12/20/06

507 I Accuse My Parents

(1944, Teen Drama/Musical, b&w), with:

The Truck Farmer
(1954, Educational-Newsreel, b&w)

I won the “Get the Crap Kicked Out of You” contest.

Rating: **1/2


In a nutshell:

Short: Migrant workers in border states provide fresh produce to the nation.
Film: Underappreciated, overindulged Jimmy falls in with the mob.

Short Summary:

Delicious and environmentally friendly.The Truck Farmer is a paean to year-round farming, with such comforting and progressive images as worn migrant workers harvesting carrots while bulldozers clear and burn forests nearby. The carrots go through an assembly-line packing process, leading to their arrival by train at the local supermarket. Interspersed through all of this is footage of people, tractors, and planes soaking the fields in fertilizing, pest-controlling, weed-killing chemicals. Yum.

Film Summary:

I Accuse My Parents opens on a courtroom scene where our hero, Jimmy, is on trial for manslaughter. He has refused to speak the entire trial, waiting (I guess) for the final and most dramatic opportunity to tell his sordid story. The opportunity arrives and he stands up to say… “I accuse my parents.” The end.

Or not. Unfortunately, it’s just the beginning of a long and painful flashback. In high school, Jimmy wins an essay contest by writing about his wonderful home life. It’s all a lie, of course. Jimmy goes home to tell his mom and dad the news, but they arrive home late, drunk, and bickering. His dad gives him five dollars and sends him off to celebrate before leaving.

Jimmy’s teachers want to meet the wonderful woman who inspired such praise in the award-winning essay, so he invites his Mom out to school. Dad insults Mom while she’s getting ready, provoking an impromptu alcoholic binge. She arrives drunk, embarrassing him thoroughly.

Jimmy leaves school (or graduates, I’m not sure which) to become a shoe store salesman. As good luck would have it, his first customer is a beautiful young nightclub singer named Kitty, who invites him to come by her place after work to deliver her new shoes. As bad luck would have it, she’s the moll to the local mob boss. Jimmy stops by after work to drop off her shoes and regale her with stories of his loving, fictitious family. They fall madly in love.

Having been soundly kissed, he walks into a raucous party. His boozed-up parents and their drunken friends give him twenty dollars (it’s his birthday) and run off to carouse elsewhere. Dejected, Jimmy goes to the nightclub to hear his new girlfriend sing, where he runs into his Mafioso rival. The mob boss deliberately runs up his bill and then offers him some “odd jobs” to pay it off. This involves delivering mysterious packages to shady characters in the middle of the night.

Poor stupid Jimmy doesn’t suspect a thing until the night his delivery goes awry and he’s forced to drive a get-away car for a pair of murderous thugs. That’s also the night the mob boss finds out his affections for Kitty, and forces her to brush Jimmy off. The next day the police are looking for him at the shoe store, sending him into hiding. The thugs come back to try to kill him, but he gets away and goes on the lam.

In a random town (assumed to be other than the town where he started out) he starts to pull a gun on a kind-hearted restaurant owner named Al, but is taken aback by his generosity in offering him a job. The kind, gravelly-voiced Al takes him in and straightens him out. They go back to the first town a couple of months later to fix his problems with the law. Kitty confesses her undying love again, and Jimmy goes to confront the mob boss while she calls the police. Jimmy scuffles with the gangster and then accidentally shoots him to death, for which he is now on trial.

Jimmy concludes his testimony by going back to, “I accuse my parents,” and rests his case. The judge buys it and finds him not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of working for a mob boss. He’s sentenced to two years probation under the supervision of his drunken failure parents. The judge concludes the film by reminding us all to be better parents. Quoth he, “This could have been your boy.”

Introduction:

This episode has been rated NC-17.Crow paints Tom all over with a flesh-toned paint called “Nude.” Joel sees him and shouts, “Tom Servo, you’re naked!” Tom wants to be a real boy, so that he can run and jump and catch frogs in streams. Crow reminds him that he has no legs and his arms don’t work. Tom bursts into tears.

Host Segment One:

The Mads have invented the Cake n’ Shake—a giant hollow cake mix with a real live exotic dancer in every package. Frank folded the dancer into the cake batter before baking to save time. Fearing repercussions from the Chippendale Corporation, Dr. Forrester tries to dig the dancer back out of the gigantic dessert. Joel and the ‘Bots have invented the Junk Drawer Organizer, which contains spaces for your handful of gravel, your random condiment packets, and your handgun.

