Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Gizmo, the mogwai
GREMLINS (1984). Director: Joe Dante.

Looking for a special present for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan), Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) buys a strange creature called a mogwai from a Chinatown curiosity shop. Christened "Gizmo,' the adorable creature loves to sing, but certain rules regarding the animal must be followed or disaster will follow. Naturally these rules are inadvertently broken and before long the bucolic town of Kingston Falls is besieged by a horde of nasty, chittering "gremlins" causing utter havoc. Gremlins is a pretty silly movie, but it's also an entertaining and amusing one, with an interesting premise (a take on the dangerous and mythical "gremlins" that allegedly plagued airmen and others), and some superior special effects work, especially in puppetry and make-up effects. Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates make a charming romantic couple, and Polly Holliday is fun as the town's heartless old woman who takes a deadly trip on a staircase elevator that goes riotously out of control. Jackie Joseph and Dick Miller [A Bucket of Blood] score as neighbors of the Peltzers, and there's a cameo from Kenneth Tobey as well. Keye Luke, Scott Brady [Mohawk] , and Jonathan Banks [Wiseguy] also have significant roles and are fine. Ditto for Mushroom, who plays the dog, Barry, and nearly steals the picture, no easy feat. There is an uncomfortable aspect to the film, however, and that's that the evil gremlins (as opposed to Gizmo, who in a sense, gives birth to these monsters) are dark in color and there are times when they are clearly modeled on certain black stereotypes -- almost as if the movie is depicting an inner city invasion of a mostly Caucasian town [We see only one black inhabitant, a likable school teacher, who comes afoul of the Gremlins.] None of this may have been intended, but it does seem in bad taste. While there are quite a few inventive ideas in this, the picture needs tightening in both the editing and pacing departments. This was a very, very successful picture and engendered one sequel and a whole slew of imitations. Although several people are apparently killed by the end of the film, the Peltzer family, who essentially created the whole mess, seem completely unaffected by it.

Verdict: Hardly for every taste, but this is an often clever black comedy. ***.


angelman66 said...

I do remember liking this one back in the day, it had a clever tongue-in-cheek feel, good writing and acting. That friendly Gizmo was cute, too!

William said...

Gizmo was a real teddy bear all right! Silly movie, but fun.