Once upon a time, superheroes were not classified as a movie subgenre, discussed sometimes with fawning/critical tones by nerds like myself and other times with seething contempt by older movie buffs/critics (at least, that’s the current narrative). Which isn’t to say that there were no attempts to bring them to the big screen back then. There have been attempts to bring, “Captain America” to the big screen, “Doctor Strange” to the big screen, and people who are reading this are probably already aware of Adam West and company’s take on, “The Caped Crusader” mythos. Even, “The Incredible Hulk” has a TV show with a theme song that has been parodied and loved for years. But a while back, a moviemaker by the name of Ray Dennis Steckler decided to create his own take on superheroes, with all of the weird tonal shifts, obvious budget limitations, and cheap tricks that such a take entails. The result is, “Rat Pfink A Boo-Boo”, a movie that I bet few people have ever heard of, and which I hope this essay helps to spread the word on…even though it defies notions of being a, “good movie”, or even a “so-bad-it’s-good movie”.
Now, normally it would be kind of easy for me to summarize the plot, leaving a few threads hanging in the hopes that you will decide to check the movie out for yourself and see some of the surprises the movie serves you. Except here…well, the truth is, the movie was never really, “finished” in the proper sense of the word. Oh, it has beginning and ending credits. Yes, people move across the screen and talk. Yes, there is music (in one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments, one of the protagonists is shown ab-libbing with a guitar in his grasp…with a vinyl player clearly in the background, playing the music he’s supposed to be playing). But the connective tissue meant to combine these things together? A mess. The movie starts out like a dirty grindhouse movie, opening with the chasing of, and assault of, a young woman by a barely-masked assailant, ending with her stumbling out of an alley way, screaming. Cue cheery rock music with opening credits! No, really, that’s how, “Rat Pfink a Boo Boo” opens.
The movie’s narrator then tells you that the movie is about two musical artists with, “lots of fans”…as it shows just two women handing him a vinyl disc, him singing it, and then walking away on a dead and empty street. One of these two artists just so happen to be in love with a young woman who is stalked by a man who kills his victims by wrapping tire chains around their necks. In the midst of all of this, long musical segments featuring the, “music” of the leading musician, sometimes with him ab-libbing with this guitar, other times with just…banal stuff going on. Then she gets kidnapped, and they mope around. Finally, after two-thirds of the movie have passed, the two musicians become the titular superheroes, and they ride around in a motorcycle, with music that is trying so hard to imitate the Adam West-starring, “Batman” TV show it hurts, and…stuff happens.
No, that’s not being as lazy with my writing as I usually am, that is the best possible description I can give of what happens in the third act. It’s the kind of third act that can only occur in a movie so cobbled together and so desperate to entertain its audience with its idea of, “fun” or, “cool”. It’s by no means a great, good or even what one call would a bad third act. It’s just a third act of a movie that started out as a cheapie exploitation flick that doesn’t even have the guts to show nudity or gore, with the moviemaker going, “Ok, you know what? Fuck it! Let’s add a gorilla who kidnaps this beautiful girl and make these two guys in costume chase it.” It’s inept, it’s slapdash, and it makes no goddamn sense. It’s amazing.
The thing about this movie is that there are no big themes besides, “Pretty Lady get stalked and disappears, lets have the two guys go after her!”, but the thing is, it takes two-thirds of the goddamn movie to get to that! Everything before is just an awkward mix of rock music, extended scenes the girl getting stalked by a creepy guy with tire chains, and…white noise between all of that. The whole thing feels like something of a dull, bad trip, with distilled elements of tropes from other genres just left standing there for minutes with no insight other than the director (who also produced and did the cinematography) just pointing the camera at what’s going on. It’s just dull, and strangely misogynistic even. But that third 3rd act…hoo, boy, now this is a bad movie that loses its goddamn mind. By the time it gets to it, all of that alcohol and molly you consumed (or, well, just one or neither if you roll that way) just to make this movie tolerable pays off.
As I’ve said by the beginning, this movie does not belong in the same sentence, paragraph or even essay (ahem) with the word, “good”. It’s characterization is wafer-thin. The plot is so simple yet so drawn out it wouldn’t pass muster even if it was a Brazzers-produced porn parody. It’s misogynist in ways that are odd even by standards of the stereotyping that holds up most, “damsel in distress” plots, and comparing this to the other exploitation movies of the era is like comparing Bud Light to…well, anything else. As a movie, it barely passes the level of being bad enough to be passionate about in the form of one of those shows that feature people showing edited clips of the movie, screaming for minutes on end and calling that, “comedy”.
And you know what? That’s probably for the best. It takes a person with the patience of a saint to witness that amazing and slapdash third act without skipping over the rest of the movie. To paraphrase Pauline Kael, sometimes one has to consume trash to appreciate the good stuff.
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