celebrities, LDS, movies, reviews

Repost: Just watched I Am Elizabeth Smart… 

I wrote this post for the original Overeducated Housewife blog in November 2017. I am reposting it as/is, so pretend it’s five years ago.

We got snow this morning and it’s been flurrying all day, so we decided to stay in and watch TV.  I recently read Elizabeth Smart’s comments about the Lifetime movie that was made about her experiences in captivity after she was kidnapped from her bed on June 5, 2002.  I still remember Bill telling me about the kidnapping.  We were engaged at the time, living in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  His daughters are a few years younger than Smart and Mormon.  They were in Arizona.  I remember Bill was concerned.

Well, we all know what happened to Elizabeth.  She was eventually found and reunited with her family.  She went to college, went on a mission, and got married to a returned missionary from Scotland.  They have two beautiful children and Elizabeth’s work is about helping victims.  While I would never wish what happened to her on anyone, I think it’s laudable that she’s been able to turn her ordeal into something good.

Trailer for I Am Elizabeth Smart.

As for the movie… I have to admit, it made me a bit emotional.  I read Elizabeth’s book a few years ago, so I knew she was raped repeatedly, starved, forced to eat garbage and drink alcohol, and kept shackled to a tree out in the wilderness.  The movie featured Smart narrating while an actress portrayed her. 

I saw the first TV movie about Smart’s case; it aired in 2003, just nine months after she was rescued.  I remember it was on TV the same night a movie about Jessica Lynch aired.  I was interested in both movies, so I flipped back and forth.  The first Smart movie was more from her parents’ perspective; it was based on the book Bringing Elizabeth Home

In I Am Elizabeth Smart, there seemed to be much less emphasis on Smart’s family and the LDS church.  In fact, I noticed when the actors portraying Barzee, Mitchell, and Smart didn’t even pray the way Mormons do, with their arms crossed.  The church wasn’t even really mentioned, which is kind of a pity, since I think Mormon teachings are, in part, to blame for Smart’s trauma.  The film is instead kept sort of blandly religious.  Smart speaks of her faith in God and in how she saw God in everyday miracles, like when it would rain.  Smart explains that she was always thirsty, because they never had enough water.  It was very hard to get water.  When they did get it, Mitchell would make her work for it.  Basically, that meant submitting to his repeated sexual assaults. 

Smart says in the film that when Mitchell raped her, she felt shattered into a million pieces.  In speeches she’s given, she’s mentioned that she learned object lessons in the church about the importance of being “pure”.  She learned that having sex before marriage made her akin to a chewed up piece of gum, worthy of being thrown away.  Although she did mention feeling “shattered” in the film, she did not provide the context that made rape even more horrific for her.

The actors in the film were very good, although the part of the movie that I found most compelling was when Elizabeth spoke.  It seemed almost like she wanted to set things straight with the public.  She addressed the many cynical comments she must have read or heard from people over the years, including the claim that she had Stockholm Syndrome.  Toward the end of the film, she has a glint in her eye and a victorious edge to her voice when she tells viewers that Mitchell had raped her for the last time.  I also noticed that Elizabeth looked really pretty.  I have seen her wear very heavy makeup, but whomever did her makeup for the film did a really good job.  She looked natural and beautiful, not garish.

By the time the movie ended, I was feeling pretty verklempt.  She was so incredibly lucky to survive and not endure years with those people.  And, honest to God, while I’m not generally someone who enjoys violence, I do hope Mitchell gets the shit beaten out of him regularly for what he did to Elizabeth… and frankly, Wanda Barzee, who is also horrible, but was his victim for over fifteen years.

I think I Am Elizabeth Smart is pretty decent, especially for a Lifetime film.  It is ultimately a triumphant film.  I’m not sorry I watched it.  I’m sure they deliberately downplayed Smart’s LDS beliefs for many reasons.  Maybe it was to make it appeal to a larger audience or give more time to the story of Smart’s captivity.  But personally, I think the church helped traumatize Smart when it taught her that sex outside of marriage makes someone worthless.  As horrifying as rape is, it’s got to be much worse when the cornerstone of one’s spiritual beliefs teaches that a woman who has sex before marriage is akin to a licked cupcake or chewed up piece of gum. 

Looks like the “Licked Cupcake” is about to become theater.
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movies, TV, videos

Repost: Desperate Lives– a delightfully campy anti-drug flick starring Helen Hunt…

I am reposting this old Epinions review, written June 26, 2012, because I mentioned Diana Scarwid today and she was in this movie about drugs in the 80s. I did recently write about Desperate Lives, but that post didn’t include my review… and I worked so hard on that review! So here it is– as/is– for the interested. I had some fun with this writeup, didn’t I?

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, which means that my childhood was inundated with anti-drug propaganda.  One of the most memorable made for television films from my youth is 1982’s Desperate Lives, starring Doug McKeon, Diana Scarwid, Diane Ladd, and a very young Helen Hunt.  This film has some unintentionally hilarious moments in it, which is why I would ever think of it 30 years later.  Though it has been available on VHS in the past, it eventually went out of print.  I see it’s now being offered for $9.99 on Amazon.com, or you might be able to see it for free on YouTube, which is what I opted to do.  Or, you can just read this review, which will be very snarky and includes all of the major details of the plot.

