December 12, 2008

Superdad (1973)

I’ve always been fascinated by the life, career, and death of actor Bob Crane. He became a household name in the late ‘60s with his TV show Hogan’s Heroes, followed by largely forgettable film and TV work.

He also led a secret life as godfather of the celebrity sex tape – recording countless hours of he and a crony engaging in “activities” with various lady folk. And when Crane was bludgeoned to death in his sleep (ironically, with his own camera tripod) in an Arizona motel in 1978, this crony was the key suspect (but never arrested).

Speaking of Crane’s forgettable film work…since a trip to Disney World in 2001, I’ve been obsessed with Crane’s 1973 Disney film, Superdad. I saw the groovy poster (above) in a ratty gift shop near the park entrance and, while I heard the film was unwatchable, I wanted to find out how unwatchable.

Plus, as curator of a blog focusing on fathers and film, I felt a movie called Superdad sounded perfect for a review.

You know that saying, “be careful what you wish for?”

• Charlie McCready (Crane) feels like he’s losing touch with his daughter, Wendy (Cathleen Cody), who will be attending college in the fall with her crowd of high school friends. He also feels these friends have no ambition, especially Wendy’s boyfriend, Bart (Kurt Russell).
• After watching a family relations expert on TV, Charlie decides to get more involved in his daughter’s activities (just what every teenager wants). At one particular intrusion of his daughter and her friends at the beach, he gets pummeled in games of volleyball and football, then eats it big time while water skiing.
• Later, Charlie hatches a plan for Wendy to receive a scholarship to a different college, his alma mater. Wendy attends the other college and sees less of her old crowd, but soon Charlie's plan backfires, causing father/daughter friction – and of course, zany antics on Charlie’s part to try and make things right.

Insipid. Humorless. Boring. Just a few words from my mental thesaurus to describe Superdad. It was so excruciating to watch that I had to break it up over three evenings, even though I had time each night to watch it in its entirety. The pain was just too much to bear in one sitting.

To list all the reasons for this film’s awfulness would take longer than if I watched it a second time (shudder). Some of the larger offenders at work:
• Disney’s saccharine perception of post-hippie high school kids in the early ‘70s.
• The fact that this Disney family “comedy” plays more like a made-for-TV dramedy -- that is, there are a lot of dramatic and confrontational scenes mixed in with the lame high jinks.
• The near-complete absence of a musical score. Not that I enjoy the overabundance of upbeat, horn-heavy scores in older live-action Disney films, but the lack of them in Superdad creates an odd, sterile atmosphere.

The “best” parts of Superdad?
• Catching the early work of future movie stars Kurt Russell, Bruno Kirby (a year before he made The Godfather Part II!), and Ed Begley, Jr.
• During Charlie’s ill-fated water-skiing adventure, Kirby is filming Crane from the boat with a home movie camera. Then all the teenagers watch the footage of Crane’s wipeout back at Wendy's house. The footage Kirby “shot” is the same exact footage you just watched in the movie – complete with long shots, close-ups, and multiple angles. Wow! Kirby coulda been the next Spielberg!

Rating: 1 star (out of 5).

Will your kids like it?
I can’t imagine any kid, then or now, sitting through this film. It makes me curious to find out how they marketed this film, or whom they marketed it to. (I couldn’t find the trailer online.)

Will your FilmMother like it?
You'll never know, because you’ll never tell her of Superdad’s existence. Ever.

* Director: Vincent McEveety
* Screenwriter: Joseph L. McEveety
* Stars: Bob Crane, Kurt Russell, Barbara Rush, Joe Flynn, Kathleen Cody, Dick Van Patten, Bruno Kirby
* MPAA Rating: G

Buy this movie for less at >>


Kristin said...

And even if she did find out about its existence, she wouldn't wanna see it anyway. Before or (especially) after your review!

Kathy B. said...

Oh, that was great.
Hmmmmm I always thought that in the old days the stars of Disney had morality clauses in their contracts. Wonder if he flew under the wire or if that bit of info is Urban Legend?

Gemma said...

Glad to see you back, FilmFather! Oh, my, what can I say?? I loved Hogan's Heroes, and I loved (and still love!) Kurt Russell. Sigh. Hugh Jackman be damned!:)

Anonymous said...

Great film! Leaves you feeling truly happy! A classic! One of the kids' favorites, have seen it over and over and over again! I recommend it!


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