Last time on Revenge of the Red Baron, Grandpa James went to the hospital, Richard went to the morgue, and Jimmy got sent to the County Youth Authority to talk with celebrated psychiatrist Michael McDonald. I’d say Richard got the best deal.
We return to Carol at the country home putting the broken triplane on the kitchen table. It does little twitchy motions behind her back, just in case we forgot it was possessed. I’m thinking Hitchcock would have left it still; actually, Hitchcock would have probably just used this script for toilet paper.
The next shot is one of the funniest in the whole movie. In the foreground Carol is talking on the phone to the hospital, while in the background a hilariously awful string puppet “hops” out of the plane and swivels around a bit, I guess checking on the broken wing. The puppets from Mr. Roger’s “Neighborhood of Make Believe” are Dark Crystal quality by comparison to this thing, even in blurred focus. I don’t think it even has arms, making the fact it seamlessly repairs the plane wing in a span of a couple seconds even more magical.
So it seems Child’s Play is now masturbating furiously in the back seat of Christine at the Annoy the Fuck out of Me Drive-In. Look, I get that there’s Evil Voodoo Magic at work here, but even Evil Voodoo Magic ought to have some sort of logic to it. Otherwise it’s just a code for “I can be lazy with this screenplay and do whatever the hell I want.” I mean, why even have the doll get out of the plane here? To show off their masterful special effects? The most curious part of this sequence is that as Carol puzzles over the repaired wing, she also notices a newly peeled banana on the counter. Believe me, I went back and checked: it wasn’t there before. At least it doesn’t appear to be partly eaten, but still, what the fuck? When? How? Most of all, WHY? If you think any of this will ever be explained, I’m sorry, you have the wrong movie.
Carol takes the doll out of the plane with an ease that suggests the thing should have fallen out the first time there was any maneuvering in the earlier radio control scenes. This next part is superlative filmmaking idiocy, though. I know, I know, I keep bringing up that the doll and puppet look nothing like each other. It’s because THE MOVIE KEEPS REMINDING US. We get a nice, lingering close-up of the doll in Carol’s hand, and then after a quick jump-cut it’s now a close-up of the puppet.
At least her hand isn’t in the shot so we can’t see the scaling issues, but they might as well have cut between her holding an orange and an apple. Laraine Newman drops the doll and screams, perhaps only now realizing the true caliber of the production she’s contracted herself into. Well, actually I guess she screams because the puppet starts talking to her. Oh, Carol, wait until the quips begin. They’ll give you something to scream about.
So she runs out and locks the kitchen doors and starts looking frantically for… something. I think car keys? The Baron escapes outside by flying through the kitchen window. “Smashing window, Frau Spencer!” he quips quippingly. She finds him hovering and waiting for her as she opens the front door: “You didn’t even say auf Wiedersehen!”
Yeah, that’s right, I said hovering. Evil Voodoo Magic lets you fly your triplane like a helicopter, didn’t you know that? So terrified is she by his quipping that she runs back inside rather than just swatting the plane out of the way. Now she’s at the gun cabinet and she decides to arm herself. Lady, just get a fireplace poker or a heavy blanket or something, I don’t think you need a rifle for this. The most he can do is maybe ram you with his propeller, and we’ve already seen that doesn’t even break someone’s skin.
Now the Baron just flies straight down the narrow chimney and is hovering in the fireplace (“Ho ho ho! Have you been a good girl, Carol?”). She struggles by pushing the grating against him and he… overpowers her? And doesn’t damage his propeller in the process? I guess Evil Voodoo Magic again, but, didn’t we just recently establish that, although repairable, the plane CAN BREAK? Evil Voodoo Magic also is the only explanation for the physics here, since these RC planes are regularly held in place during engine testing by the simple expedient of a guy standing unbraced with his ankles in front of the tail flaps. But see, I love how wildly inconsistent even the magic here is, because after the plane lands on Carol’s chest (“Where is Jimmy?”) she throws it off with the ease you would throw off… well, a plywood model. (“You turn my world upside down!”)
So the Red Baron is upside down, helpless… so Carol now grabs her rifle and smashes the plane to flinders like any sane bloodthirsty evolved monkey in terror of its life would do, right? Nope, she just runs off. I don’t know about this. I’ll give you that people do weird things in a state of panic, but wouldn’t you at least give an ol’ college try at bashing the shit out of what’s chasing you while it’s defenseless on its back? She was already prepared to shoot it, but I guess that whole sequence was just there so she’d spill ammunition all over the floor (as a side note, I like how Richard keeps all his spare ammo of different calibers in the same box). Why is the spilled ammo important?
Baron: “Ah, bullets! Danke schoen!”
You know where this is going. I know where this is going. The Baron is somehow going to take this scattered pile of shotgun shells and handgun rounds and use them to make his toy machine guns lethally operational.
