Last time on Revenge of the Red Baron, we examined two documented cases of the movie pushing rational human beings past the point of sanity… one of them was me. Sadly, the film kept going. Jimmy, Carol, and Grandpa James have escaped the hospital and the stage is set for the exciting climax. To paraphrase a man called Plinkett, I don’t have enough quotation marks to put around those words so I ain’t even gonna try.
Well, I guess our heroes managed to hitch a ride, because some sort of graffiti-covered truck is now dropping them off back at the Spencer country home. I don’t wanna think about what kind of fare the driver exacted, since this house isn’t exactly “on the way” to much of anywhere. The camera then pans over to Lou’s house and we see the Baron buzzing across the frame. See?! More symbolic evidence of Lou’s collaboration!
Begin a quick montage of the Spencers all arming themselves from Richard’s gun cabinet. They hear the Baron’s plane and Jimmy leads the charge to the front door, where we see Lou checking his watch and then knocking. I guess he’s ostensibly returning the weed whacker he borrowed for the day. Why, I have no clue. I mean, as far as Lou knows the guy that loaned it to him is dead, the grandfather is in a hospital and the kid is incarcerated. The answer, of course, is that Lou wants to lure them out in order for his evil master to exact vengeance. He shows appropriate fear as Shotgun Jimmy answers the door, but foolish, foolish Jimmy buys his story about just wanting to return the weed whacker. “Go home,” says Jimmy, “It’s not safe here.” “I know!” says Lou. He’s referring to Jimmy crazily waving around the shotgun, which is an actual funny moment in this comic drought, but again I prefer him to know because he’s the Red Baron’s accomplice.
Well, as often happens to evil henchmen, Lou is betrayed by his master, who zooms in and once again follows the pattern of a quip, destroy, quip. “Howdy neighbor!” Blammity-blam. “Dead neighbors make good fences!” I suppose that’s supposed to be a take-off on the Robert Frost quote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Or maybe McDonald was just blazed.
Jimmy gets off a couple shotgun blasts in the Baron’s direction before mom pulls him inside, and they argue about whether they hit the Baron or not. He does still seem to be buzzing around just fine. In fact… that’s all he’s doing. For way too long. With the annoying mosquito noise.
Grandpa James decides it’s because “he’s trying to keep out of range… he’s trying to draw us out!” He shouts at the Baron that it’s not going to work because “We’re too wise for ya!” Sure, James, that’s why you’re silhouetting yourself against a floor-to-ceiling glass door.
As the pacing of the scene dies an agonizing death, more pointless buzzing and shouting kills time until Carol finally fires off a shot. “I got him!” she claims, but the Baron merely quips, “Sticks and stones vill break my wingstruts.” (What? Yep, McDonald’s blazed.)
Carol tells grandpa that she knows she hit him, but James replies in a bug-eyed stammer, “You can’t kill him… with bullets!”
Um. Why not? Because the tools of war only fuel his Evil Voodoo Magic? That might have worked and even been some sort of thematic message, but no one asks and James doesn’t tell. We just leave it at “because Grandpa said so”. Y’know… the man whose previous insights into the problem included driving a car off a cliff or setting fire to it.
Grandpa declares they have to wait and hope for a thunderstorm because only lightning will do the trick. Grandpa is still acting like a full-on senile maniac, much like he has been the whole movie… would you listen to him? Besides which “let’s wait for a thunderstorm” is still a pretty fucking horrible idea when the skies are crystal clear and you’ve got a murderous puppet gunning people down.
Jimmy might have a similar realization because he listens for a moment and then just runs off upstairs, perhaps thinking of a better plan. That wouldn’t be too hard. I suggest sacrificing Grandpa to sate the Baron’s thirst for vengeance.
We cut to audio of the Baron’s laughter and an exterior shot as night fades into day to show the passage of time. The Baron is then shown flying and holds out something in his hand. It is… a tiny bomb. With ‘MUSTARD GAS’ printed on it. With an umlaut over the ‘U’. There should be some sort of award for packing so much stupid into a single image, but as far as I know even the Razzies wouldn’t touch this turkey.
