find of your entire convention season.
Anyway, I’m confident that any of the fine artists listed below would be proud to have their work deemed the Rat Pfink a Boo Boo of comics of 2010. Immortality isn’t pretty, but it lasts.