Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag: Double Feature - PENROD AND SAM(1931) / BIG SHOTS(1987) ""

Monday, May 27, 2013

Warner Archive Grab Bag: Double Feature - PENROD AND SAM(1931) / BIG SHOTS(1987)

There are a few movie versions of PENROD AND SAM, but this one is from 1931 and was directed by William Beaudine(who was later a veteran of the Bowery Boys films). It's based on Booth Tarkington's beloved novel which is steeped in Americana. Here, the titular duo are played by Leon Janney and  Junior Coghlan. Said duo heads up the "In and In" club, a very exclusive youngsters group with strict rules and member guidelines(including a "thumbs up or thumbs down" democratic voting system). They even have their own shack clubhouse on a vacant lot. Unfortunately their exclusionary tactics run them into some trouble when a nerdy tattletale classmate forcibly weasels his way into the club and they over zealously "initiate" him. Eventually the boys find their beloved clubhouse and vacant lot annexed because of the wrath of another nerdy kid. The film is very much a slice of boys life from the period. Very pleasant and often touching.

This may seem like an unlikely double feature, but I'd pay to see this duo in a theater and I stand behind my choice of BIG SHOTS as the 2nd half. One thing's for sure and that is that I totally forgot how much of a bummer the 1st 15 minutes of this movie are. For some reason I lumped it into a more fun lovin' "kids gone wild" kind of 80s movie category. The 
A Chicago suburbs kid(Obie) runs away to the wrong part of town and ends up getting help from a streetwise inner city kid named Scam(played by Darius McCray of TV's Family Matters). After they steal a car with a body in the trunk, they find themselves mixed with some bad folks. 
I was a bit shocked to realize that this film was written by Joe Eszterhaus(who would obviously go on to pen BASIC INSTINCT and SHOWGIRLS a short time after). But there's certainly a streak of darkness running through this otherwise touching comedy. It portrays a gritty world where adults do terrible things to kids and that's always really tough for me. That being said, there's still some fun times had by the two boys and the film has a certain kinship with the Tom Hanks movie BIG. Unlike BIG though, this movie features a lot more kids driving cars, which frankly I can't get enough of for some reason. Movies these days are sorely lacking in scenes of kids driving cars. I remember that being a big deal to me at the time I first saw this on VHS. I wasn't old enough to drive yet myself and where I was from in the Midwest, it was the s huge deal when you got your license. Seeing these youngsters tooling around in cars just made it seem that much cooler.
The supporting adult cast for BIG SHOTS is quite memorable too in that it features Paul Winfield, Robert Prosky & Jerzy Skolimowski. Nobody delivers a line like "Don't mess with me dude, cause I can walk on water eat bullets and shit ice cream!" the way the great Paul Winfield does. 

Both films can be purchased on MOD DVD via WARNER ARCHIVE.

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