Now that several hours have passed, Jimmy’s alternate plan must be well into motion and—what the fuck—he’s just now reached the top of the stairs we saw him climbing?! What was the whole point of that exterior fade? It wasn’t an accident, since the window he’s passing clearly shows it’s now daylight. What’s even better is Jimmy gets upstairs, looks around a bit, and then goes back down. What was he up to? What was the point? Do we even fucking care anymore?
The Baron drops his müstard gas down the chimney (“Special Delivery!”), and we see that the fireplace was actually boarded up at some point. Maybe it did actually take Jimmy hours to climb the stairs? Time is just different at the Spencer home.
Well, our heroes are forced out of the house and the Baron must again quip pointlessly as they do so (“He flies through the air with the greatest of ease!”). Jimmy asks Grandpa where the other plane is, and the camera shows us the radio control Sopwith at poolside. Then they all just stand there stupidly until the Baron dives in: “Time to paint ze family portrait!” Blammity-blam. “There’s lead in my paint!”
You may be wondering why I feel a need to quote every single one of the Baron’s horrible, horrible quips. It’s very simple. It’s so you suffer as I do.
I think Grandpa takes a bullet in the shoulder here. Whatever the wound, it’s sadly non-fatal. Jimmy and mom start shooting, despite Grandpa’s earlier claim that the Baron is immune to such tomfoolery. We’ll never know since the movie never bothers showing us if they’re actually hitting him or not.
“My God don’t you have gun control in zis country?” — “Would you care to polka, mein liebchen?” Blammity-blam. “We’re having fun now!” — “Goodbye, Herr Spencer!”
Jimmy has to dive into the pool to escape the Baron’s guns. “My little duck in a pond!” the Baron nonsensically gloats as Carol tries to distract him. Alas, all this does is encourage more quips. “Are you talking to me?” — “You shoot like a Fraulein!”
Okay, okay, I’ll ease off. The movie doesn’t, but what can you do?
Jimmy is in the pool a long time, here. Right by the edge, with excruciatingly long pauses where he could have easily climbed out. But I suppose that would have robbed us of the dramatic tension that ensues as the clever Baron machine guns the pool cover control in order to… very… slowly… trap… Jimmy… under… plastic.
I lied about easing off, by the way: “Let’s shoot some pool!”
It somehow takes Carol quite a bit of time before she realizes her son might be in danger of drowning, after which she feebly pokes her rifle into the plastic until it breaks. This is supposed to be suspenseful, I guess, but it’s just boring and stupid.
Speaking of stupid, Jimmy’s master plan turns out to be to use the Sopwith RC plane to challenge the Baron to a dogfight. Mom rightly points out that this is moronic and they should just flee—a suggestion Jimmy brushes off: “The Baron’s going to find us wherever we go!”
Uh-huh. You know, the psychic link in Jaws IV was dumb as hell, but at least they didn’t show multiple scenes throughout the movie of the shark ASKING PEOPLE WHERE THE BRODYS WERE. “Where is Jimmy?” “Where is James Spencer?” Where is the internal logic of this film?
Okay, so, Jimmy is going to use the Sopwith to lure the Baron into the power lines near the house, because he appeared in lightning, so lightning will send him back. Or whatever. “You’ve just gotta trust me!” hollers Jimmy, no doubt speaking of behalf of McDonald. No, movie. I do not trust you. You have been giving me the bad touch for your entire running time.
So now we’re back to that oh-so-exciting footage of RC planes buzzing around aimlessly as the heroes and villain exchange the kind of trash-talk that would make 13-year-olds on Xbox Live feel creatively bankrupt. Everyone can hear one another with crystal clarity, which again shows the power of Evil Voodoo Magic.
