Friday, July 1, 2011

Worth Mentioning - He Seen The Fright

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Cody talks about the dachshunds-as-rats horror film Deadly Eyes and his childhood confusion with The Peanut Butter Solution.


Also known as THE RATS, based on the novel by James Herbert.

This film came to my attention in recent weeks, after watching and preparing the Appreciation article for Black Belt Jones. Deadly Eyes was made by the same director as BBJones, Robert Clouse. Looking through Clouse's filmography, I clicked on some Deadly Eyes links and read about an aspect of the making of the film that intrigued me so much that I had to track down this hard-to-find flick and watch it as soon as possible.

The story follows a group of characters in Toronto as they deal with an infestation of dachshund-size killer rats. These rats got pumped up by eating health hazard animal feed with steroids in them, and are inadvertently released into the city when health inspector Kelly Leonard orders the feed to be burned.
The rats are quick to prove to us that they're not messing around - their first victims are a cat and a toddler stolen out of its high chair, followed soon after by a random old dude and then a character played by Scatman Crothers.

At first it seems like our main character will be Trudy, a high school girl who appears to a friend to have everything - "You have your own car, you're a cheerleader, what else do you want?" What Trudy wants is her teacher Paul Harris, who coincidentally recently took his class on a field trip to hear a lecture about rats. Trudy's boyfriend is a basketball player, Paul is the basketball coach. She wants to move on up... But being a sensible adult, Paul politely rejects her advances and becomes the film's new lead character. He ends up hooking up with health inspector Kelly over the course of the film, and together they're the only two people who can save us from the rats.

I described the rats as "dachshund-sized" because that's exactly what they are - wiener dogs in rat costumes. And this is the reason why I wanted to watch the movie, because I'm a big fan of dachshunds, which may be the most adorable things on the planet. I have one myself, an awesome little guy named Zeppelin, who's the coolest dog I've ever had. So I needed to watch his brethren run around in rodent outfits and tear people up. It's nice to see dachshunds getting employment, hopefully the little stars were well taken care of. For close-ups and bites, the dachshunds are replaced by rat hand puppets.

The dressed up dogs are the most interesting aspect of the film, but Deadly Eyes is a decent flick. I like when creature features move the action into movie theatres (see: The Blob, The Tingler), so a standout moment for me is when the rats invade a cinema. Showing on the screen is the Bruce Lee vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar fight in The Game of Death, also directed by Robert Clouse.


As I talked about in the Jason Lives Appreciation article, that film made me a horror fan at a very early age. Soon after that, as I viewed my way through every horror movie that looked appealing in the local video stores, my mother suggested one to me. I was already a Friday the 13th fan, so she told me I should check out Halloween. We rented it from Harvey's Market, a little country-style store that I really miss, and I took the movie to watch at my grandmother's house while mom went to work. Around eight hours later, when her shift had ended, my mother picked me up and asked me what I thought of Halloween.

I told her that I had enjoyed Halloween, and talked about some of the scenes and story elements - ghosts, a bad guy teacher, a kid scared so badly that his hair falls out. Mom knew that I was not talking about the right movie. The cases at Harvey's Market were brown plastic, not see-through, and we hadn't opened it to check the VHS within before leaving the store. Somehow, a copy of The Peanut Butter Solution had ended up in the Halloween case, and I was none the wiser when I put it in the VCR to watch it. We returned to the store and got the Halloween VHS.

I never watched The Peanut Butter Solution again until recently. The title had faded from memory and for years I wasn't sure what the movie was that I had seen on that late '80s day, but it stuck with me as "the movie where the kid is scared so badly that he loses his hair". In recent years it was the Creepy Kentuckian's repeated references to the film on the show that reminded me of the title and got me to check it out again.

The Peanut Butter Solution is a kids movie about an eleven-year-old boy named Michael. Michael Baskins, not Michael Myers. He's a sensitive, caring kid who's dealing with the fact that he, his father, and his sister have apparently been abandoned by his mother. When he hears that there was a huge fire at the local abandoned mansion, he's disturbed - homeless people had been staying in there, and Michael had recently given one of them all of his pocket money. Snooping around in the burnt-out mansion after school, Michael  sees the ghost of one of the homeless people and is so badly frightened that all of his hair falls out by the next morning.

This being a kid-friendly flick, the ghosts are not malicious beings. After Michael is picked on at school for having a bald head, the ghosts visit Michael in the night and give him the recipe for a solution that will help him grow his hair back. Peanut butter is an ingredient. Skippy got the product placement. Michael mixes up a batch and successfully grows his hair back... Problem is, it grows extremely fast.

In a funny bit with elements that wouldn't get a second thought in the '80s but would probably be too edgy these days, Michael's friend finds out about the peanut butter solution and puts it on his crotch in attempt to jumpstart puberty, leading him to having pubes so long that they hang out of the bottom of his pants.

Michael's friend isn't the only one whose attention this situation has drawn, unfortunately he's also caught the interest of The Signor, a villainous art teacher who proceeds to kidnap Michael and other neighborhood children, forcing them into slave labor making magic paintbrushes from Michael's hair.

This is a pretty entertaining, enjoyable kids movie, admittedly more age appropriate at the time when I first watched it than the movie that I thought it was for a few hours. It may not be Halloween, but it's a good movie in its own right.

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