Thursday, November 30, 2017

Happy Mother’s Day, Love George (1973)

          Despite a storyline that devolves from muddy to nonsensical, the mystery/horror flick Happy Mother’s Day, Love George is moderately interesting to watch because of its colorful cast, and also because it qualifies as a minor cinematic footnote: This is the only fictional feature directed by actor Darren McGavin. Although he doesn’t appear in the film, those who do include Ron Howard, Cloris Leachman, Patricia Neal, and McGvin’s costar from Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Simon Oakland. Some are able to find more clarity in the material than others, with Howard’s characterization suffering the worst ill effects of the dodgy storytelling, but each actor has at least a vivid moment or two. How these moments coalesce doesn’t matter all that much, because by the time Happy Mother’s Day, Love George reaches its absurd climax, so many bizarre and inexplicable things have happened that believability, logic, and suspense have evoporated. Depending on one’s level of involvement with the viewing experience, the final stretch of the picture is likely to trigger either amusement or bewilderment. Nonetheless, getting there isn’t the worst experience.
          In a small town on the Northeastern coast, young drifter Johnny Hanson (Howard) shows up one day asking questions about the past. Turns out his mother is greasy-spoon proprietress Rhonda (Leachman), who gave him up years previous, an action to which Rhonda’s domineering sister, Cara (Neal), was party. At the same time Johnny dredges up old secrets, local cop Roy (Oakland) investigates a series of unsolved murders, tagging Johnny as a suspect. There’s also some weird business with Johnny’s cousin, Celia (Tessa Dahl), who sports a British accent and takes Johnny as a lover. Oh, and singer/actor Bobby Darin is in here, too, playing Rhonda’s husband.
          The movie has solid production values and some fine location photography, but the inept storytelling renders nearly all the commendable elements moot. For instance, even though Neal is forceful as a bitchy and delusional matriarch, the contours of her relationships with other people are mostly perplexing. Furthermore, the third-act switch from twisted domestic intrigue to Edgar Allan Poe-style horror is whiplash-inducing. Yet with so many talented people participating, including screenwriter Robert Clouse (later the director of several enjoyable genre pictures), it’s tempting to examine this misfire and ponder what the original intentions might have been. Surely, at some point, rational people thought this piece would work.

Happy Mother’s Day, Love George: FUNKY


Unknown said...

For the Record:

Tessa Dahl was Patricia Neal's daughter, from her marriage to Roald Dahl; she was raised mainly in England, thus accounting for her accent.

By Peter Hanson said...

Fun trivia. No inference made about a real-life accent BTW. Within the story, it's dubiously explained.

Guy Callaway said...

I love that Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for 'You Only Live Twice'. WTF?