12/21/06

509 The Girl in Lover’s Lane

(1959, Teen Drama, b&w)

I always wanted to be nuzzled by a hobo.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

An unhappy drifter comes to a small town, learns to love, and sees his new girlfriend die.

Summary:

Bright-eyed Danny and his hobo mentor.Danny runs away from home with a hundred dollars because his parents are divorcing. Leather-coated thugs chase him into a train station and beat him up for the money. Fortunately, Danny ditched his wallet into a boxcar before they caught him. It lands at the feet of the slightly older, slightly wiser, and a great deal bitterer Bix Dugan, whose sloppy diction makes him pronounce his own name to sound like “Big Stupid.” Big recovers the wallet and the unconscious Danny and they ride a boxcar out of town. Danny regains consciousness and demands his wallet. Big gives it back. Danny offers to pay Big’s way through the next town if Big will teach him his train-hopping wisdom. Big accepts, and Danny officially becomes a hapless hobo-in-training.

They arrive in the town of Sherman, where Big immediately attracts the attention of the lonely waitress at the local diner and her psychotic stalker (played by a young and lazy-eyed Jack Elam). Danny attracts attention of a different sort by asking a pool hall owner to change his fifty in front of the local gang. They get beaten up but fend off their attackers. Big skips his date with the lonely waitress to talk dreamily of their pasts, and we learn that Big ran away from home because his dad got drunk and beat him. Finally Big hit back, and the old man fell down and died of a heart attack; ergo, he’s all screwed up inside and has a right to treat others like trash.

Big reschedules his waitress outing to the next night, and spends it alternately smooching and insulting his desperate and longsuffering date. They return to the diner when he obliquely discovers that she’s a virgin, and they find that her coworker pimps on the side and has set Danny up with a thieving hooker. Big rescues Danny’s wallet from the predatory young lady and takes him home.

The next day they discover that the waiter/pimp has been fired and the diner’s kindly owner (and waitress’ father) needs help. At his daughter’s behest, he hires Big and Danny. One thing leads to another, and the waitress falls hopelessly in love with Big in spite of his increasingly erratic and bitter behavior. It culminates in a night were he determines to leave her, almost makes it to the truck, and comes back to confess his love. He finds that she has run distraught into the woods after him, where her psychotic stalker has beaten her to death.

The townspeople blame Big for some reason and the kindly diner owner takes him from his cell to beat him within an inch of his life. Danny beats Jack Elam into a confession, but apparently the moment of rage has passed. The diner owner runs away rather than turn his wrath on Elam.
Danny calls his parents and finds that they’ve gotten back together. He invites Big back to his place so that they can be one big happy family.

Introduction:

Soon they will enjoy all the same rights and privileges as the bellybutton-enabled.Tom and Crow try to retrofit each other with bellybuttons using a drill press. It takes some convincing to get Joel to help them. Quoth Tom, “If this works out, can I have an Adam’s Apple?”

Host Segment One:

The Mads have invented “Evil Event Day” for baseball stadiums. Ideas include Crossbow Night, Fiberglass Insulation Night, and a night where the first thousand kids receive a free slide whistle and the second thousand kids receive free brass knuckles. Up on the satellite, Joel has invented some silly-looking shoes called the Don Martin Doc Martens.

Host Segment Two:

Joel, Tom, and Crow form a folk guitar trio and sing a song about the joy of hopping freight trains. It derails rather quickly into the musical tale of a train crash and the resulting radioactive waste spill.

Host Segment Three:

Tom and Crow set up a pinball machine so that Joel can get change for his fifty-dollar bill and play while they beat him up for the money. Joel doesn’t have any money with him, so they loan him a quarter and then beat him up anyway.

Host Segment Four:

Crow has donned a sports jacket, removed his net, and set one eye off-kilter to become Jack Elam. He brings in the restaurant supplies and demands that he be allowed to stalk Gypsy. Quoth he, “I’ve never been as Jack Elam as I am now.”

Host Segment Five:

Scarred by the incongruously dark ending, Tom and Crow think up a new ending for the film. Joel tries to read a letter while they regale us with their version of the ending, in which the waitress survives, Jack Elam is abducted by mean aliens, Big Stupid and Danny survive the apocalypse and tame dinosaurs, and the earth is repopulated by poisonous psychic pygmies. Down in Deep 13, TV’s Frank thinks up his own ending where Big Stupid turns into pure energy. Dr. Forrester interrupts by driving a rail spike through his head.

Stinger:

A bathing prostitute asks Big Stupid if he’s waiting for a bus.

Thoughts:

Thank you, Miss, but I am well aware that buses do not often stop in whorehouse bathing areas.What a downer. This movie goes merrily (if somewhat boringly) along the well-worn lines of a standard “Troubled Teen” film of the fifties. Big Stupid teaches street wisdom to Danny while Danny and the waitress teach Big Stupid to trust and to love. Everything is leading up to a happy ending, but wait—the filmmakers suddenly lapse into a fit of Of Mice and Men-ism and kill off the waitress for no good reason, while her kindly father inexplicably turns into a raging and vengeful drunk. Then, as quickly as it happens, the Steinbeck syndrome wears off, Elam confesses, Big Stupid gets a few bandages, and Danny’s parents get back together for a big old happy ending. To give you an idea of the incongruous creepiness, imagine a version of Pollyanna exactly like the original, except that old man Pendegast suddenly snaps and throttles her to death just before Dr. Chilton and Aunt Polly reconcile and live happily ever after at the end.

The host segments relate to the film for the most part. My favorite is Crow as Jack Elam. With his eyes staring in different directions, the resemblance is uncanny. A close second is Tom and Crow’s revision of the movie’s ending, which would make a movie that I would want to see. The radioactive waste song and the pinball sketches work well, and I thought the slide whistle/brass knuckles day at the ballpark wasn’t a bad idea. Don Martin is apparently a cartoonist of some sort. I am not familiar with his work and therefore did not understand Joel’s invention.

The film segments have some excellent commentary. When Big Stupid complains that Danny didn’t help much in the fight, Tom says, “What about that guy I groined in the knee?” When Big and the waitress are out by the lake and she says something about having something she always wanted, Joel says, “I always wanted to be nuzzled by a hobo.” When Big asks her if she’s ever had a boyfriend before, Tom replies, “No, I’m saving myself for the right oily drifter.” It’s worth watching if you prepare yourself for the nasty ending.