Last time on Revenge of the Red Baron, we discovered that the Red Baron doll in a model airplane has come to life. One can only presume it will be out for revenge. Tiny, tiny revenge.
From the poolside shenanigans we move on to the next scene, where an exhausted Grandpa James is being put to bed as Richard scolds Jimmy for getting Grandpa all excited and playing with planes instead of doing chores. Jimmy’s holding the Red Baron plane and jostling it around as they argue, which is probably giving the poor puppet whiplash (and increasing its desire for REVENGE). He then puts the plane down so he and dad can go eat lunch. I mean, it still seems to be a sunny, clear (thunderstormy?) mid-day… so I guess it’s lunch, although Richard’s pouring a beer.
Thankfully we’re saved from any further father-son dialog by the phone ringing in the other room. Dad moves off to babble with one of his business colleagues. Pay attention in this scene to the juxtaposition of a bunch of liquor bottles and a gun cabinet. I mean, if you’re paying attention at all. I won’t blame you if you aren’t.
While dad’s on the phone Jimmy sneaks off upstairs to see grandpa. I don’t know why. I guess this is just to show us the plane has moved from where he put it. Gasp? Then while he’s talking to Grandpa the (offscreen) plane moves again. I almost had a problem with the lack of engine noise, except there’s a loud alarm clock ring that goes off which I guess is supposed to cover it. Eh. Jimmy is puzzled and has to flick the cockpit figure’s head a couple times.
Shall I mention again that this doll, and the puppet they’re using, look NOTHING like each other? It’s not even close. I don’t think the scale is even the same. That’s okay if maybe they use one for close-ups and one for further out, but this right now was a close-up. Also, remember the facial hair nitpick I had previously? Both the doll and puppet are represented as entirely clean shaven. Not even a bit of black marker scrubbed onto them. So really, was it too much to ask that actor at the beginning to shave for a day of filming?
Jimmy carries the triplane back outside, where Richard has gone directly from a meal that never started, where he was fully dressed, to lounging in the pool in a hairnet and swimtrunks. Did I mention Jimmy is upstairs for all of sixty seconds? (yes, I timed it)
The next lines of dialog are so precious in their gentle foreshadowing:
“Hey dad, don’t you think it’s a little dangerous to be in the pool? We had lightning today.”
“I’d rather be electrocuted than put up with this humidity.”
He makes Jimmy turn on the bug zapper since thar be mosquitoes about. After that, they discuss the model plane. I guess to establish that it’s there, despite it being, y’know… there. Richard muses how perfect a replica it is and what effort Grandpa James put into it, and taps the propeller, which of course has to turn on at that point and hurt his finger. Not cut off or even cut open, mind you, just a little slap. “Throw that damn thing away before it kills somebody!” orders Richard. This is like watching a Special Olympics of screenwriting.
Well, Jimmy rightly points out the plane isn’t Richard’s to throw away, it’s Grandpa’s. Richard angrily retorts that he’s not Jimmy’s mother and when he gives an order he expects it to be followed, even if it makes him out to be a gigantic dick. Wasn’t he the one just commenting how precious this model was to his own father?
Jimmy takes the plane out to the garbage, where we’re treated to the sudden introduction of an obnoxious, cigar-chomping neighbor. He immediately gets all up in Jimmy’s bidness, but even so I think calling someone a “decrepit sack of shit” in response might be a tad harsh for first encounters. Not to mention “decrepit” is an awfully highfalutin’ word for an underachieving teenager. Maybe Jimmy did learn something from the English teacher before pushing him down the stairs.
The neighbor, as we’ll find out in a moment, is Lou. Lou is perhaps the most memorable character in this entire film, for better or worse. So much so that he has a permanent entry in our Yakmala! glossary. Lou is played by Ronnie Schell, whose major claim to fame was playing Gomer Pyle’s bunkmate. He’s also the honorary mayor of Encino, California (I shit you not. Look it up). But what he is for us, now and forevermore, is Lou.