Go ahead, read that paragraph again. This is what happens. This is what the movie expects us to accept without question, because of Evil Voodoo Magic. Why doesn’t Evil Voodoo Magic just give him working machine guns from the point he reappeared in a flash of Evil Voodoo Lightning? It’s still stupid, but I’d buy into it a lot more than this.
Carol meanwhile escapes in the car after a wholly unnecessary cliché sequence of not being able to get the key in the slot, forgetting to release the parking brake, etc. This is such a trope we usually just groan when a horror movie (yeah, I guess this is a horror movie now) does it, but could you at least have the monster stalking her at the time?
Instead we cut back to Jimmy and Michael McDonald–whose character is never named, showing how crucial he is to the plot–performing the other horror movie trope of the skeptical authority figure sneering at the hero’s unbelievable story. Then it’s Carol driving, with the Red Baron now at least following her (although she doesn’t know! Gasp!). Then back to Jimmy and Psychy Mikey.
This is the best. We have a criminal psychiatrist that starts actively mocking and threatening his patient– who, we must remember, is under suspicion of both murder and attempted murder, and has a documented history of violence. “What are you gonna do, Jimmy?” asks McDonald. “You gonna get aaangry with me? You gonna try to hurt me and then blame it on one of your toys? … What are you gonna do, wrap a Slinky around my neck, maybe?” Also bear in mind that the psychiatrist was shown earlier starting a recording of this session, and doesn’t shut it off for this exchange. I guess he’s grown tired of having a license.
Well, I can’t exactly blame Jimmy for physically assaulting McDonald at this point (I know I sure want to). An orderly is summoned who immediately tackles and forcibly restrains Jimmy before he can grab a sharp object. Oh, wait, no, the orderly just kind of half-assedly gets between them and holds up a hand. Arkham Asylum has better security than this place. McDonald points out to Jimmy that if he cooperates he could be let out of here in “eleven years”. Um. This is a Youth Authority center, right? When he reaches 18, wouldn’t he be transferred to prison? For that matter, is a Youth Authority really staffed and run like an asylum? I’ll admit I’m not an expert on these matters, but by now I just don’t trust this movie to tell me the sky is blue. Speaking of which, Jimmy is led out to “The Blue Room” at the McDonald’s command. Sounds ominous. Or maybe it’ll just be pointless.
Quick cut to Baron-cam as his plane is arriving at the County Youth Authority. “We looove to fly, and it shows!” sings the Baron. Yay, an ad slogan from a 1987 Delta Airlines campaign. The Anachronometer has gone off the scale, Cap’n. Never mind that, Scotty, I need more quips NOW!
Back to Jimmy and the orderly. He’s being put in the Blue Room. I wonder how the orderly knows it’s the Blue Room? There’s no sign, and ALL THE DOORS IN THIS HALL ARE BLUE. The orderly cheerfully turns his back on his allegedly homicidal charge as he tries to unlock the door, having to try several keys in the process as he explains he was a former inmate that now works here. Jimmy might have the same opportunity if he behaves! There’s an exchange here that I feel is supposed to be an in-joke where Jimmy asks why the orderly was there, and he explains “I had this thing about fire.” I don’t get it. Maybe it’s because he’s a redhead? This is an actor named Patrick Bristow… someone else figure it out. I’m done.
The orderly gets the door unlocked just in time for the Red Baron to fly down the hall, guns a-blazin’ (“Did you miss me, Jimmy? I won’t miss you!”). Jimmy throws himself and the orderly into the Blue Room—honestly I’m pretty sure it looks like every other room in this wing—but alas, the orderly has been instantly killed by, umm… a single small-caliber wound to the gut? That’s what the red ink blot on the front of his shirt would have us believe, I guess. The positioning immediately prior to this just baffles me about how this was supposed to have happened, particularly with Jimmy having escaped unscathed. The Kennedy assassination has nothing on Evil Voodoo Magic… which we’re about to see subverted once again as Jimmy defeats the Baron by throwing a blanket over the plane and then beating it down with the orderly’s nightstick. YES! Finally! Smash that sucker apart, and don’t leave any bananas nearby this time.
Baron: “Let me go you idiot! I’m trying to get you out of here!” Err. What? Isn’t his whole purpose to Destroy All Spencers? Is this statement just a trick? We will never know. But uh-oh, Psychy Mikey notices on the security cameras that Jimmy has apparently downed his orderly and is beating on a blanket.
So now we show Carol arriving at the County Youth Authority gate, where she’s callously turned away by the guard on duty. She of course rams through the gate instead. That’s not the problem here. The problem here is that the Red Baron arrived ahead of her. Wasn’t he following her because he didn’t know where Jimmy was? I mean, they made a point of showing him asking her, and it’s not like she answered him.