The plot

Guidance counselor Eileen Phillips (Diana Scarwid) is new blood at a high school where the kids are all stoned.  She wants to do something about all the blatant drug abuse, but the teachers and administrators don’t care.  Can a couple of special students help Eileen convince the kids to stop doing drugs?

A blow by blow… (cuz are you really going to watch this?)

*Spoilers– skip this section if you don’t want them.* Diana Scarwid, who famously played the adult version of Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest, plays Eileen Phillips, a young guidance counselor.  Just eight years out of high school herself, Eileen Phillips has an annoying, odd, southern accent that sounds like it inspired Eric Cartman fifteen years later.  On her first day on the job, Eileen runs into Scott Cameron (Doug McKeon) in the parking lot.  Scott appears disoriented because he and his sister, Sandy (Helen Hunt), have just taken a ride in a van where other young folks are doing drugs.  Scott apparently has a bit of a contact high.

Eileen immediately takes a shine to 15 year old Scott and asks another guidance counselor if she can trade one of her students for Scott.  Later, we see Scott in Eileen’s office and she tries to talk to him about his future.  But he’s coming down from his high and is angry and irritable.   They have a bonding moment when Eileen implores her new young charge to trust her.

At a pep rally, Eileen is enjoying the band and the cheerleaders until she looks around and spots some unruly boys up in the bleachers shoving stuff up their noses and smoking pot.  The football coach stirs up cheer by telling students they “have to get high”.  As everyone roars approval, he quips “That’s not what I mean…”

Eileen corners the principal, Dr. Jarvis (William Windom), and immediately takes him to task for all the druggies in his school.  Having only been on the job two weeks, Eileen sure doesn’t mind upsetting the apple cart.  Dr. Jarvis doesn’t seem to care.  He continues greeting students as Eileen tries to talk to him about trying to stop all the drug use.  The good principal just can’t be bothered.  Later, we discover that Dr. Jarvis will soon be retiring, which explains his apathy.  He warns Eileen not to rock the boat too much.

Eileen is in the pool with the students when she spots one of them floating.  She shouts for someone to call the paramedics because the young lass isn’t breathing.  Miraculously, after a few seconds of CPR, the young girl starts breathing again.  When Eileen asks what happened, the only response she gets from the other kids is that the girl is just a “dumb doper”. 

The music turns sad and ominous as we end up at Scott and Sandy’s house, where their mom, Carol (Diane Ladd), is setting up for dinner.  Scott starts complaining to his mother, who tells him he hangs out with “a bad class of people”.  Scott gets p!ssed and storms out of the house as Carol calls to him to come back.  But Sandy tells her to let Scott go out and blow off some steam… or maybe just to score some blow.  Later, when Sandy tries to talk to Scott, he calls her a b!tch and accuses her of being a doper, too.  But Sandy says she only “experiments”; she’s not a drug fiend.

The familiar strains of an 80s era arcade play and I hear the sounds of Donkey Kong.  Scott’s there to pick up a stash from his dealer, Ken (Sam Bottoms).  Ken apparently sees himself in Scott and recruits him to help him sell drugs.  He shows Scott his car and apartment, offers Scott a beer, and tells him to open a briefcase he got handmade in Italy, which Scott pronounces as “gnarly”.  The dealer doesn’t drink or drug, but he likes his money.  He sees the same qualities in Scott as he introduces him to a lucrative life in designer Jordache jeans!   

There’s more ominous music as the scene shifts.  Poor Carol is in bed with her husband, John (Tom Atkins), lamenting about how crappy Scott is.  The parents are losing control of their kids and hating it.  Dad can’t reach Scott, but he can keep a 16 hour a day job at the post office so he can pay the bills.

Scott is soon approached by a pretty 15 year old girl named Susan (Tricia Cast) who’s heard he sells drugs.  He doesn’t want to sell her any drugs, but she tells him “everybody else is doing it”.  Ahh… famous last words.

Eileen busts a group of b!tchy teen girls in the girl’s bathroom, who are sitting in there getting high.  They tell her the same thing… that everybody does it.  But Eileen isn’t having it.  Her voice is low with disapproval as she reminds the teens that she’s been around and knows what’s going on. 

Next, we see Sandy in the chemistry lab with her boyfriend, Steve (Grant Cramer) a cutie pie football player.  He’s got some PCP and wants to celebrate their six week anniversary.  Sandy tries to resist, but Steve lays on the peer pressure.  She snorts; he kisses her.  Then we flip back to Scott as he asks out Susan, the cute girl who wanted to buy drugs from him. 

Suddenly, we hear ungodly screams and shattering glass as we see Sandy jump out a second story window!  Under the influence of that PCP, Sandy has landed on the ground, screaming and writhing, miraculously with no apparent broken bones, cuts, or even bruises.  Scott wrestles Sandy to the ground and she goes limp as she passes out.  When a student says that only the crazies act like this, Eileen screams that she’s glad everyone’s so sane.  Yes, this is one of the unintentionally hilarious parts of this film.

Eileen Phillips is now lamenting that the problem is overwhelming.  Her boyfriend, Stan (Art Hindle), is annoyed because Eileen is too much into her job.  He’s especially irritated when Eileen asks Stan if he minds if Scott joins them on their bike date that weekend.  Eileen wants to show Scott a “new way to get high”.  And Stan reluctantly agrees to being cock-blocked by a drug addicted adolescent.

