Richard Quine's "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad" (1967) is the cult film that never was. At turns eccentric, experimental and awful, it's a surprise that this witty attack on momism ever got made, particuarly by a major studio.
Based on the off-Broadway hit by Arthur Kopit, the film casts a game Rosalind Russell as Madam Rosepettle (a reference to Madam Rose?), a certifiable steamroller who dotes on her Venus flytraps and cat-eating Piranhas and her babified son Robert Morse (who still wears Doctor Dentons)and who keeps her late, taxidermal husband Jonathan Winters carefully preserved.
The singular Barbara Harris (in her second film role, following 1965's "A Thousand Clowns") plays the babysitter at the resort hotel where Madam Rosepettle, Junior and Dad are ensconced. Natually, she falls for Junior, whose name is actually Jonathan. On the sidelines are such cinematic loons as Hugh Griffin and Lionel Jeffries.
The film doesn't work but it's not exactly unwatchable, thanks to Quine's sure hand which manages to produce several curious/memorable sequences.
Incidentally, Quine started out as an actor and appeared in 25 films, including Rosalind Russell's "My Sister Eileen" (1942), in which he played the role of Frank Lippincott, the young man nursing a crush on Janet Blair's Eileen. Thirteen years later, he would direct Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh and Jack Lemmon in the musical remake for Columbia, with the role of Frank Lippincott going to Bob Fosse, who also choreographed the film.
Another 12 years later, in '67, he would reunite with Roz Russell for "Oh Dad, Poor Dad."
Quine, who had a fascinatingly eclectic career as a filmmaker ("Pushover," "Bell, Book and Candle," "The World of Suzie Wong," "Synanon," "Strangers When We Meet," "Sex and the Single Girl" and "The Moonshine Wars"), died in 1989, a suicide by gunshot. For years, Kim Novak was his muse.
Quine's two best films - "Operation Mad Ball" (1957) and "The Notorious Landlady" (1962), both co-written by Blake Edwards - have yet to be released on home entertainment in any form.
Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.
(Artwork: Poster Art for "Richard Quine's "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad")
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