Anyhow, Jimmy is escaping and the alarms are ringing. He passes by a guy behind bars(?), and then someone locked in a room who looks like a middle-aged lady. Where the fuck are we, again? Oh, here’s Michael McDonald to challenge Jimmy’s escape, like he’s guarding him in a basketball game. “Where ya goin’, Jimmy?” he asks, his cold, dead eyes burning into Jimmy’s very soul. Or maybe it’s just McDonald’s natural creepiness shining through. Jimmy warns him to stay back, and heads for the Emergency Exit, which is… locked.
FUUUUCK! FUCKITY FUCK FUCK McFUCKERSON are you KIDDING me?! A state government facility has a LOCKED EMERGENCY EXIT? An exit REQUIRED BY LAW to be UNLOCKED AT ALL TIMES? You can get fined to hell and back for even having a coatrack in front of these things!
Okay, maybe it’s a secure facility, right? I mean, despite that Jimmy has been shown opening the one door in his path so far by pushing a button on the INMATE SIDE. Well… okay, maybe it’s a failsafe magnetic lock. Some prisons have those. No? Well, maybe the screenwriter didn’t realize how silly this would look in practice, or the director changed things on him without his knowledge… oh wait, no, the screenwriter is IN THE GODDAMNED SCENE.
I’m okay. I’m okay… I’m calming down. Deep breaths. McDonald’s offering his keys to Jimmy so he can unlock the Emergency ExiiIIIII… no! No… happy place… cute kittens, calm, fluffy clouds…
McDonald of course attempts to subdue the armed and dangerous prisoner on his own and gets clubbed for his troubles, then the Red Baron flies in and shoots him—yay—as Jimmy finally finds the right key and gets away through the… exit.
Jimmy meets mom outside and they break through the gate again heading back out, pursued now by the obligatory token police car. The gate guard is then shot down by the Baron: “Ha ha ha… your security system is full of holes!” One of the slowest car chase scenes ever commences, which even the Baron’s Evil Voodoo Magic machine guns can’t make exciting. “You’ve gotta go faster,” exhorts Jimmy. “I’m going as fast as I can!” complains mom. Really? I think that Mercury Cougar could probably do a little more than 30 MPH if you pushed it on this empty street. They have an exchange where mom assures Jimmy she believes him about the Red Baron now and believes that he didn’t kill his father.
Jimmy: “What about Mr. Pilata?”
Mom just laughs at that. Mr. Pilata, by the way, is apparently the English teacher mentioned at the start of the movie. So Mr. Pilata’s dead? I thought he was just in traction.
Oh wait, looks like the street wasn’t so empty after all. Here comes a big truck, carrying a mixture of logs, metal pipes, and fuel drums. No, I’m not kidding, it’s actually hauling logs, metal pipes, and fuel drums. Of course these have to spill out all over as Carol swerves by, and then another random car has to ram into them, causing a ginormous explosion as the half-assedly pursuing cop car LAUNCHES twenty feet over the top due to some pipes that conveniently caused a ramp and…
Yeah, that whole sequence is as forced and imbecilic as it sounds. Jimmy winces at the accident and complains that he’ll probably get blamed for that, too. Well, no, but your mother sure is 100% guilty. The Red Baron had zero part of this, by the way, it was all because of people swerving to get out of the way of the heroes’ car. Good job, heroes.
Now the Baron is back: “Mozzer and son, togezzer again. Very touching.”
Jimmy: “You’ve done enough damage! Will you just leave our family alone?!” (actually, Jimmy, I think what your mom just caused did much more damage than the Baron has)
“Time for ze old Baron to disappear like a bad dream… …NICHT!”
Yeah, they do the Wayne’s World “not” joke. Except in German. Are the quips starting to get to you yet, gentle reader? Don’t worry, they will. More machine gunning: “Say cheese, Jimmy!” (what, not Swiss Cheese?) Then the Baron is momentarily defeated by Jimmy popping open the car trunk and knocking him away. Gott in Himmel, will this movie please decide if its villain is an unstoppable force of vengeance or a flimsy toy?
The heroes’ triumph is short-lived as Carol manages to crash and turn their car over, which leads the Baron to quip: “Ze ladies always… flip… for me!”
Reportedly, this is the exact moment where another of the Yakmala! crowd finally lost his shit and had to be physically restrained from kicking in the television set while he screamed incoherent obscenities.
And that, my friends, is at the heart of the insidious nature of Revenge of the Red Baron… this is what I came to realize when I forced myself to sit through it again. This is why a simple, short summary review cannot hope to capture its essence.
It’s cumulatively awful.
Inexorably, tectonically awful.
It takes its time. It is a patient beast, this film. You may not even be fully conscious of what’s happening as it slowly grinds against your mind, pretending to be just another substandard movie experience. But sooner or later, before its runtime is done, it WILL break you. You will find yourself trapped under a glacially creeping morass of bullshit, the pressure building and building until just the tiniest random slip sets you off into an avalanche of screaming, mindless rage.