Eileen takes Scott fishing and finds out that Scott has a sense of humor.  Then they’re with Stan as appropriately cheesy 80s music plays while they ride their bikes without helmets and take crazy risks doing stunts.  They have a good day, but Scott still has a dark side. 

In the very next scene, he’s snorting a couple of lines of cocaine just as he’s about to practice swimming.  He does a lap, then his cute little girlfriend, Susan shows up.  They talk about drugs and Scott is annoyed that she’s on something.  It seems the young lady has a complex about being like “Little Bo Peep” and thinks drugs will help her grow up.   

Next Ken, the nasty drug dealer, is shown roughing up Julie (Michele Greene) one of his female teenaged clients, who begs him to supply her with something.  But he heartlessly shoves her aside, refusing to hook her up.  Then, just as Ken is about to leave, Scott shows up and confronts the drug dealer, telling him to stay away from his girlfriend.  I’m wondering if Scott is just hoping there will be more for him.     

Eileen Phillips, still taking her job very seriously, tracks down the drug dealer and confronts him.  I can’t help but think Eileen is a dummy, messing with a drug dealer without any backup.  These were the days before cell phones after all.  But the dealer is surprisingly mellow… until the two of them find Julie, the shrieking young girl the dealer had kicked out, dead on the floor of his apartment.  She has committed suicide.

At swim practice, Eileen pulls Scott aside and reads him the riot act.  They have an argument as Eileen tells Scott that he’s a doper.  Scott finally breaks down and tells her he has to do something to get away from “all the crap”.  And Eileen, in all her wisdom, tells Scott to try a movie or a book.  Somehow, I can’t imagine that advice is going to go very far with the average drug addict.

Then at a faculty meeting, Eileen delivers a sermon about all the druggie kids at the school, and poor dead Julie is a good way to raise the issue with the kids.  Here, we see Dr. Joyce Brothers in a cameo, playing Mrs. Watson, a woman who couldn’t care less about the drug problems and wants to discuss band uniforms.

Over Thanksgiving dinner, Scott’s family is trying to engage him.  But he passes out, his face landing in his plate full of turkey and mashed potatoes.  Then as Eileen and Stan have a picnic, they argue because Eileen is too hung up on the druggie teens and doesn’t care enough about their relationship. 

Sandy, now sporting black eyes and casts on her arm and leg, takes Scott out for a walk.  He tells her he’s taken Quaaludes and that’s why he passed out over dinner.  Sandy tries to talk Scott out of using drugs, but Scott takes off on his skateboard, leaving poor gimpy Sandy standing there.

As Scott is angrily skateboarding down the street, the music turns hopeful.  Susan pulls up in her car.  She’s fifteen, so she’s clearly driving illegally.  The window rolls down and Scott calls her “Sandy” instead of Susan.  Oops!  She invites him to get in the car with her.  They decide to go up to the mountains.  While they drive, Susan tells Scott to open the glove compartment, where she’s stashed some primo angel dust.  Susan reassures Scott that this angel dust is “clean” and they can enjoy it without worrying about freaking out like Sandy did.  The two have an annoying conversation, peppered with some very contrived sounding teen lingo.  They light up while Susan is driving and the two of them are completely out of it as the road grows curvier.  Finally, Susan is stoned out of her mind and still driving… neither is wearing a seatbelt, mind you, as Susan’s car goes through the guard rail and down an embankment.  Another unintentionally hilarious moment happens as we see a very cheesy special effect.  The windshield cracks, but it looks like it was done in cartoon rather than for real!

Eileen comes to the hospital.  Thunder rolls and it’s pouring outside.  Eileen introduces herself to Scott’s parents, who have gathered around their son’s hospital bed.  We see Scott looking out of it, his hands restrained in leather straps.  Scott has a nasty concussion and doesn’t even ask about Susan, his darling girlfriend who has perished in the crash. 

It’s Christmas time, two weeks after his Thanksgiving accident.  Scott still doesn’t know what’s happened.  Eileen visits him at his home.  Scott asks what happened.  Eileen tries to change the subject, but he presses her for details.  Eileen tells Scott that “God has a way of blocking painful memories from our minds so that we don’t replay them over and over again…”  Not sure God has a lot to do with it, but it sounds good.  Eileen talks to Scott’s mom and I have to say, Diane Ladd does a good job playing the anguished mom, wondering how she ended up with two druggie kids.  Later that night, Scott wakes up screaming like a banshee as he realizes his cute girlfriend, Susan, is dead.  He’s hysterical as he throws a chair through the window.  Is it the drugs or grief?  The paramedics come to take Scott away, presumably for a shot of Thorazine.

Eileen reflects on what’s happened to her favorite student.  She has finally had enough.  During a Christmas assembly, Eileen goes through a bunch of lockers and collects a bunch of drug stashes.  She puts it all on a cart and pushes the cart into the gynmasium, where she proceeds to burn the drugs in front of everyone.  I can’t help but wonder how the burning drugs don’t make everyone high,  but I guess the writers were going for a dramatic effect.  On another note, the fact that there’s a Christmas assembly and the choir is singing a religious song really shows how dated this film is.  In any case, after Eileen collects all the drugs, I’m left thinking this was one stoned school! 

