The Greydon Clark Bar: Wacko (1982)
Thirteen years ago, "The Lawnmower Killer" slaughtered several teens on the night of the Halloween Pumpkin Prom. Since then, Detective Dick Harbinger (Joe Don Baker) has not taken a moment of rest, literally. The man hasn't slept for the last 13 years not wanting to waste a single moment that could be devoted to chasing down the Pumpkinheaded lawn equipment wielding killer. One of the victims was the older sister of Mary Graves (Julia Duffy), and poor Mary has extreme trauma from seeing her sister get killed which makes her scream and run in fright anytime the "Lawnmower Killer" is even mentioned. It doesn't help matters that her beau Norman Bates makes sounds like a mower every time he gets sexually excited, her father (George Kennedy) is constantly peeping in her window, and her high-school is full of freaks, losers and loons.
Joysticks, but I just can't say how much his appearance brightens up a film. His Wacko detective Harbinger, complete with "hard boiled" voice-overs, is absolutely a riot. Baker plays it straight, and with wild hair and deadpan delivery, and he takes simple flashbacks to the level of fine art. Julia Duffy is an actress I know primarily from the '80's sitcom Newhart, but Wacko is just one of dozens of parts the actress took in the beginning of her career (including Battle Beyond the Stars) before she landed the part of Dick Loudon's yuppie maid. Wacko showcases the dry, sarcastic, delivery that made her TV character, Stephanie Vanderkellen, so funny. Why Duffy remains an underused actress, I don't know, but I was happy to see her recently on a couple episodes of Showtime's Shameless. George Kennedy, the character actor best remembered now for The Naked Gun movies, creeps it up as Duffy's dad. In one of my favorite silly jokes in the film, it's revealed that Kennedy, who has been shown to be an inept gynecological surgeon, is not a doctor at all. His given name just happens to be Doctor Graves.
Joysticks as cool guy Jefferson, appears here as Norman Bates compete with dead mom he puppeteers. While the film is a litany of references, the Psycho and Hitchcock homages do tend to lurk around every corner for the keen viewer. It also bears mentioning that Elizabeth Daily, Dottie in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, shows up here in a small role, but her appearance as a genie at the Halloween dance is reason enough to take note. Later in her career, Daily went into cartoons voicing lead characters on Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, and Eek! The Cat. She's also continued to make occasional screen appearances in films such as The Devil's Rejects and Potheads:The Movie.
That's it this time for my trip to the Greydon Clark Bar. Join me back here the rest of the month and check out what else Mr. Clark has on tap for us.