Host Segment Two:

Joel has the ‘Bots do art therapy by drawing their ideal family. Crow has drawn a giant father that looks just like him, except with a handlebar mustache and stainless steel claws. Quoth he, “he dispenses homespun wisdom and teaches solid Midwestern values while crushing everything in his path.” Tom has drawn Haley Mills as his mom, Gigantor as his dad, and Peggy Cass as his other mom. He is unable to tell Joel why his moms are holding hands. Gypsy has drawn the family she already has (Tom, Crow, and Joel) with Richard Basehart smiling down on them from heaven.

Host Segment Three:

Gypsy dresses up as Kitty to lip-synch the “Are you happy in your work?” song from the movie. Joel and the ‘Bots do quick costume changes to walk through as every other character. The song ends abruptly when Tom and Crow collide, spilling champagne cocktail into Cambot’s audio sequencer.

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots draw a flow chart to try and explain Jimmy’s emotional problems. They start to trace the pattern of Jimmy’s lies but get lost while trying to connect his drunken parents to a life of crime. Joel tries to think of other possible contributing factors, to which Crow adds, “Let’s not forget that Jimmy might be kind of stupid.” They make a large mobile with representations of all Jimmy’s psychoses floating around in aimless circles. The one that says “stupid” is really, really big.

Host Segment Five:

Joel tries to read a letter while Tom and Crow pull guns and try to rob him for a hamburger and fries. He pretends he doesn’t have any and then pulls out his lunch after they leave. Tom and Crow return in a tank labeled “Anne Blythe.” Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank have successfully recovered “Rodney” from the cake. Dr. Forrester gives him a little something for his trouble, prompting a table dance.

Stinger:

Drunken Dad laughs at Drunken Mom.

Thoughts:

Yes, we already know how he pleads.Near the end of The Truck Farmer, Joel says, “Wait a minute. Has anyone seen a truck yet?” I think I remember seeing the back of a stationary truck being loaded, but that might have been a trailer attached to a tractor. Once they mentioned “high-speed transportation,” but illustrated it with footage of a train hurtling down a track at about five miles an hour. Also, I think there is a point at which you can spray your crops too much. The farmers depicted in this film cross that line early and often.

A hypothesis that cinematic cautionary tales of the fifties often put forward is as follows: Overindulged suburban kids, if left unattended, will naturally gravitate towards a life of crime. I Accuse My Parents touts this theory loudly and fervently, blaming inattentive parenting for everything while declining to mention other, more realistic factors, such as, say, crushing poverty and a lack of upward mobility. If only Jimmy’s parents had only showered him with love and attention instead of worldly wealth, the movie says, he might have turned out better. I can’t really argue with that, but in the real world I see Jimmy more in danger of becoming a bitter and selfish drunkard like his father instead of a fast-talking gangster.

And doesn’t Jimmy have any responsibility here? Any kid who’s watched a movie or read a novel knows that if a shady businessman hires you to move packages in the dead of night and doesn’t want you to tell anyone about it, it’s probably not on the level. And this is not the limit of his stupidity. Once he finally decides to confess, he actually goes directly to the gangster to make some kind of citizen’s arrest. A tiny ounce of common sense would have sent him to the cops first, and saved him the trouble of going on trial for manslaughter. But then, he wouldn’t have been able to refuse to testify on his own behalf for no good reason other than waiting for the last possible (and therefore most dramatic) moment.

The host segments work really well in this episode. I enjoyed the invention exchange and the hamburger hold-up (which included a very funny George C. Scott impersonation). The nightclub song was amusing as well, but my favorites were the analyses of the film in Joel’s art therapy projects and the mobile made of Jimmy’s psychoses. Crow’s ideal father still makes me laugh.

The film segment that includes the short has a lot of funny lines, including the part where everyone sings, “Go, Speed Farmer, Go!” When the narrator says, “Here in Southern Texas, they have an additional problem,” Crow adds, “Texans.” The film isn’t quite as quotable, but has some highlights. The SOL crew sings “Liar! Liar! Liar!” every time Jimmy tells a lie, which is fairly often. Whenever the door of Kitty’s apartment opens, you can see a picture of a duck on the wall in the hall; the SOL crew helps out by making quacking noises. Since Jimmy mentions the essay contest so much, Joel and the ‘Bots bring it up a lot as well, and when Jimmy hits rock bottom, Joel says, “He’s taken to selling his essays cheap on the street.” Joel and the ‘Bots have done their work well by making ecologically unsound farming practices quite funny and a horribly contrived morality play at least amusing.