Eileen delivers another unintentially hilarious speech in front of the student body as she lists all of the students who have been maimed or killed thanks to drugs.  She’s presumably sober when she does this.  Just say no, kids!  And shockingly, Eileen’s speech seems to get through to everybody!  One by one, the students come up to the burning cart with drugs on it and drops more into the flames, apparently just because of Eileen Phillips’ speech.  A round of applause erupts as the kids decide to go straight.  I wonder if they’ll still be straight tomorrow or the next day, but the ending does at least allow this film to end on a triumphant note.

My thoughts

Desperate Lives was obviously meant to be a very serious film.  I know it was shown at schools in the 1980s as a way to dissuade students from taking illegal drugs.  But I have to say, Diana Scarwid’s performance is pretty trippy.  I was impressed by some of the other actors, namely Doug McKeon and Helen Hunt, who are clearly much too talented for this tripe. 

I don’t think this film is particularly effective, despite its strong anti-drug propaganda bent.  The dramatic moments go way too far, which makes this movie too over the top to be taken seriously.  Yes, it’s true that some people ruin their lives over drugs.  But Desperate Lives only shows the most drastic and dramatic pitfalls to drug abuse peppered with the Valley Girl speak that was so popular in the early 1980s.  From the moment we see Helen Hunt jumping out of a window, screaming her head off, it’s very clear some of these scenes are intended to shock and scare straight.  And what they ultimately end up doing is making viewers laugh.  Or at least they make ME laugh.  At least we’re spared seeing these kids in rehab.

Overall   

This is your typical 80s era movie of the week.  I watch this and wonder if people were really that simple in the 80s.  I can’t imagine today’s teens taking this movie seriously at all.  If you watch it, you will probably laugh.  I certainly wouldn’t spend money on this film, but it’s fun for a laugh on YouTube.

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bad TV, good tv, LDS, religion, YouTube

A non-Mormon looks at the LDS film, “Saturday’s Warrior”, and has a good cringe…

I have been hanging out on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard for about twenty years now, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of LDS stuff over the years. However, somehow I completely missed out on Saturday’s Warrior, which started out as a “humble drama project” in California back in 1973, was turned into a Brigham Young University stage production in 1974, and then in 1989, became this musical monstrosity weirdly reminiscent of Saved By The Bell.

Because I had nothing better to do yesterday, I watched this whole film, and started a thread about it on RfM. On the surface, this show is pretty laughable and silly, but digging deeper, there’s actually kind of some disturbing stuff here. And since I haven’t upbraided the Mormons in a good, long, while, I thought today might be a good day for doing that. Germany is very stormy and windy today, and my dogs are too scared to go out and pee without strong encouragement from me. They probably won’t want a walk until things settle down.

This time of year is always difficult for me, especially in Germany, where the weather generally sucks for weeks on end. The past two years have sucked more than usual, mainly due to the pandemic, and the fact that it’s a good excuse for me to be reclusive. I have a tendency to hole up when there isn’t a deadly plague, but this virus just gives me a reason to hunker down more, which is actually not that great for my mental health. For one thing, I tend to drink more when I’m holed up at home. For another, I find myself watching bizarre videos on YouTube. Well… Saturday’s Warrior definitely fits the bill as “bizarre”, at least for the uninitiated. I can’t believe I watched the whole thing. And, well, afterwards, I was left a bit flabbergasted. More on that later.

Apparently, this film, aimed at the youth of my day, was quite the LDS cultural icon to teens of the 90s.

Some background for those who don’t “know” me…

I grew up a Protestant (Presbyterian) in southeastern Virginia. Back in my kid days, there weren’t a whole lot of Mormons in Virginia, at least not in the area where I was coming of age. Now, of course, many LDS church members have descended on my mother’s hometown of Buena Vista and the surrounding areas, and I know there are a number of LDS folks in northern Virginia and other urban areas, particularly around Washington, DC. In 1996, church members bought my mom’s alma mater, the former Southern Seminary Junior College (Sem), in Buena Vista, and turned it into LDS influenced Southern Virginia University. I call the school “LDS influenced”, because the school is not owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but was purchased by several LDS businessmen.

I almost decided to go to Southern Sem when I was finishing high school in 1990, because I was really into horses and Sem had a great riding program. Six years later, the school had completely changed. What used to be a barn is now a basketball court, and what was once a tiny, private, women’s college is now a religious co-ed school. My mom was a day student at Sem; she got a full scholarship in exchange for playing piano for the glee club.

The funny thing is, one of the men who became a bigwig at SVU used to work in Farmville, Virginia, where I attended Longwood University in the early 1990s. I knew his wife, because she joined the auditioned choir, The Camerata Singers, of which I was also a member. She was probably the first Mormon I ever met– a mother of five, a graduate of BYU, and frankly, a little bit annoying (but in fairness, so was I). At the time, I had no way of knowing that one day, I would one day serve in the Peace Corps and meet a LDS couple, and then marry a Mormon convert a few years after that.