The death of a thousand cuts. The straw that breaks the camel’s back. I may be going metaphor happy here, but you get the gist. For me, it was the emergency exit. For my buddy, it was Unfunny Quip #37. Ha ha, you see, the most wonderful thing is, this happens to you before the movie’s over. Now you get to watch the rest as a hollow, deadened shell, just waiting for the mercy of the end credits. But will it ever be over, Herr Spencer?
Anyhow. Not only do I get to keep watching, I get to keep reviewing. My soul is gone. All I have left is dragging you to hell along with me.
So, the Baron doesn’t finish off our heroes in the flipped car, because… he’s out of fuel. As we see by a working fuel gauge in his cockpit. Oh, Evil Voodoo Magic, what can’t you accomplish? Well, you can’t seem to keep an Evil Voodoo Plane fueled.
“It’s that damn unleaded gas,” quips the Baron. These quips have moved on from lines I get, but aren’t funny, to lines I don’t even get. So he brings the plane down (“Flight crew prepare for landing!”), and one of the next shots is the puppet dragging the plane along with a piece of twine: “Wouldn’t you know it? I left my Triple A card in Berlin.” McDonald’s character may be dead, but his script, like von Richthofen, haunts us from beyond the grave.
Oh yeah, mom and Jimmy were shown climbing from the car, shaken but not stirred.
Now back to Grandpa Spencer in his hospital bed as he catches a news report detailing the death of his son; or, as the news reporter so gently and professionally puts it: “The grotesquely charred, bloated carcass of Richard Spencer was discovered by a neighbor, who was quoted as saying, ‘The smell was like that of any other barbecue… only the meat was different’”. I guess Lou must do his grilling with chlorine. Are they actually trying to hearken back to Grandpa’s nonsensical barbecue line from earlier? And wasn’t Jimmy right there at poolside, in terms of body discovery? Eh, this all just contributes to my Lou-the-evil-henchman theory. Grandpa asks his near-comatose roommate Mort (ha ha) to call for the telephone for him. Mort responds with vague Frankenstein noises.
Now we’re at a gas station. The Red Baron is fueling his plane. Yes, RC planes this large do often have gasoline engines, but this scene is basically about the Red Baron getting to quip “The price of gas just burns me up!” just before he causes the station and its baffled attendant to explode in a ludicrously huge fireball. Then as he flies away he has to quip again: “Just like a weenie roast in Dresden!” What? Good lord, now not only don’t I get these, they’ve devolved into complete nonsense.
Mom and Jimmy seem to have found a cab to the hospital, and spend a few minutes arguing with an offensively stereotypical middle-eastern driver because they have no money. This scene sucks, has horrid acting, and goes on way too long… but to be fair, that criticism could apply to the movie as a whole. Hey, I think we’re in Santa Monica, at least if the half-obscured hospital sign is to be believed.
In Grandpa James’s hospital room, he pretends to be asleep as Nurse Sally (you know her name!) comes in and delivers a line I’m not sure was intended to be funny or not: “Mr. Spencer wake up, it’s time for your sleeping pill.” After creepily hovering over him a few seconds, she just leaves, so I don’t know. Mom and Jimmy enter the room right afterwards to rescue him, and we cut to the nurse giving out James’s room number over the phone because some anonymous person claims to have a delivery for him… patient privacy be damned! I give up, my rage is already spent from the emergency exit fiasco. Of course we see the puppet on the other end of the line using a payphone. He laughs and laughs after he gets the room number, but the nurse doesn’t seem to get what’s so funny. Neither do we, Sally, neither do we.
Sally returns to James’s room after seeing the call button flashing or something and finds him gone. But there’s the Red Baron’s plane on the windowsill! Mort flails and urrrrghs helpfully.
“Calm down Mort, it’s just Mr. Spencer’s stupid toy. Ooh it’s an ugly old thing,” she sneers, leaning to examine it. “Beauty is in ze gunsights of ze beholder!” quips the puppet, shooting her down. “Band-aids are in ze cabinet on the left!”
If I seem inconsistent with the accent, it’s because the puppet is, too. Mort wails in mortal terror as the Baron asks where James Spencer has got to, and then we cut to a shot of Carol trying to hitch a ride outside of the Emergency driveway. Guys, you’ve broken so many laws tonight already, can’t you just steal a car while you’re at it? How about an ambulance? Mort meanwhile somehow finds the ability to speak and burbles that they’re taking James home, before succumbing to heart failure and becoming Mort in fact as well as name. Quip: “Sounds like your line went dead!” Ho ho…better a flat line than a line that falls flat, eh Baron?
I hate the world.
Next week: The end at last! Too bad we have to go through the rest of the movie to get there…