7/3/08

RVOD030 It Must Be the Neighbors

(1966, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

That’s right, cast that first stone.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A heroic health inspector inspires the neighborhood kids to clean up after their parents.

Summary:

Quick, drain all the standing water out of Baby Mike's mouth!Average suburban man Bill comes home to find a Health Department notice on his garbage can, just because the bottom rusted all the way through. Rather than comply with the notice and buy a new can, Bill decides to call old college buddy Larry at the department to “fix things up.” Larry invites himself over to point out all Bill’s horrible, filthy, vermin-enticing yard-keeping habits.

Bill’s wife Betty apparently wasn’t paying attention; she asks him to come and admire her backyard flower garden, inviting a similar lecture about all the mosquito larvae hatching in her various vases and the rats attracted by the breadcrumbs she’s put out for the birds. While Larry delivers one more parting speech, Bill and Betty agree that their crimes against sanitation aren’t nearly as bad as the neighbors’. The blame for all the vermin in the area must fall on someone else.

Meanwhile, Bill’s son and the neighbor kid have been inspired by Larry’s speechmaking to gang up and beat a rat to death in a vacant lot. Then, while the grownups continue to point fingers at each other, they recruit all the other kids in the neighborhood to help them pick up the mess left by their elders. Eventually Bill shows up to interrupt middle-school football practice for another lecture from Larry. (I guess he’s the local coach as well). This inspires Bill to help the kids clean up. All the other grownups pitch in as well, except for the childless spinster, and finally Bill’s wife takes care of that with a tea party and a few carefully chosen words. The short ends with Bill and his neighbor sharing a hearty laugh about their former habit of blaming others.

Thoughts:

One of the neighbors of whom it must be.Apparently, in 1966, the government was so well respected that even city sanitation administrators inspired blind, unthinking devotion among ten-to-fourteen-year-old boys. It’s hard to imagine in this more cynical era, but as a public employee, I might have been idolized and revered by middle-schoolers if I’d just been born thirty to forty years earlier. Kids would have stopped me for autographs when I walked down the street. When I spoke to them unendingly about my sphere of responsibility (industrial injuries) they would gasp, wide-eyed with delight. Thereafter, they would form into gangs and follow their parents to work, shaming said parents into following proper safety procedures. That would have been, like, so cool.

Mike starts us off by commenting on the title card proclaiming the short’s origins at the Center for Communicable Diseases, “a.k.a. the Lohan Household.” While our protagonist reads the notice that declares his garbage can unfit for the storage of refuse, Kevin says, “Doesn’t say anything about grouches.” When Larry proudly declares that he’s about to file a report, Bill says, “All three of his degrees are in report-filing.” My personal favorite line comes while Larry is explaining about how mosquitoes breed in water, “Like the Swamp Thing, or those kids in Blue Lagoon.” Except for the strange idolization of government workers, the subject matter is fairly staid. Mike, Bill and Kevin make it worth watching, though.