5/24/10

RVOD112 Values: The Right Thing to Do

(1970, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

A dyslexic Spike Lee joint.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Killing old people is wrong, kids!

Summary:

I'm confused.  Are they arguing for or against euthanasia?Old Mr. Carson—a semi-paralytic, junk-hoarding old hermit in the first stages of dementia—wanders the neighborhood looking for more junk to hoard. He finds the skeleton of an old stroller, still with four perfectly good old wheels. He brings it home and throws it on the junk pile for later. We watch him go about his pathetic and somewhat unsanitary dinnertime routine.

Meanwhile, a group of oddly dressed eight-to-ten-year-old kids aimlessly wanders the neighborhood, looking for something to do. They happen upon Old Man Carson’s house. For some reason, one of them decides he wants the stroller husk. Mr. Carson wobbles out of the house to confront them. The boy lets go of the stroller and runs, dislodging a precarious arrangement of irregularly-shaped lumber during his flight. It falls, pinning Mr. Carson to the ground. Most of the boys flee, but a pink-shirted lad remains to hear Mr. Carson’s pleas for help. The boy picks uncertainly at the boards at the top of the pile while he considers. Should he stay and help or leave the old man to his fate?

Thoughts:

I question the educational value of a short that invents a scenario so unlikely that no one can relate to it. You can’t call it a moral dilemma if there isn’t a reasonable (or, at least, a reasonable-sounding) argument to be made for both sides of the issue. Would any of the kids in the audience seriously consider leaving the old man to die? Maybe one or two would. I contend, however, that the child who has to be warned away from manslaughter needs more help than a mere educational short film can provide.

A few favorite comments: When the narrator describes Mr. Carson’s yard as “different”, Bill explains, “And by ‘different’ I mean ‘nightmare-inducing’ and ‘against God’.” As Mr. Carson pulls his junk-collecting wagon haltingly through town, Mike says, “Mr. Carson is much better at pulling wagons than staying on them,” while Kevin describes him as “Zombie Don Knotts.” Also included is a discussion about whether wearing a pink shirt with the word “love” on the back can be considered “the right thing to do”. It’s a strange little short that botches its message pretty badly, but the riffers mostly save it from the junk pile.