Jimmy ditches the triplane on top of the trash as he’s called to do more chores. Cut to what I think is supposed to be the next day. Or maybe just another sixty second miracle change, I don’t know. A once-again fully dressed Richard speaks of how he has to go to his office, and orders Jimmy to walk to the grocery store in the meantime. They seem fairly far up in the hills, here, so I hope the shopping list isn’t a big one. Oh, and no more planes, Jimmy! No TV! Here’s another list of chores! Hate me, audience! Hate me, I tell you!
Jimmy storms out in protest of the amateurish script, leaving a sputtering Richard to take out his own garbage. Lou is at the fence again to provide running commentary… or did he ever leave? This film’s sense of time is unraveling beyond mere human perception… maybe that’s why I get the headaches…
“Takin’ out the gar-BAAAHJ, huh?” Lou queries. And yes, that’s as close to a phonetic of his obnoxious pronunciation as I can manage. Lou has nothing better to do than hang around the borders of his property all day and spy on his neighbors. Moreover, his preferred spot for doing so is where they dump their garbage. Perhaps Lou is retired paparazzi, or his sense of smell was destroyed in the war. The world may never know. The triplane, of course, is gone from the trash can. Gasp.
Well, anyhow, Grandpa is apparently left alone to trim roses in the garden, and this is where the Red Baron finally attacks. And by “attacks” I mean there’s shots of the model plane flying back and forth with no real sense of it getting anywhere near James, going on long enough I was reminded of Murat from Turkish Star Wars uselessly jumping around his enemies. Grandpa finally decides to try to wheel away, but hits a shallow step and goes sprawling out of his wheelchair in a heap. Yes! Yes! He’s dead, he’s… no, shit, he’s still moving. They could have ended the scene right here, but that doesn’t happen, because the plane has to land so the puppet can mock his old foe.
Yeah, the puppet talks, in an appallingly overdone German accent. At some point it… he… whatever… stole James’ heart pills, which he now offers tauntingly if James can crawl over to reach them. I guess it’s not an anachronism for the Baron to know about heart medication, since nitro pills were in widespread use for the purpose by 1880. I laugh a bit hysterically at myself now for still thinking at this point the script gave two shits about anachronisms.
“I hope I haven’t caused you any… heartache,” quips the puppet.
Did I not warn you about the quipping? Oh how he will quip. This, apparently, is the end product of the massive slasher villain quipberg we’d been steering into ever since Freddy Kreuger started the trend back in 1984. Except Kreuger was actually scary, as well. Ten years later and we have a goddamn 8 inch tall puppet harassing senior citizens.
Grandpa presumably never reaches the pills, since we cut to a pair of EMTs loading him into an ambulance under the supervision of Lou. Lou wears black socks with shorts and white tennis shoes, just in case we hadn’t grasped by now that he’s tacky. Jimmy meanwhile is running up the driveway from the street, I guess having just returned from the store, although he has nary a grocery bag to drop. Must have blown all the money on hookers and booze, like the delinquent he is.
The EMTs inform Jimmy his grandpa had a heart attack and ask if he was taking any pills. Jimmy tells them about the nitro pills, natch. Then, I shit you not, these two medical professionals start joking about cartoon mice swallowing nitro “trying to blow themselves up” and how inaccurate that is. Keep in mind they’ve just established that Jimmy is a relative and they’re saying this right in front of him. “Serious as a heart attack” is apparently not a phrase they’ve ever heard.
You know, with how Lou keeps such close tabs on this family, even to the point of finding Grandpa collapsed in the garden, I’m surprised he hasn’t noticed the weirdly aggressive triplane antics. Or… has he? Could chuckling, badly dressed Lou be in league with the infamous Red Baron? Probably not. But I wish he was. This film would be so much better if he was. That’s not saying much, but maybe I can at least pretend…
Cut to Jimmy and Richard visiting Grandpa at the hospital, and a nurse in pink dress who is radiating pure 100% bitch from her first line. Before we ever watched this movie, Erik warned us that it displayed a seething hatred for everyone in the medical profession. It’s true. I mean, I hesitate to dignify this film with the term “monster movie” but the medical people here seem to be filling the obnoxious roles that in other films would be served by stuffed suit bureaucrats or gung-ho military personnel.
