Have you ever seen Revenge of the Red Baron? It’s a really bad movie. So bad that about a year ago I sat down and did a long, angry analysis of it just in an effort to get it out of my system. The piece has never been made public, but since some were curious (fools), I’ll be doing my best to break it down into digestible chunks over the next several weeks. Part one commences now.
How to start this review? I suppose I can start by saying I’ve avoided doing it for a long time now. You see, everyone in the Yakmala! bad film club has their own personal nemesis of a movie; the one that caused them such distress that they really never, ever want to see it again, under any circumstances. This, of course, nearly ensures that the rest of the crew will continually bring it up to them, or worst of all subject them to subsequent viewings in a form of torture thinly disguised as a “Best of…” session.
Revenge of the Red Baron was that movie for me. The first time I saw it, the sheer amount of awful ended up causing me actual, physical pain. I don’t get migraines, but if I did I’m betting that’s what they would feel like. I half suspect my brain was trying to crawl away and escape, but, finding itself confined within my skull, attempted to implode instead.
Let’s start with the hilarious irony of a DVD case which advertises the movie as Family Adventure. This is what is known in cinematic circles as a filthy lie.
“His last war will be waged not for the honor of nations but for the love of family.”
Whose last war? The Red Baron’s? And why is he shooting at modern day civilians running down a suburban street? Or is he shooting at them? I can’t even tell where the plane is supposed to be, except somehow it’s completely missing Mickey Rooney’s giant head in the foreground.
Yes, Mickey Rooney’s in this. And Tobey Maguire. That kid next to Mickey Rooney is presumably supposed to be Tobey Maguire’s character, but it sure doesn’t look like him. I called over my wife for a second opinion and she claims it’s “Bat Boy” of Weekly World News fame. I don’t know about that, but if that’s not Tobey Maguire on the cover then who is it supposed to be? He’s the only kid in this movie, and still looks considerably older than Bat Boy there.
I haven’t even gotten to the movie yet and I’m already annoyed. And yeah, I’ve already written several paragraphs. This is not going to be a short, neat, formatted review. This is attempted catharsis, kiddos—inch by shit-tastic inch—so strap in for a long ride.
If you run across this on cable you’ll get a different story than Family Adventure. PG-13 rating. Violence, Adult Language, Adult Content. Viewer discretion advised. Seriously, I pity the poor parents who pop this in for their five-year-old because a retarded DVD case advertised FAMILY ADVENTURE. Sometimes it’s the parents’ fault, but here the product description itself is bloody well misleading (and I do mean bloody. You’ll see.). Then again, anyone over the age of 5 will probably have nightmares from this movie, too, but for much different reasons.
We open with a shot of some Allied biplanes flying in formation, as helpful Arial (or is that Aerial? Hyuk…) font informs us this is France, 1918. Dramatic martial music plays as the infamous crimson triplane comes into view… the Red Baron attacks! Or some dude flying his plane, anyhow. Seriously, I don’t care if the guy you hire is a dead ringer for Richthofen, particularly since he has a helmet and goggles on… but could he have at least bothered to shave? The pictures of Manfred von Richthofen with facial hair are about, umm. Zero.
You might think I’m nitpicking here, but we’ll come back to this point later.
And now… wait, where’d this sudden insertion of jaunty ragtime music come from? I suppose it’s period, more or less, but is it appropriate juxtaposed with shots of men getting machine gunned in their cockpits? Is that FAMILY ADVENTURE? Well, Amazon.com did have it billed as “Genre: Comedy”.
Anyhow, it seems no one is a match for the Red Baron… but wait! Another allied plane soars overhead, and in it is Bat Boy! No, this genuinely seems to be Tobey Maguire, who dives in on the Baron with a squeaky roar of challenge that would make Peter Brady proud.
“Nover, Baron!” he cries. (what?)
“It’s never over, Herr Spencer! Never!” the Baron responds.
Okay, after running it back a few times I guess Maguire says something approximating “It’s over, Baron”. Whatever. I can’t even hear it clearly. Need I point out the odds of two people in open cockpit planes with machine guns firing being able to… aw fuck it.
There is a possible moment of historical accuracy here as the Baron plays out taking a bullet while his plane remains largely undamaged. Herr Spencer watches him plummet, then salutes and flies off. Meanwhile the Baron manages to level his plane out just before pancaking on the ground, pulls up, and in a dick move by God is struck by lightning. The lightning courses over him and his plane, and then the plane… explodes? I’m not sure. It’s really hard to describe this effect. I’m sure it’s supposed to be an explosion, but it looks a lot more like someone vomited a butterscotch candy wrapper at the screen.
When it falls away, the plane is now a badly rendered computer graphic and the ragtime music is back. Aerial… excuse me, Arial… font informs us: MICKEY ROONEY. Ah! Credits. Excuse me while I note down the names of everyone responsible for this movie. Writer: Michael McDonald. Wait… Michael McDonald? MadTV’s “Stuart” Michael McDonald? I always hated those skits, and now I have one more reason why. Speaking of sketch comedy, Laraine Newman’s also in this. So it’ll be funny, right?
The CG triplane is making this nasty high-pitched mosquito noise as it buzzes back and forth between the names. It doesn’t sound like a real plane at all. I was annoyed by this the first time I saw the movie, when it made no sense. Now that it makes sense, I’m even more annoyed.
Robert Gordon directed and co-edited the film. The only standout about this for me is that a year later Robert Gordon edited Toy Story. And of course, here’s Executive Producer: Roger Corman. I don’t need to explain Roger Corman, do I?
My wife correctly pointed out that many of the people involved in this movie had successful careers either before or after. Also, none of them seem to be dead. If this changes anytime in the next year, I will say nothing until my lawyer is present.
End part the first. Next week, we move on to California, Present Day, and meet the rest of our dramatis personae. And yes, it seems the main cast and crew are all still among the living. I am such a procrastinator.