Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, December 28, 2007
      ( 12/28/2007 10:32:00 AM ) Bill S.  

IN THE VAULT: One of our informal holiday traditions – one that first began when we bought our first recorded (Betamax!) version of the movie – has been a late-nite viewing of Joe Dante's twisted Christmastime story, Gremlins. While not Dante's best flick (depending on my mood, I'd favor either The Howling or Matinee), it never fails to make us laff. We love the scene of the gremlins singing along to the seven dwarves' song; we love Dick Miller as Mister Futterman; we love Mom Pelzer's defense of her kitchen and the comically sinister use of Johnny Mathis' "Do You Hear What I Hear;" we even get a kick out of Phoebe Cates' infamous Santa Claus monologue.

The movie has its weak spots: the sequences with the town's ineffectual sheriff and deputy fall particularly flat, and there are several plot points that get introduced never to be resolved. For years, both my wife and I wondered, for instance, why Judge Reinhold's snooty bank vice-president Gerald was given so much early screen time only disappear once the movie's gremlin rampage began. And the specifics behind villainess Polly Holliday's financial shenanigans had always been overly murky.

This year, however, with a budget copy of the Gremlins "Special Edition" DVD, we watched ten minutes of footage that was left out of the film. Some of it (some extraneous Chinatown footage, for instance) was wisely left on the cutting room floor, but the remainder contained materials which shows that scriptwriter Chris Columbus was more story conscientious than the finished film shows. Two omitted scenes, in particular, stand out - both set in the movie's bank setting. The first explains what Holliday's villainous Mrs. Deagle has been doing to the good working people of Kinston Falls; the second reveals what happened to both Gerald and his equally unscrupulous banker boss (played by venerable comic character actor Edward Andrews).

The filmmaker's commentary track to these clips doesn't give a reason for the first scene's omission, but the second seems to've partly been a victim of studio politics. In the finished movie, that second bank sequence also features Cates' monologue, and, per Dante, the studio suits loathed that particular moment and continually lobbied to get it sliced from the movie. At one point, Dante states, he was told he had to cut either the Cates or Reinhold scene, and the director felt more strongly about keeping the monologue. Given a choice between tone and story, Dante elected to keep a scene favoring the former. Me, I probably would've made the opposite choice.

Still love the movie, though.
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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