Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #519
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: September 12, 1980
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Charles Kaufman
Producer: Michael Herz, Charles Kaufman
Screenplay: Charles Kaufman, Warren Leight
Special Effects: Josie Caruso, Rob E. Holland
Cinematography: Joseph Mangine
Score: Phil Gallo, Clem Vicari, Jr.
Editing: Daniel Loewenthal
Studio: Mach Studios, Inc., Duty Productions, Saga Films, Troma Entertainment
Distributor: Troma Entertainment, United Film Distribution Company
Stars: Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Beatrice Pons, Frederick Coffin, Michael McCleery, Robert Collins, Peter Fox, Marsella Davidson , Kevin Lowe, Scott Lucas, Ed Battle, Robert Carnegie
Suggested Audio Candy
 Danzig “Mother”
 Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster “Celebrate Your Mother”
Being a mother must be a drag. Watching your angelic little babies progressively morph into hormonal teenagers, faces littered with pus-clogged pimples, and rebel against the entire world… especially their own parents. It must be soul-destroying to utter the words “you’ll thank me when you’re older”, “when you decide to act like an adult, then maybe I’ll start treating you like one” or “you kids today don’t know how easy you have it” as we all swear we will never turn out like that and, once we do, it feels like the child inside of us dies a little. For the record, I have a five-year-old son and pledge to never use any of the above techniques when trying to understand him better. Having said that, I’m the dad. Father’s traditionally get to play good cop. I reiterate: Being a mother must be a drag.
“Now you just do what I say! Queenie’s out there, I just know it.”
On the flip side, being a kid must suck too. Sometimes, the mother in question is terrified of ending up alone and can’t bring herself to slacken those apron strings and allow her beloved children to flee the nest. Take Norman Bates for example. Poor guy can’t have a sneaky wank under the duvet without the old dear suspecting him of smuggling a whore into his boudoir. Despite the fact that Ma Bates prolapsed three decades ago and has been incontinent for the past two, she still possesses the hearing of a Boston Terrier and her vocal chords are in fine working order too. However, in certain situations, everything pans out just dandy. Kids are joyful, mother less grumpy and the family home a happy one.
One such happy family are the subject of one-time filmmaker, now bread baron Charles Kaufman’s subversively satirical 1980 backwoods exploitation flick Mother’s Day. The matriarch of this particular brood prefers to be known just as mother (Beatrice Pons). Mother appears to be a sweet, fragile looking old lady and has a smile that could light up a sarcophagus. But looks can be mighty deceiving and she certainly doesn’t take any messing. No siree. Those knitted trim slippers have other uses than just cushioning her bunions and have been reinforced with the finest hard plastic for that extra sting. But her boys are no trouble really, just two energetic little scrappers with nothing between their lugs than saw dust and Cherry 7 Up. Notice the sly little plug there? More on that later.
So these boys then. There’s Ike (Frederick Coffin) and then there’s Addley (Michael McCleery) and it would be fair to say that neither will ever make it to the moon (unless Jonathan Kaplan ever gets round to making Project X 2: Bluebeard’s Revenge, in which case, it’ll feel like the moon until that ominous blue light appears). And do you know what? They’d still be grinning when you zip up their body bags. Better yet, just throw their stiff corpses in the outhouse but don’t forget to bolt it afterwards as Queenie is likely lurking in the foliage. It’s because of mother’s poisonous sister that poor Ike and Addley can’t skim stones by the lake without a spotter and she’s determined not to let them out of her sight in case the legendary Queenie strikes.
Boys will be boys and, at some point, mother knows that they’ll need some new playthings just to help them unwind before bedtime. All that unspent sperm can get mighty heavy and it’s always poor mother that ends up hand washing their crispy breaches. So who better to keep Ike and Addley out of mischief than three frisky backpacking cum dumpsters? Actually, that may be a tad harsh. Abbey (Nancy Hendrickson), Jackie (Deborah Luce), and Trina (Tiana Pierce) don’t share the usual flaky allegiance that would make them easy picking for deviants. These girls stick together, goddammit they’re The Rat Pack! Once college roommates, they were inseparable then and, once a year for their annual get-together, they’re like glue once again. Did I hear someone mention a teddy bear’s picnic?
