There are some fantasy, science fiction, and horror films that not every fan has caught. Not every film ever made has been seen by the audience that lives for such fare. Some of these deserve another look, because sometimes not every film should remain obscure.
Sometimes, it’s amazing that anything gets made and shown on screen; yes, anything…
Rat Pfink A Boo Boo (1966)
Distributed by Morgan Picture Corporation
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Some heroes arise when we need them most. It could be in the midst of a titanic struggle between freedom and tyranny, brought about by a man with strong opinions about how the world should work. And when you have a man like William Moulton Marsden, you end up with some dynamic outcomes.
Some heroes, however, just show up at random, without need or reason, given to us by men like Ray Dennis Steckler, which ended up with, well…
Honestly, this must be totally random, maybe even a mistake. Can we call it mistake, please?
Consider that the first 40 minutes of this production was originally entitled The Depraved, and in that, we can see the original film Steckler wanted to make quite clearly. A simple film, the plot involved a gang of no-goodniks, the Chain Gang, who we watch terrorize a woman leaving a bar. Soon, we get introduced to Ronnie Lord (Ron Hadock, credited as “Vin Saxon”), a popular musician who’s crazy about his girlfriend, Cee Cee Beaumont (Carolyn Brandt), with whom he had fun as the musical interlude witnesses:
The Chain Gang soon pick poor Cee Cee at random from the phone book and start to harass her, first with obscene phone calls, then threatening her at home. This builds a level of tension that gets cut right away by Ronnie doing another musical number:
It’s soon after this that the Chain Gang kidnap Cee Cee, then call Ronnie with a ransom demand. This leaves Ronnie and his friend Titus (Titus Moede) adrift for a brief moment, before they take a breath and get, into…
No, I swear I am not making this up! They just casually get into costume and go after the Chain Gang with no more thought than going out for tacos. Just. Like. That!
It’s like Steckler was channeling Bill Dozier’s essence without a filter, and we got the cheap side of Bat-mania blowing us right between the eyes with a side of record promo films like the one for “Paperback Writer.”
And if going after the Chain Gang wasn’t enough to put our heroes through, we end up seeing them go up against Kogar the Gorilla, who just —
No, you know what, screw it. Let’s just go to the third musical interlude.
Steckler, who made his name and reputation (such as it was) as cinematographer on Timothy Carey’s The World’s Greatest Sinner and then on his own merits(?) with 1964’s The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies!!?, was not what you’d call meticulous, if we were kind. His seat-of-the-pants operation, where the original idea for the film was just casually thrown aside as it became a superhero pastiche, was authentic. Quite, in fact; Steckler admitted in different interviews that during shooting, he just tossed the script and went for it, and left us with, well…
And the production just feels like it was only a step or three better than some college kids goofing around with a Super 8 camera. The fact that the film obviously got dubbed in later after shooting, with color filters imposed over the stock during different segments (lots of blues and soft reds, especially), just adds to the inherent cheap feeling when watching it.
And maybe the story that the title of the film was meant to be Rat Fink and Boo Boo, but when Steckler saw the mistake in the credits and realized how much it would cost to fix it, he just let it stay that way to save the cash, may be fanciful. But when you watch this, you realize the legend may have some truth to it.
Even if you didn’t like some of the later tent-pole superhero films the last couple of decades gave us, it’s hard to empathize with this second hand afterthought. It’s like the director just wasn’t feeling it, wanting to do something else but couldn’t get away from this one.
Some heroes, however, shoulder on until they get their moment to shine. If nothing else, Steckler’s cinematic heroes were an excuse to play with techniques and approaches to putting music to film, making him one of the pioneers of the music video.
And supposedly, he got his wish. He’s credited by various sources as the director RCA hired to do the promotional film tied to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” and you can see a lot of his directorial touches in the film they released, lots of filters while focusing on a subject that at least has many of the same features at Rat Pfink’s Brandt, who was Steckler’s wife during this time:
After this, however, Steckler did not get a chance to become the poor man’s Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Steckler would switch from cheap camp to cheap softcore porn, and at one point, made money by repackaging screen tests for his later films where the actress would have to perform nude to read for the part.
Hmmph. Some hero.