Maguire’s performance here is really a thing of legend. The veins stand out on his neck as he curses and shouts and huffs and grits his teeth and tries anything possible to make a guy standing around with an RC console seem exciting.
Meanwhile you get occasional reaction shots and dialog from mom and grandpa which add absolutely zero content to the scene. This has all the excitement and pacing of a Dragonball Z episode, except robbed of even the occasional mega-‘splosion. Did I mention the Baron has completely stopped using his magic machine guns?
Now here’s a weird moment where Grandpa notices blue lightning playing around a busted electrical transformer on the side of the house that’s hanging in pieces. Wait, is that the same one that was hit by the lightning at the start? I guess so. No, I’m not going to dignify that by calling it foreshadowing.
Grandpa glances at the power lines, and then starts wheeling himself purposely forwards. Planes buzz around. Maguire growls. Baron quips. Carol looks concerned. Grandpa pushes his wheel chair. Planes buzz around. Maguire grimaces. Carol shouts, “Hey Baron, your mother made lousy strudel!” Baron replies, “That was sauerkraut!” Owned, Carol. Planes buzz. Maguire contorts. Grandpa wheels.
This is exactly as exciting as it sounds, and the dramatic music just makes it worse. Wacky ragtime actually might have been more appropriate here.
Look, I guess we’re supposed to feel the suspense of a lot of near-misses with the power lines, but the fact is that the planes never seem to get close to them, and it’s one set of lines out in the middle of nowhere. You’d have to be an utter retard to actually hit them. So it’s just boring. I mean, really, really boring. And then, just as you’re swallowing handfuls of nitro pills in an attempt to blow yourself up, the shots of Jimmy with the RC control start intercutting with shots of him in the cockpit of an actual plane. Um, what? Wait, there it goes again! Someone tell the editor we got footage from the start of the movie mixed in to the climax… oh. This is supposed to happen?
Yeah, suddenly we’re in 1918 France all over again, along with a bearded human Red Baron and a grinning, whooping Jimmy. Weren’t you just grimacing and swearing like an old man with gastritis a few moments ago, Jimmy? Well, maybe it’s a big flashback sequence and that’s supposed to be Grandpa James again.
Baron: “Admit it Jimmy. I haven’t done anything that you didn’t wish you could do yourself!”
Okay, scratch that theory.
Jimmy: “Well that’s all over with, Baron!”
So um… no denial? Jimmy is all cool with his dad being electrocuted and several others being shot? Okay.
Baron: “Nobody will believe you, Jimmy. Nobody!”
I don’t know what the hell this is supposed to represent. The Red Baron suddenly redefined as nothing more than Jimmy’s unchecked id? If this is what’s going on in Jimmy’s head, then I really do think Jimmy ought to be back in the asylum. Youth Authority. Whatever.
I swear a lot of this sequence is just re-used footage from the beginning, though. And after more flying around we suddenly cut back to California, Present Day and the Baron flies right into the power lines. I guess it’s true after all that the Baron’s combat prowess was due mostly to his marksmanship and not his maneuvering, but of course this movie is far too bad to actually reference that bit of history.
Also, instead of the visceral payoff we should get of this guy electrocuting and exploding, the plane just thunks into the wires and sits there. “Oh my God!” screams Carol, “There’s no power!” Cut to grandpa holding up the severed ends of the power cables at the house’s transformer… that’s what he was wheeling and staggering towards, eh?
Wait. The power was blown? Why did we see electricity arcing just a couple minutes ago? For that matter, why were the lights, the pool cover, the bug zapper, and everything else in this house working without a problem after that thunderstorm? Or to put it more succinctly: are you fucking kidding me?
I guess this was their way of letting Grandpa play a part in the Baron’s demise. Why couldn’t he have been operating the RC instead? Yes, I know, bullet in the shoulder, but that didn’t have to happen. I guess Maguire demanded screentime to show he can make faces as frightening and twisted as Rooney can.