It would be ridiculous for them to find the Baron’s triplane under the hospital bed at this point, so of course they do. Richard holds it up and asks the nurse “What the hell is this?” I think a true superbitch would have deadpanned “A toy plane” in response, but she only replies that she doesn’t know. Does only the Baron get to quip?
So Richard and Jimmy leave the hospital, putting the plane into the trunk of Richard’s car as he bitches non-stop about the nurse’s rudeness. “I got her name. Sally. Sally… Cimi. C-I-M-I… I’ll report her, too!” The nurse’s name has no bearing on the plot, by the way, so the scene is particularly pointless. Jimmy doesn’t care, and I sure as hell don’t. All I can think of is that Sally Cimi is some real life person that scriptwriter McDonald wanted to give an unsubtle fuck you to. Maybe she’s why he hates the medical profession?
Later that night, Jimmy is attacked by the Baron in a ludicrous sequence that includes the plane quite obviously flying through doorways too small for its frame. And he falls off the stairs, and… wait, now he’s flying a plane in WWI? And now he wakes up. Oh, it was a bad dream. You know, it says something when what’s already happening on screen “in reality” is so silly, surreal, and time-distorted that you can’t tell what’s supposed to be a dream sequence.
Jimmy was awoken by a phone call from Grandpa James, who warns him that the Red Baron is back. He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear. And he absolutely will not stop – ever! Until every last Spencer is dead.
“No grandpa, the Red Baron is locked in the trunk,” Jimmy sensibly replies. (And if he gets free I’ll ship him off to my little cousin. You should see what she does to her Barbie dolls!)
No no, Grandpa insists. Drive the car off a cliff, or burn it. Not burn the plane, by the way: burn the car. What? For FUCK’S SAKE it’s a doll in a model plane! A few hits with a baseball bat should do just fine, methinks (although personally, I like my pre-teen female cousin solution). Whatever you do, grandpa says, do it fast or “we’re all barbecue”. I guess because the Red Baron’s preferred method of execution was flamethrowers?
Well before you can say “It’s already too late,” Richard is storming up the stairs waving around a huge revolver and claiming the garage was broken into. Sure enough the trunk of the car is popped open and a window is broken. Far too small a window for the plane to actually get out of, but why quibble when Richard can wave around his doomcock of a gun and say he wishes he had caught the guy on his property, so he could shoot him dead and claim self-defense. Uh, Rick, I don’t think it works quite that simply in California.
Richard leaves Jimmy to clean up and heads out for a swim. Jimmy notices there’s no glass on the inside of the garage: it’s all outside, which means the Red Baron definitely broke the window from inside before realizing there was no way he was going to be able to fit his plane through there. This leads to Jimmy screaming for his dad and grabbing a shotgun(!) from the gun cabinet before running out poolside. I suppose I actually do buy that his alcoholic father forgot to re-lock it, or maybe never had it locked in the first place.
Now, if your juvenile delinquent son that you’ve been treating like shit since he started living with you suddenly bursts out of the house holding one of your shotguns and screaming that the Red Baron is going to kill us all, I would probably be a lot more concerned than Richard is in this scene. In fact, I think “scared shitless” would be appropriate, whether or not I believe what’s being said. Richard is blase about the whole thing. It’s also pretty silly that he asks “Where the hell did you get that gun?”
We hear the ominous “mosquito” engine noise but it turns out to just be Lou with a weed whacker. Hilariously, he’s using it out in the middle of the hillside where there’s nothing growing except weeds. He borrowed it from Richard earlier, “for the day”. I don’t think he’s going to be done in time.
Back to Richard and Jimmy, and now Richard is finally showing the kind of concern you might actually display when facing down someone with a loaded firearm. Or maybe not. I mean, spittle literally flies off of Tobey Maguire’s chin in wet, sticky strings as he rants, and the dad’s response is to keep yelling at and belittling him?
Naturally all this yelling attracts Lou to the fence to observe as Jimmy gets frustrated and blows his father’s head off… okay, not really. Jimmy decides for some reason that Richard will believe the Red Baron story if only he can get his senile grandfather on the phone to corroborate, so he goes inside to call the hospital. We hear the mosquito noise again, but of course this is actually the Baron, who somehow skyhooks the bug zapper with his plane and then drops it into the pool with Dick. With a quip, naturally: “Your son’s behavior is shocking!”
