Friday, August 27, 2010

Bad Ronald: I Smell Opportunity

For almost as long as I've started this blog, I have heard two words whispered softly in the wind. The whispers, gentle and peaceful pass by my ear with the grace of a swan. They say---"Bad Ronald". Ahh Bad Ronald. What are you? Thanks to the decline of humans everywhere, the first thing that always came to mind was that asshole Ronald Mcdonald.
Whose genius idea was it to make the mascot of Mcdonald's a scary clown? Don't they know that out of all the things in the world children fear clowns the most? As it turns out, most of the people who grew up in the 70s had a very different association with the name Ronald and this TV movie was the cause of it.

Based on the book of the same name by Jack Vance, Bad Ronald is about well--Ronald and he's baaaad. Well, kind of. Awkward, and strange Ronald lives with his over protective mother and is one day denied the love of his crush. On his way home he encounters the girl's sister who taunts him, causing Ronald to push her. The girl lands on a cement block, killing her instantly. Fearing the consequences, Ronald buries the girl and rushes home to tell his mother what has happened. His mother fears that this incident will jeopardize Ronald's future career as a doctor and sets to work on keeping Ronald out of harm's way. They create a lair for Ronald inside the house, by sealing off a door and wall papering over it. Ronald must live in this space until things settle down and the police stop looking for him. One day Ronald's mother dies unexpectedly while getting surgery done and a new family moves in. Ronald trapped within the house's walls begins declining mentally as he slowly starts believing that his artwork depicts a very real scenario. The new family starts to recognize missing food and hear strange noises but they have no idea what is living inside their walls.

That's probably the longest synopsis I've done in a while but I can't help myself. The story is really too good to be true. I never knew that thousands of people had been plagued by nightmares of having a Ronald trapped within their walls. What an ingenious scenario! This gives an entirely new perspective on the hearing noises in your house situation. Thank GOD I did not see this when I was little. Once after watching The Exorcist for the first time, I stayed up all night with the lights on in fear that the devil would possess me. It is then very possible that if I had seen Bad Ronald I would have stay huddled on my bed, clutching a knife and ready to stab at the first sign of a bursting wall. I probably also would have checked every inch of the wall for peep holes. Jesus, I had a hard enough time trying to force the thought that my Batman (Forever) (Don't judge me) poster had a real persons eyes behind it from my head without the possibility of a full on person living in my walls. That shit is insane!

Through all the amazing-ness of the story line, one cannot ignore the several flaws of Bad Ronald. Being that it is a TV movie from the 70s, there are of course the usual annoyances with bad acting, poor writing and just overall messiness. Those I don't mind so much. What gets me is that I never really saw a clear switch from regular Ronald to psycho- Dungeons and Dragons Ronald. When did that happen? I seriously felt like I had hit the wrong button and somehow missed a vital segment of the movie. Most descriptions make a big deal out of Ronald's fantasy world with the princess and what not, but from my perspective--Ronald burst out of the wall and just started calling Babs the princess. How on earth was I suppose to figure out that those drawings told a mystical story that Ronald was living out in his own mind?

I also never got a clear sense of what made Ronald so weird. He didn't even seem that awkward to me. It's possible, and this is just a thought--that currently from today's eyes Ronald just represents something cool and hip. If this movie was made today I wouldn't be surprised if the role of Ronald was played by Michael Cera himself. But honestly, what was the hubbub about Ronald? Again, it is a TV movie and there are limitations. If this was one day destined for remake status I wouldn't be surprised if they embellished Ronald's character a bit more. Yes he's a mama's boy, but what really sets him apart from his peers? I must know! And not just that but the above problem that I addressed can also be solved by giving Ronald more depth. Why do we never see him falling apart over the death of his mother? We need to see his change happen gradually instead of all at once. The wonderful story is there it just needs to be tweaked.

Clearly Bad Ronald is not winning any Oscars, but it is one of those films that continues to be talked about because of the memories it stirs up. I am both relieved and saddened that I missed this growing up. That doesn't however prevent me from realizing that it is some truly creative and creepy stuff. Lately I've been on a rare DVD/VHS kick. I keep hearing about films and made for TV movies that people have been traumatized by in their youth. Since many of these are not yet released on DVD I have a hard time making my dreams of catching up come true. Luckily Bad Ronald is available for purchase and like many of the others rarities I've seen lately, it can even be watched on YouTube.

Poor, poor Ronald. It's almost like a inverted Tell-Tale Heart concept except I still need Ronald to feel more guilt and turmoil. It really seems like he's enjoying himself in there and that can't be right. I almost ran over an old man a week ago and I've been plagued by guilt ever since. Is Ronald really that far removed and "weird" that his guilt can never be brought to the table? If his drawings and his fantasy world are a way to suppress his guilt, why do we not get a clearer idea or even an inkling that it exists until Ronald reveals himself? I know, I know it's a made for TV movie from the 70s cut it some slack. It's just that I see a lot of potential in Bad Ronald and I'm feeling the need to rescue it and make it better. I'll just stick it up in my head with my Salem's Lot reboot concept. Sigh.

Still though. Bad Ronald is pretty bitching.

Also, do you think Patrick Dempsey's character from Can't Buy Me Love was modeled after Ronald. His character's name was also Ronald.

I think so.


Dod said...

I keep forgetting that I need to see this.

Great review, as always. And thanks for making me nearly spray Pepsi all over the laptop with the phrase "...that asshole Ronald McDonald" followed by his jaunty mug in the next picture.

Let's all get a studio started so we can get these proper reboots done.

Armando H. said...

I love this movie, it's one of the best tv movies ever.

Eddie said...

I never really thought about it but you're right Ronald McDonald is an asshole. Luv you, Andre.

Thomas Duke said...

Ronald McDonald is a child molester. No amount of tasty McRib sandwiches sold is gonna change that.

I love Bad Ronald BTW. A similar but, but less scary/suspenseful and more dramatic, is Crawlspace, a made for TV movie from 1972 (not the one with Klaus Kinski). Tom Bob says check it out. You know, if you're into movies about kids covered in dirt cowering in a crawlspace.

Christine Hadden said...

Wow. That little tv trailer is hilarious. So 70's! They might as well be advertising the latest episode of Barney Miller.

I must admit, I haven't seen this movie and have been curious about it for some time now. It just seems so schlocky. But now you've really got me going, and I must seek this out!
YouTube here I come!

Oh, and I seriously think this would be an inspired remake.

Andre Dumas said...

Dod- I hope your laptop is okay. Send me the bill! just kidding, don't!! You'll just have to stop drinking Pepsi (Coke is better anyways) when you are reading reviews. Problem solved : )

Thomas- I do sort of love children covered in dirt hiding in crawl spaces. How did you guess?! I will look into that one, thanks!

Chris(tine)- Indeed seek it out! I have a whole list of schlocky movies from the 70s I need to see. I'm very excited about it.

deadlydolls said...

This is one from my VHS days of youth that I've seen, but honestly can't remember the details past "man lives inside walls of house." Growing up, we'd always refer to any weird sounds in the house as "Bad Ronald," but I really need to give this another go. Great stuff!

And yes, who were the ad wizards who came up with making a f*cking clown the mascot of McDonald's? Idiots.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I have seen this, though I could be wrong on that one.
Great post!
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum

johnbgood52 said...

Vance's novel was out of print and nearly impossible to find for years (and if you did find a copy, you'd better be prepared to pay up to $200 for it), but fortunately is now available as an e-book from both Amazon for Kindle fans and B&N for the Nook folks. I highly recommend you check it out. I won't post any spoilers, but let's just say than in the book, Ronald is REALLY bad.