The chuckling Baron shoots at mom and Jimmy while remaining in the wires… somehow conveniently forgetting he has an Evil Voodoo Plane that can fly however it wants and physics be damned. I would not have been surprised to see him put it in reverse at this point, complete with “comical” truck-backing-up beeping noises.
“Baron!” shouts Grandpa, “It’s over!” No, Mickey, no, for the thousandth time the line is “It’s over, Baron!” Rainier Wolfcastle shakes his head sadly at your inability to take direction.
Well the Baron does his stock response but only gets out the first syllable of “over” before Grandpa brings the wires together, electrocuting them both. Now when I say “electrocuting” here, I mean that Rooney makes funny faces and shakes as he gets the soot-face effect you’d see in Bugs Bunny cartoons; meanwhile, the Baron’s plane catches fire and explodes, despite being nestled in fully insulated high-tension wires it never came close to breaking.
Let’s review. Earlier in this movie, Richard–a healthy adult–was electrocuted and died horribly, becoming a “grotesquely charred, bloated carcass”. Now a 93-year-old with a heart condition is electrocuted, and it’s presented as kooky hijinks. Grandpa just stands there afterwards, his eyebrows smoking as he laughs and laughs.
Makes perfect sense.
Well, now it’s later and the police and an ambulance have arrived. Grandpa is wheeling around happily, none the worse for wear, so I guess the ambulance is for poor ol’ Lou. Jimmy is explaining his famous World War I flying ace hallucinations to his mother, and how he looked right in the Baron’s eyes and it was like how the Baron meant it to be all along.
Meant what to be all along? Jesus Christ, this movie hasn’t even figured out what it meant to be all along. Carol just smiles and nods and wisely doesn’t answer when Jimmy asks if she believes him. Grandpa hilariously refers to her as “Karen” again. I’m so happy he survived.
As they walk off past a police car that should by all rights be taking them both downtown to sit in cells, Jimmy murmurs “It’s over. It’s really over.” So of course we see an ominous toy parachute caught in a tree, with an empty harness, and get one last taste of the Baron declaring, “It’s never over!”
Fortunately, he is proven false as the end credits start rolling.
Thank. God. I’m so relieved that my only comment here is, after all that trouble to give us the name of Nurse Sally Cimi (C-I-M-I), she is listed in the credits only as “Nurse”. But the doctor whose name we never heard mentioned is listed as “Dr. Weintraub”. Just one last pointlessness for the pile.
So…. there. I’ve gone over every last excruciatingly filthy inch of this movie, and it was just as awful as I remembered. Perhaps even moreso. Was Revenge of the Red Baron meant as a heartwarming family drama? A screwball comedy? A suspenseful horror flick? Sometimes movies can cross genre boundaries successfully and become much more than the sum of their parts, but Revenge manages to do the exact opposite and fail on every conceivable level. It’s not touching, it’s not scary, and the only humor it provides is completely unintentional. It is a movie that actually becomes worse on repeat viewings, as the vaguely awful haze of the first time begins resolving itself into specifically awful details. It is lazy, confused, badly paced, horribly written and acted, and I dearly hope everyone involved squirms in embarassment and shame to this day whenever it is brought up. I know Maguire went into Alcoholics Anonymous not too long after the film’s release. Coincidence?
Something else I’ve learned when I checked out the one review of the movie linked on Rotten Tomatoes (0%, by the way). Buena Vista entertainment released this film. And released the DVD version in 2006. That means Disney. DISNEY classified this horrid little Fokker as FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT. And unfortunately, one of the few things in the world Disney doesn’t own is the rights to the Peanuts characters, because the only way this movie could have been redeemed at the end would be if a possessed Snoopy doll had stepped forth to challenge the Baron instead.
Anyhow, I am done. I have faced my fears. I have journeyed into the underworld and emerged (more or less) intact. Perhaps now I can finally rest. Perhaps it’s finally over.
(Cue Erik: “It’s never over, Herr Spencer!”)
Curse you, Red Baron.