This may be a little “woo” of me, but I have always felt that the universe has a tendency to prepare you for things, if you’re paying attention. I think that LDS couple I knew in Armenia helped prepare me for meeting Bill, who is no longer Mormon, but totally could have been a stereotypical representative of the faith. He looks and acts the part, minus the fakeness/assigned friend tendency. You know how some people have a very convincing and superficially “nice” exterior? Well, Bill really is a very nice and extremely kind person. He is the kind of person who would take to heart the feel good, warm and fuzzy, teachings of the church. But he’s genuine, whereas I think some of the others in the faith, aren’t so much. But then, one could probably find that dynamic in most groups. It just seems more obvious to me in the LDS church.

My husband’s now adult daughters were raised LDS by their convert mother, who used the church as one of the many tools in her parental alienation arsenal. My husband’s younger daughter is a “returned missionary”, and is still an active member of the LDS church, but I think the others have mostly fallen away, except for when they need money or support of some kind. Bill was effectively estranged from both daughters for about 13 years, and only managed to see one of them in 2020, fifteen years after their last in person meeting. He now talks to his younger daughter regularly. The other daughter is still completely estranged and still lives with her mother. One of the many reasons they were estranged had to do with the LDS church and the way members are encouraged to guilt and manipulate people who choose to leave the religion.

For many reasons, ex Mormons are some of my favorite people. A lot of them are genuinely really good folks, but they are also smart and courageous, and they often have great taste in books and music. I’ve also noticed that some of the more rebellious ones have wonderfully irreverent senses of humor. It makes sense, too, since one has to be kind of brave and rebellious to leave Mormonism, especially if one’s whole family is invested. In Bill’s case, he was the only one in his birth family who had joined the church, so his family was mostly delighted when he resigned. They all gave us coffee and booze gifts at our wedding in 2002.

Until recently, I took a very negative view of Mormonism. However, at this point, I’m somewhat less hostile toward the church, because some members very kindly helped Bill’s daughter when we could not. So, as you can see, while I was never a member of the LDS church, it’s definitely touched my life. Over the past 20 years, I have learned a LOT about the LDS church through meeting exmos and active members, reading many books (especially memoirs), and watching a lot of LDS inspired programming.

The Osmond connection…

As I mentioned before, I did not know this show existed until yesterday afternoon. If I didn’t know something about what Mormons believe, as a non Mormon, I think I would have been totally confused by it. The film begins with credits, and I immediately notice Brian Blosil’s name. Brian Blosil is Marie Osmond’s second ex husband, and the father to all but one of her children.

In 2011, Marie Osmond remarried her first husband, Stephen Craig, and they have a bio son together who was born before their divorce in 1985. In 1986, Marie and Brian Blosil wed at the Jordan River Temple. They had two bio children together, and adopted five more children. As Saturday’s Warrior was made in 1989, Marie and Blosil were early in their marriage at the time. Their marriage ended in 2007.

I read that Saturday’s Warrior was filmed at what used to be the Osmond Studios in Orem, Utah. The Osmonds sold the studios in 1989, and for some time, it was used by another outfit for television programs. Jimmy Osmond later repurchased the studios and refurbished them. At this writing, the buildings are being used by famed Utah rehab center for the stars, Cirque Lodge. Cirque Lodge is where Mary Kate Olsen went for rehab, allegedly for treatment of an eating disorder, when she was 18, but she went to the Sundance location. The Orem location is a newer facility for the luxury treatment center, which mostly treats drug and alcohol addiction (and that’s why I wrote that Mary Kate “allegedly” went there for her eating disorder).

I mention the Osmond connection, because as I was watching the video, I was reminded very much of Osmond family specials that aired when I was a child. I didn’t see a lot of LDS programming in those days, but even gentiles like me were exposed to the Osmonds. They were world famous and quite visible in the 70s and early 80s. Years later, as I was learning about Mormonism, I became a little fascinated by the Osmond family. Saturday’s Warrior really reminded me of the Osmonds’ variety shows and specials.

Now, on to my thoughts on the 1989 version of Saturday’s Warrior…

I mentioned up post that this show was originally a stage production performed in California in 1973. It was written by Douglass Stewart, a Latter-day Saint playwright, who is best known for writing Saturday’s Warrior. He has done other things, but this show is his most popular work. The video version I saw yesterday was based on a screenplay written by Bob Williams and his wife, Barbara.

The music was written by Alexis (Lex) de Azevedo, also a Latter-day Saint and father of ten. He’s a pianist, composer and actor, whose work is well-known on “beautiful music” radio stations. According to Wikipedia, de Azevedo’s music is popular on the Sirius station Escape, and at least one of his sanitized versions of popular songs is played every hour. As someone who loathes “Muzak/beautiful music”, I am a bit dismayed to read about this.

A lot of people who saw the original play criticized its story, and the doctrine upon which it was based. However, it proved to be very popular, and it was later produced at BYU. Evidently, the 1989 film was shown a lot in Mormon heavy areas, and a lot of 90s era LDS kids were raised on it. As I mentioned before, the production reminds me a little of Saved By The Bell, which was a popular Saturday morning television show back in the late 80s and early 90s. I’m sure the resemblance is coincidental, though.

The story begins with cheesy music and an obvious stage set, depicting a group of young, attractive, white people, mostly adolescents or children, in what looks like some kind of heavenly location. Pretty blonde Julie Flinders is fretting to her eternal love, Tod, that he’ll forget about her. She’ll be too “ugly” for him. Tod promises that he’ll find Julie, no matter what.