“You’ll get what you deserve in them Deep Barons, you lez-beans! You won’t be causin’ no one no trouble no more!”
After a few minutes of gloriously satirical Troma trash meet and greets, we’re off to them Deep Barons and it is here that we get to kick back and ogle The Rat Pack while they engage in playful sleeping bag fights, early evening skinny dips, and affectionate drunken camp fire remembrances of the The Dobber. And just a hint of melancholy. Sooner or later, Ike and Addley are bound to catch a whiff of the girls’ menstruation trail and, when it happens, the whole games changes in an instant. Bizarrely enough, it is once the girls are taken in and roughed up a little that we begin to feel like we’re home. All that Abbey, Jackie, and Trina wanted was a little adventure to dumb down the drone of their everyday lives and a little adventure is what they get. That’s right… a little harmless degradation and (ahem) molestation… which I’m fairly assured constitutes adventure.
“There are three rules in the film business – Distribution, distribution, distribution.”
One thing that is easy to miss during our first Mother’s Day outing is the subliminal advertising wherever we turn. There’s a TV set in every room and, what’s more, every last one of them is turned on and sending out those brain waves. The fact that we may not realize this on primary inspection? Duh! It’s subliminal advertising dummies! This just makes us love the boys all the more. After all, how can we be angry at them? They’ve been tuned in all their life and, as a direct result, have become products of, not only their environment, but also a whole host of devious programming. Why exist in the real world and miss out on all the spaceships like the ones on the idiot box when you can build your own with the wondrous tool of imagination? It helps make the boys terribly endearing.
“And remember, once you go out those doors, don’t stop to think about what you feel. Because once you stop to think about what you feel, you doubt what you know. And once you doubt what you know, you’re gonna assume you don’t know it. Why? Because you don’t act on it. Once you know what you know, you act on it.”
Another sneaky factor that proves Mother’s Day to be far more than the simple backwoods hoedown people have regarded it as for the past thirty-five years is Kaufman and fellow screenwriter Warren Leight’s smart dialogue. Again, it sneaks up on you when you don’t expect it, and it’s another bargaining tool to encourage us back for repeat viewings. The exchanges between brothers are priceless and tender, while the girls get all empowered, making a mockery of any claims that Kaufman’s film is misogynistic white trash. It’s trash for sure, but I happen to be rather fond of trash and this is cunningly clever trash. Moreover, it’s entertaining as all hell trash.
“I’ll get the Kodak!”
Lloyd Kaufman has made a career out of peddling the very finest in trash and I’d kiss his loafers if I ever met him. Then I’d share my popping candy with him as I know that would give him a kick. Mother’s Day is markedly different to the kind of Troma I grew up watching. It’s playful as ever but deep and fulfilling on a far more intimate level than most of their handsome back catalogue. It ran into trouble in the year of its release and, while never officially making the notorious list of video nasties, was still seized in some regions during raids and held as contemptible. It’s laughable now that it received such a bum rap and, thankfully, those splendid old beans over at 88 Films have restored it to beyond its original Technicolor glory using wonderful Blu-Ray technology (available in all good retailers). You know what that means right? You’re damn skippy, it’s worth a punt.
I’m ashamed to say that I missed the boat in 1980 as I was knee-high to a grasshopper when the 5-0 snatched it away in a burlap sack also containing Maniac and The New York Ripper. However, I’ve watched it twice in the last week if that earns me golden boy points. And do you know what? I loved it even more the second time. It’s high time the world got to know Mother’s Day a little better. It’s a beautifully shot, well-played, slickly produced, meticulously designed sly little fox of a movie that gets inside your head and tickles your joy pheromones when you’re least expecting it. Anyhoots, I believe that my work here is done. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get the Kodak!
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Has its moments with the grue and kicks us off with a well demonstrated decapitation sporting some delicious deep red spurt to get us licking our gums gleefully. Friday The 13th made us wait for that gag until the climax but Mother’s Day wants us to know that it ain’t fucking around from the offset. There are also a number of household items put to ironic use, including a TV set and pair of rubber breasts. Don’t ask. There’s even a dash of consequential castration for that extra globule of spit on your grave. Remember Grueheads, all deaths here have hidden meanings. In other news: Titties sure are pretty. I know it, y’all know it and, praise the lord, Kaufman knows it too.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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