Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Bad (1967)

OH DAD, POOR DAD, MAMA’S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I’M FEELING SO SAD (1967)
Article 1944 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-11-2006
Posting Date: 12-8-2006
Directed by Richard Quine and Alexander Mackendrick
Featuring Rosalind Russell, Robert Morse, Barbara Harris

An overbearing mother takes her repressed son on vacation to Jamaica. She takes along two venus fly-traps, a fishtank of piranhas, and her former husband, whose corpse has been stuffed and which she keeps in the closet. She tries to net a rich Commodore while protecting her son from the wiles of a lusty young woman.

Let’s get the fantastic content out of the way first. The movie is narrated by Jonathan Winters, who appears as an angel in heaven during the opening sequence. Outside of this, its main fantastic content might be that the movie feels something like a black comic version of the early years of Norman Bates; I found myself thinking of the movie PSYCHO several times during this viewing.

The movie is based on a stage play by Arthur L. Kopit, and I can actually see how this might have worked fairly well on stage. As a movie, though, it falls rather flat. I haven’t read the stage play on which this was based, but I suspect that there was quite a bit of tampering with the script; certainly, Jonathan Winters’s narration feels out of sync with the rest of the movie, and the fact that each of these one-liners is punctuated by still pictures of Winters in the action makes me suspect that this was all added after the fact to make the movie more overtly comic and more commercial. Unfortunately, the commentary isn’t particularly funny, and it undercuts the natural weirdness that is actually the movie’s strength; I find some of the bizarre touches (like Robert Morse’s sickly complexion and Rosalind Russell’s costume-and-wig collection) to be the most interesting thing about this movie. The cast is rather interesting; on top of the people mentioned earlier, it also features Hugh Griffith as the smitten Commodore, Lionel Jeffries as an officious airport commander, whose face I’ve definitely seen somewhere else before, even if I can’t say where. It’s a failure, but not an uninteresting one, and my curiosity about the original stage play has certainly been piqued.

 

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