After a few minutes, it becomes clear that these attractive young people are waiting to be born. Mormons believe in a pre-mortal existence, and that children choose their parents. There’s an “angel”– a motherly looking woman with a clipboard– who keeps hoarding the kids to their destinies. A group of eight children of varying ages, destined to be siblings in the large Flinders family, talk about Earth and what they will do “down there”. The angel prods the young people to keep the schedule, lest they end up in Siberia or Madagascar instead of Utah. I mentioned this on RfM, and one poster pointed me to some of the more racist beliefs promoted in the church back in the 1950s and 60s. Given that this was written in the 70s, I can see how those attitudes might have snuck into the script. They seem a little tone deaf in 2022.

Below is what one poster wrote when I brought up the disparaging of other locations:

Believe it or not, this was a significant influence on mormon culture and reinforced mormon beliefs. It also allowed abusive parents to absolve themselves and turn the blame back on their children because “you chose us as parents in the premortal existence, you knew what you were getting into.”

As for “disparaging other places, like Siberia and Madagascar,” standard official mormon doctrine. I give you the incomparable Mark E. Petersen, from “Race Problems – As They Affect the Church,” 8/27/1954:

“[C]an we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence, some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints.”

And let’s not forget Alvin Dyer’s “For What Purpose,” delivered in 1961:

“Why is it that you are white and not colored? Have you ever asked yourselves that question? Who had anything to do with your being born into the Church and not born a Chinese or a Hindu or a Negro? Is God such an unjust person that He would make you white and free and make a Negro cursed under the cursing of Cain that he could not hold the Priesthood of God? Who do you think decided and what is the reason behind it?”

As the kids are born, after a dance routine, Jimmy turns out to be rebellious. He’s been hanging out with worldly “atheists”, who see children as a burden and cheer for birth control and abortion. They sing a scandalous number about how “zero population” is the answer. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s parents keep having more kids, which really pisses off Jimmy. His family worries about him. He’s forgotten about his promise to Emily, to make sure that she’s not forgotten and is born.

The youngest of the kids, a little girl named Emily, begs the second eldest, a boy named Jimmy, to make sure he keeps his promise to her to see to it that she’s not “forgotten”, as the youngest of eight. Jimmy, played by Erik Hickenlooper, bears a passing resemblance to Donny Osmond. His “twin”, Pam (played by Marianne Thompson), looks a lot like Marie. Jimmy even sounds a bit like Donny as he acts conceited, just like Donny used to on the old Donny & Marie shows. And Pam worries that she’ll be a “sweet spirit” (not such a pretty girl), but all she wants to do is dance. Pam turns out to be wheelchair bound and sickly.

A subplot involves Julie Flinders, who is engaged to a missionary named Wally (Bart Hickenlooper), who also looks like an Osmond and is just as conceited. Wally is shown at the airport with Julie, who is distraught that he’s leaving for his mission and making an embarrassing scene. It’s at this point that I see parallels to the Book of Mormon Musical, which I saw on stage in San Antonio, Texas. I’ll bet this movie was one of the influences for that show. I totally see “Elder Cunningham” in Wally’s mission companion, and “Elder Price” in Wally. Of course, they aren’t as funny as the Book of Mormon Musical characters are.

Saturday’s Warrior is all about how rebellious Jimmy eventually sees the light and realizes how important it is to bring souls from the pre-mortal existence down to Earth. Meanwhile, Wally and his companion manage to fix things so that Julie eventually meets her eternal mate, Tod, who had promised that he would find her on Earth, no matter what. And then, perhaps the most criticized aspect of this film happens, when Pam, who is sickly and can’t walk, dies and somehow ends up back in the pre-existence (which apparently isn’t doctrinal). She sees Emily, and reassures her that she will be born. As the movie ends, Emily is being born, and Jimmy is happy about it.

Things I didn’t mind…

Saturday’s Warrior has sort of a “feel good” theme to it. If you like “happy” endings, and you’re LDS and think that conversions and births into the covenant are “happy endings”, this movie will probably make you warm and fuzzy. Of course, as someone who is not LDS, the plot made me cringe a bit. The overall message seems to be that the purpose of life is to become LDS, find your special someone, get married, and have lots of babies that are waiting in the spirit world, hoping to come down to Earth. Also, it seems to help if you’re white (and delightsome). The story is only about the importance of family and converting people to the religion, then bringing more souls to the religion. I think think there’s more to living than religious beliefs and pumping out kids who are waiting to be born. Especially given the state of our climate these days. I can see why believers would like the message, though.

I do genuinely believe that the cast is legitimately talented. One of the cast members went on to be in the country group, SHeDAISY. Erik Hickenlooper co-wrote the song, “Buy Me A Rose”, which was a huge hit for Kenny Rogers (with help from Billy Dean and Alison Krauss) in 1999. I know the song, and now that I read the lyrics, it doesn’t surprise me that it was composed by a Mormon. But as a fan of Kenny’s and Alison’s, I admit to liking “Buy Me A Rose”. If you look up Erik Hickenlooper, you’ll see that he’s now a real estate agent, but he’s quite proud of his hit song. He sings a LOT like Donny Osmond.