Jimmy runs to haul the bug zapper out of the pool, but of course it’s too late and dad is so much steaming meat (FAMILY ADVENTURE). At the fence, Lou is grinning and telling someone to call the cops because the kid’s killing his dad. Maybe a wife who we never see? There’s no one around him, though, and his own property is hundreds of feet away. God, this movie makes so much more sense if Lou is the Baron’s evil henchman.
Somehow the film also decides this is a great time for the Baron to land his plane and taunt Jimmy. Oh I see, it’s so we can get in more quips. “Vy are you so upset? I just saved you a dollar-fifty on your next Father’s Day card!”
So much for anachronisms. “Catch you later!” is another good one as the Baron flies off again before Jimmy thinks to step on him. God I hate killer doll movies. Any villain you can subdue by stepping on is not a creditable villain.
There’s now a brief pointless interlude in the hospital where we further establish that Nurse Sally C-I-M-I is a horrible bitch, although considering how Grandpa James has been acting this whole movie, she may be justified.
And now back to the house, where mom is arriving and the police are there to tell her they’re going to take Jimmy in for observation and questioning, if she doesn’t mind. Or even if she does mind. Oh wait, turns out they’re just going to question him right then and there. Um. Eh. The detective here is played by Don Stark, probably best known as Laura’s dad from That 70’s Show. His direction here was apparently “be really oily and creepy”. No no, Don, too understated. More. MORE. The audience should feel like you’re about to molest everyone in that room. In that Zip Code! The audience should feel you’re molesting THEM! No, wait, the film is doing a good enough job of that already.
I guess Jimmy actually told the police the story that a killer doll in a toy triplane killed his dad, so even though the law enforcement folk here are portrayed as realistically and sympathetically as the medical folk, I’d say Jimmy is quite the moron. Mom at least has the sense to tell him to shut the fuck up, but then… she goes right ahead and answers questions instead? This detective’s attitude simply screams “I want a lawyer!” Or at least, “I need an adult!”
Turns out the police have a witness who saw Jimmy threatening his father with a gun. I’d presume that’s Lou… and even though Lou is the evil henchman, I have to admit that sure is exactly what happened. It’s also funny to hear Carol claim Jimmy doesn’t even know how to use a gun when we saw him pump a shotgun and check the firing chamber like a pro. Poor naïve Carol, thinking Jimmy was at the library after school.
But seriously, this scene is just way too creepy and awkward. I’ll just wait until its over. There. Jimmy’s being taken away. Without handcuffs, I should note, despite being under suspicion of murder and attempted murder (they found grandpa’s heart pills in Jimmy’s jacket, so I guess the heart attack earlier is now somehow also his fault?). This is so he can grab the Red Baron triplane as the detective taunts him with it and throw it on the ground, breaking one of its wings. Yes! You see how easy it is? Now just a few more stomps, and… bah, they pulled him away.
Oh hey, did I mention McDonald put himself into the movie? I had blocked this out. He’s going to be Jimmy’s County Youth Authority psychoanalyst. Let’s see if a shrink is considered close enough to a medical professional to be portrayed as a one-dimensional asshole. Yep, he sure is. We’ll be seeing more of him soon enough, unfortunately.
Meanwhile, here’s an unnamed doctor to tag team Grandpa James with Nurse Sally C-I-M-I at his side. He’s… can you guess? A total dick. This is one of those movies where you hate everyone so much you’d normally be rooting for the villain, except here the villain is a complete douchebag as well. Grandpa’s going to be put under sedation, despite the fact for the first time in the whole movie he is now acting calm and normal, and freely agreeing with the doctor that the Red Baron was a hallucination. Well, he’s being given a pill. Don’t they usually sedate people with injections or IVs? I guess it wouldn’t have been as easy for Grandpa to spit out an injection after they leave. Crazy… like a fox!
Next week: More Michael McDonald! More quipping! And the moment where the movie finally pushed me right past the brink of sanity.