I would rather talk about LITTLE MONSTERS

We don't need to do an Anniversary Tribute thing, or even a review of the movie. We don't hafta do anything - I thought we could just talk.

Have you seen the movie? Good - I'd hate for this to be one-sided. Hopefully you might even have something to add to some of these talking points, because there's plenty of neat music and Dorito crumbs to wade through, so feel free to jump in at any time.

Rick Ducommun

In the biopic of my youth, Rick Ducommun is always on the edge of the frame, doing something. As an actor, he was a utility man (and, sometimes, as a utility man): Die Hard, Spaceballs, Groundhog Day, Last Action Hero, Gremlins 2, Blank Check, and, of course, The 'Burbs. And, of course, Little Monsters. He didn't have the crudeness of Belushi or the charm of John Candy, and roughly lacked the comedic talents of either. But he was always there - walkin' the line of annoying and comforting. Little Monsters gave him kinda something new to do: playing two roles - an underworld bouncer named Snik, and a cameo scene as the host of the Late Nite talk show All About Chicks - but the former put him in heavy makeup (and a wig that didn't seem to fit so well) and a sinister persona that allowed him to (literally) snarl lines like, "I'm gonna take my finger and put it in the corner of your mouth and I'm gonna rip the corner of your mouth out!"
If any aspect of this movie was supposedly 'too scary' for kids, it was probably Snik... But he wasn't too scary - it's fuckin' Rick Ducommun, man.

When actors are around a lot, and then suddenly they're not, it always sparks my interest: did they retire? are they producing? doing theater? standup?
It only recently came to my attention that Rick Ducommun died on June 12 of 2015, a month after my own mother's death (so I'm sure I was too distracted to notice).
So now, here, in your own way, let's pay tribute to the man for whom without our childhood Cult Cinema would not have had a sidekick, a chauffeur, a town drunk, a monstrous lackey, a utility man...

The Sandwich

"What sandwich?"
Other cultists may choose to watch this movie with a bag of Doritos, or maybe some 'za ("I love 'za!"), but those are for the casual fans. Five or six years ago I took the plunge into what I felt I already knew would be a bold adventure and a fanatical commitment. As of however many years ago that was, Peanut Butter and Onion Sandwiches - as we learn Brian notoriously eats through a bit of expository dialogue - is the menu for movie viewing.
They're crunchy & juicy & salty & sweet & all kindsa fucking outstanding & I'd eat them year round if I wasn't such a slave to tradition (especially my own).

The reason brothers hate their sisters

Fred & Ben are real-life brothers - that's nothing new (or interesting) - and I believe sister Kala is heavily made-up as one of the 'little monsters.' But as a kid, it was a real kick to see Fred acting off of Daniel Stern, his future adult-self narrating-counterpart from Wonder Years: two Kevin Arnolds acting in the same scenes.
And then there's the Home Alone connection.

Nothing major that Daniel Stern was in both films, but it was a bigger deal that Devin Ratray, aka Ronnie Coleman, aka Buzz McCallister was the consistent older, meaner 'big kid' presence that permeated two seasons every year. Once Little Monsters month is done, it's onto not one but two scoops of Home Alone. The order is a bit dissatisfying; only after two Home Alones do we truly long for Ronnie's monster-piss comeuppance. Sad.

Box Art
One of the many joys of this movie were best demonstrated by the video stores in which it would reside: the tape could be found in the Children's section, Comedy, or even Horror (in my childhood store - Empire Video Superstore - they had a section called 'Off the Wall'), and any location would make sense. That's not to say that there aren't thousands of movies that cross-pollinate genres, but in a video store, the cover alone could pull it in any direction: Howie's weird looking, but it's got the Wonder Years kid, and they're both pretty happy, right? But this blood-red backlight could insinuate some potentially mature themes. Who knows? Certainly not many moviegoers: Vestron, the film's parent company, went under just as the movie was set for theatrical release - reaching less than 1,000 screens as a result. This film was destined to be a cult rental. And man, whichever section it lived in, didn't it look good?: the luscious, Argento-like contrast between the warmth of the underworld backdrop and the Cool as Ice tones of Brian & Maurice made for an eye-catching, fabuloso 1989 rainbow that beckoned for a 3-day rental.
Tell you what, pick up this equally eye-catching piece of pop and you can spend the weekend just staring at the boxes...

That should give you some indication of how I really spent my time as a child.

Thisz the whole raison d'ĂȘtre (that's French) for talking about Little Monsters. As previously stated, when Vestron crashed, so did all plans for a comprehensive songtrack. So as of today, there is music that exists only within the confines of the film itself - most very specifically the two songs by Billie Hughes. "Rare" or "challenging" come with a sense of giddy urgency, but this music flat-out doesn't exist. At some point, I think in the 00s, Hughes rerecorded "I Wanna Yell" for reasons I don't know, and the purist in me doesn't want some cover version (though it's in my playlist anyway). But most very specifically more than that is his groovy ballad "The Magic of the Night" that, again, doesn't exist without the pollution of the film's audio track.
I would make a plea and offer prizes to anyone who found a clean version of the track in any format, but, again still, that's not gonna happen. I'd create a petition or start some kinda 'crowd funding' thing to get whoever to release the music, but that falls outside the limits of my knowledge or endurance.

And so, I guess, the movie itself will have to continue to be my conduit for the music. But all bratty temper tantrums aside, that's not a horrible thing. It just harkens back to my continuous childlike desire to have a piece of a film I love - something tangible even: a functional proton pack, a flux capacitor, the Joker's electrified hand buzzer, and so on. But all along, the best and most plausible artifact to acquire was a soundtrack, and I got rooked on this round. I've filled that void with Little Monsters comic books, t-shirts, pins, promotional material, and homemade sandwiches, but any general music fan (of which I'm sure there are several) can understand how emotionally fulfilling it is to have that music, whatever it may be, and how its absence can stimulate irrational feelings of depravation.

...Too dramatic? I think not. But to reiterate, having the music stuck in the movie forces me to enjoy it in its original artistic context - which is somewhere between sour grapes and turning lemons into lemonade. It's just one (though a big one) of the many ingredients that will pull me back in to watch it again and again. And so I will.

Now get back in that bed, mister!

- Paul

1 comment:

Luke said...

Finding another person who loves this movie is rare. I'm happy you guys wave your Little Monsters flag high.

As you already know, the soundtrack has become a holy grail of sorts for me too. As far as song choices to end a movie go, the use of Talking Heads' Road to Nowhere is hard to beat. That song choice has always stuck with me as being anthemic to a generation.

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