There are some beautiful dancers in this film, reminding me that the LDS church puts a high premium on the performing arts. Everyone mostly sings well, too, which is a blessing. Some of the singing is a bit trilly and seems not to fit with the pop music style used in most of the film. I would expect to hear it in a more classical composition. But nobody really hits any “clunkers”. The lyrics are very LDS, though. I hear the phrase, “on their merry way”, which I’ve noticed is used a lot by Mormons. I’ve heard the Osmonds use it more than a few times.

The little girl who plays Emily reminds me of a girl I knew in high school. She could be her daughter.

Co-written by one of the stars of Saturday’s Warrior, Erik Hickenlooper. It does have LDS vibes. My exmo husband has bought me roses on two occasions in 2022.

What I didn’t like as much…

I have a pretty high tolerance for cheese, but Saturday’s Warrior is really cheesy. Some of the dance numbers are downright hysterical. Like, for instance, when Julie sings to Wally in the airport, she and a couple of other LDS dancers do a true song and dance, complete with high kicks and high soprano screeching.

Then, there are nonsense songs like “Daddy’s Nose”, which is a cornball number about how all the kids got daddy’s big schnozz. Pam, sitting in her wheelchair, looking very lovely and Marie Osmond like, sings about how her nose ruined her chances of going far with her face. She compares it to Jimmy Durante, complete with his “hach cha cha cha”. Egad. When Pam dies, there’s not a lot of grief. That’s when Jimmy comes back to the fold.

There’s a lot of trite stuff. Some of it is just really silly… very much like some of the less cleverly written sit-coms back in the 70s and 80s. If you don’t know anything about LDS beliefs, you might be very confused by the story. It’s also very whitewashed– I think I saw one token Black guy in the cast. I’m reminded very much of how old I am. The fashions and hairstyles are a real time warp. And again, the storyline, which to me, is kind of ridiculous and insulting, especially to those who can’t have babies. But then, I am not LDS.

Here are many screenshots from the film, but to really get what I mean, you may want to watch it yourself. Or maybe not…

I feel like I’ve really stumbled across an element of LDS culture now. I don’t believe in Mormonism, of course, and having done some reading about this show and the story behind it, I think the story is genuinely ridiculous. But I can see why it appealed to some people and, again, I am truly impressed by the talented cast. There are some legitimately gifted people in this production– good actors, singers, and dancers who are also physically attractive. Given what they had to work with, I think they did okay. But the material is very corny and… “Osmond-esque”.

I have read that this show was redone in 2016, with a couple of new musical numbers added. There were also a couple of sequels done at BYU. It might be interesting to see the remake, but I probably won’t. Maybe if the opportunity arises somehow. I doubt I’ll go looking for it.

Anyway… I’ve prattled on long enough. Got some things to do, like the dreaded vacuuming chore and guitar practice. Maybe I’ll stumble on another “Hard to Find Mormon” video, which is the channel on YouTube where I tend to find these cultural “gems” from the Mormon world. See you tomorrow.

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mental health, movies, true crime, TV

Celebrity stalkhers… guys who can’t accept rejection.

Before anyone asks, yes, I meant to type “stalkhers” as opposed to “stalkers”. I was inspired to title this post with the misspelling because I was reminded of a guy I ran into many years ago in a BDSM themed chat room. There were a lot of people in that room who had come up with “clever” names for themselves that also addressed their kinky interests. “Stalkher” was one guy’s nickname. I happened to chat with him briefly, once or twice. I remember him to be an interesting character who liked to be “stern” and shaming when he did BDSM themed “scenes”.

Anyway, none of that is either here nor there. It just made for an interesting anecdote to add to today’s topic of celebrity stalkers. It also gives me a chance to write something provocative. I do enjoy being shocking at times. Perhaps the most shocking thing about that particular BDSM chat room is that aside from being for kinky people, it was really not that kinky. At least not in the main chat room. Most people acted like they were at a virtual cocktail party, or something. I don’t think Stalkher and I were very compatible. He wanted me to wear nipple clamps.

A scene, for those who don’t know, is a role playing fantasy people in the chat room would do. Sometimes the scenes were interesting or exciting. Other times, they got really boring, especially when they involved a certain narcissistic guy who fancied himself an author and repeated the same misogynistic crap over and over again. Most people did their scenes in private rooms, but every once in awhile, people did them publicly, titillating the community. The funniest thing is, most of the people in the chat room weren’t chatting about BDSM.

Yesterday, I happened to watch a movie on YouTube that originally aired on NBC in 1984. It was called Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story. I actually saw this movie when it originally aired. I remember it distinctly, because I was in seventh grade at the time, and I kept a diary. I wrote about seeing that made for TV film in my diary. I’m not sure why I was so moved by the movie in 1984, since it was pretty typical movie of the week fare that was so common in the 80s. But I do remember being shocked by what happened to Theresa Saldana, which is probably why I decided to watch it again yesterday.

Theresa Saldana, who died of pneumonia in 2016, was an up and coming actress in 1982. The New York transplant, who had been in a few movies and on some television shows, was about 28 years old in 1982. She lived in West Hollywood, California and was married to a man named Fred Feliciano, who worked as a drug and alcohol counselor.

