Thursday, May 28, 2020

we didn’t do it

I imagine that Morgan Stewart's Coming Home owes its title, if not it very existence to Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

And, it is an Alan Smithee film. Only the second one to be feature in this blog, I'm pretty sure. The other was Hellraiser: Bloodline

Starts with the titular boarding school kid (Jon Cryer looking like he's about 12) learning that he will not be going home for Thanksgiving... Or Christmas. But then, a revenge prank gets Morgan in trouble and suddenly he is called home. The immediate implication is he's expelled but it turns out his Republican Senator father and equally as conservative mother need him home so they can appear more like a family.

Nice little details early on. Morgan has been in boarding school for so many years, he' snot even sure where home is. The butler Ivan is reading Robert G. Allen's book Nothing Down: How to Buy Real Estate with Little or No Money Down like he's trying to move up in the world, but he barely speaks English. Of course, Morgan is into horro films and immediately decorates the walls of his room with posters. But, maybe the best is that when Morgan runs to say hello to his father, a bodyguard tackles him.

Morgan's mom is great*. Casually intrudes into the showers at school to find Morgan. Says there's no room for a humanitarian in the senate. Goes on a tirade about eating meat at the party. She "does not subscribe to the buddy buddy school of parenthood."
(* great character, not great person)
That Morgan does not rage more at his mother having Ivan incinerate all of his posters is madness. But, I guess the point is we are supposed to assume Morgan still wants a family even if he has been isolated from them for years. He is so desperate for their love that he sits reading The American Family in Crisis and watches The Brady Bunch and waxes the floor to one large room in the house before breakfast.

What he doesn't realize with that last move--and later washing windows--is that doing work around the house is just going to make him invisible to rich assholes like his parents.

And, nevermind the film for a moment. At the mall, it is at Waldenbooks that Morgan lines up to meet George Romero (signing The Zombies that Ate Pittsburg) and meets Emily. I used to love Waldenbooks. Bought a lot of fantasy and science fiction novels at Waldenbooks. Bought Star Trek technical manuals at Waldenbooks. First regularly bought comic books from Waldenbooks. First bought a Playboy from Waldenbooks.


Speaking of pornography, it amuses me that not only does Morgan's mom call his movie posters pornographic, but so does the doctor they call for a house call after he sings about being in love. This movie couches itself very neatly into a conflict between Morgan's liberal leanings (not that horror fans need to be liberal per se) and his parents' conservative foundations, and I love that this was a movie we had on video and would watch often because my parents were conservative, of course. I grew up going to church every week, to private school every week day, and just a year after this my own poster displays would start drifting into interesting directions. Maybe sooner, actually. But, I know in '88, I had a couple posters from Willow in my room, one of General Kael because awesome skull mask, one of Sorsha because hot. And by '93 in particular, I know I had a couple posters of Jason Voorhees on my walls. And, I've mentioned before that I had subscriptions to Starlog and then Fangoria and through the 90s lots of more general film magazines, but those first two set me up for obsessing about films, and especially genre films. I will mention it again when (if) I get there, but it was in 1988 that I saw a movie in the theater by myself for the first time.

Had I known the directors (yes, there were two) of this film didn't want credit for it back when I first saw it, I would have been amazed. It's not a great movie, by any stretch, but it is a solid 80s comedy, and pretty wholesome compared to some other 80s comedies I would have seen by the time. To be fair, I did not see this movie in the theater... I don't think. We caught in cable, and then liked it enough to record it later, I'm pretty sure. It's got a basic premise, easy to follow, a zany climax with a great villain in Paul Gleason (a la The Breakfast Club. And, honestly, the parental roles here feel familiar. The mother is the overbearing one, the father feels like he's be forgiving for sure and probably even encouraging if his wife wasn't there.

Morgan runs into his father incognito at an Arby's eating meat when the mother is so much against meat, and there's a nice conversation about the family they used to be.

But then, home to getting caught by his mother for having gone out.
 
 
 
 
 
Regarding my opening line above, by the way, it is merely the title--the production title was Homefront--that is playing off the success of Ferris Bueller's Day Off; this film was actually filmed first, in 1985, but probably for whatever reasons Alan Smithee gets the credit, the release was delayed.

Speaking of which, Leonard Klady, Los Angeles Times, offers a fun description for Smithee, September 13, 1987:
Unheralded by press and public, Smithee's reputation within the industry is legendary. Mere mention of his name stirs violent debate among the cinema cognoscenti. But, curiously, he remains without a champion. Even the French have failed to embrace the idiosyncratic style that pervades his oeuvre
Why, in the era of the auteur, had Smithee escaped notice? 
Some tell he literally doesn't exist. Yet, the credits are there... 
He accepts only impossible projects. His forte is films abandoned by others.
And, I learned something I didn't know from Klady's piece--directors who invoked the Alan Smithee credit were not allowed to talk publicly about the film in question. (At least in '87. I don't know if that has held up, and I've heard that Alan Smithee doesn't exist anymore.) And, even more than that, according to a DGA spokesperson,
the credit [was] "a signal" to the industry and press that "moral foul play" had occurred.
I always just assumed it meant the producer and director argued over where the film would go and the director left or was fired from the project... Which, come to think of it, could pretty easily involve disputes that meet a definition for "moral foul play.".

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