Theresa was attacked by a man from Aberdeen, Scotland named Arthur Richard Jackson. Jackson had seen Theresa Saldana in the films, Defiance and Raging Bull, and he eventually became obsessed with her. He thought the angels had told him to kill her. So he showed up in California, armed with a 5.5 inch hunting knife. On March 15, 1982, he came up behind Theresa as she was about to get into her car, asked her if she was Theresa Saldana, then repeatedly stabbed her in the chest. In total, Jackson savagely knifed Saldana ten times and came very close to killing her. She spent four months recovering in a hospital.

The TV movie about Theresa Saldana. She starred as herself.

Although I’m not sure why Theresa Saldana’s specific story was so riveting to me when I was 12 that I immortalized it in my diary, I did find the movie to be fascinating, mainly because it covered a lot of perspectives. Theresa and Fred eventually divorced, in part, because their marriage could not withstand the terrible stresses caused by Theresa’s stabbing. Theresa was very badly injured, so she was unable to work and had to be hospitalized for months. That put the couple in dire financial straits. Fred was so overcome by the trauma of the stabbing that he soon became ineffective as a counselor and had to quit his job. Meanwhile, Arthur Richard Jackson got all of his needs cared for by taxpayers, as he was incarcerated… or, at least that’s what Theresa complains about as she’s faced with the extremely high costs of recovering from the brutal attack. And those were 80s prices!

Theresa was eventually allowed to stay at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, which is a facility that serves motion picture and television veterans with limited means. She found the hospital oppressive, due to its many rules and regulations. One of the nurses is a bit of a hardass, which causes Theresa to freak out. But then it turned out that the nurse had also been attacked by a man, so she understood where Theresa was coming from. They became friends, and Theresa eventually started a victim advocacy group which was instrumental in developing anti-stalking legislation.

Notably, it was Saldana’s Victims for Victims group that helped get a 1990 anti-stalking law passed, as well as the 1994 Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. The Driver’s Privacy Act was introduced in 1992, in response to attacks perpetrated on abortion providers. The abortion providers were being attacked and killed by anti-choice activists, who used the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the names and addresses of the providers. Fellow celebrity stalking victim, Rebecca Schaeffer, was also attacked, in part, because in the 1980s, the DMV would provide names and addresses to anyone who paid a fee. Schaeffer’s killer, Robert John Bardo, got Schaeffer’s address from the DMV before he shot her in the chest at close range. I remember Rebecca Schaeffer well, as she was on the show My Sister Sam, which also starred Pam Dawber. I loved that show.

I’m sitting in my bedroom right now, typing this post on my new laptop and watching Dr. Todd Grande. He just so happened to make a video about Rebecca Schaeffer yesterday. That’s why I’m writing about this today. It’s just too weird that I would watch Theresa Saldana’s TV movie yesterday, completely by chance, and Todd Grande would post a video about Rebecca Schaeffer on the same day. Rebecca Schaeffer’s killer was inspired by Saldana’s case.

Weird… this comes up the same day I watched Theresa Saldana’s movie, which I hadn’t seen since it aired in 1984.

After the video on Rebecca Schaeffer was finished, I kept watching Grande’s videos because I was in the middle of a game on my iPad. His next case analysis was about a Mormon guy named Steven Koecher, who had mysteriously disappeared in 2009. I hadn’t heard about that case when it happened, but I do remember the Susan Cox Powell case, which involved a beautiful young Mormon mom who disappeared. Susan’s creepy husband, Joshua Powell, claimed that perhaps Susan ran off with Steven Koecher. Josh Powell, of course, later killed himself and his two sons with Susan Powell, who to my knowledge, still remains missing. There’s no telling if Steven Koecher had anything to do with Susan’s disappearance, but it’s interesting to hear Todd Grande talk about it.

Interesting case, especially since I know a bit about Mormonism myself. Steven was very stereotypically LDS.

According to Dr. Grande, Steven Koecher was going through some tough times just before he died. He was months behind in his rent, had a poorly paid job, and was having trouble finding a relationship. Grande doesn’t discuss this in the video, but Koecher was likely under a lot of pressure due to the LDS culture. Young men are expected to follow a straight and narrow path to include being an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts, going on a church mission, graduating from college, finding well paid work, marrying a nice Mormon woman, and having a family. Like so many young people, Koecher was having trouble connecting all of the dots in a timely and linear fashion. He did apparently have a supportive and loving family who were trying to help him. Koecher didn’t want to accept his family’s help and was wanting to solve his problems on his own. I’m still not sure what happened to Koecher. His case is still a mystery. I’m sure his family is still devastated, as they have been denied closure.

Phew… once again, I’ve managed to tie together a bunch of topics that don’t seem to have that much to do with each other. I just thought it was kind of interesting that I watched an old made for TV movie about a celebrity who was stalked, then by complete chance, watched a newly created YouTube video on Rebecca Schaeffer, who was also stalked and attacked… and then that led to a case about the disappearance of a Mormon. Mormons are, of course, one of my pet topics. Then I throw in a blurb about kinky BDSM chat rooms, which aren’t really all that kinky after all.

I’m not sure what we’ll do today. The weather is nice and my neighbors are annoying me by using some kind of loud electrical power tool. I’m kind of tired… but I hate to waste a day off for Bill. I wish we could have gone somewhere fun this weekend, since there’s a holiday on Monday. I would have been happy just to go to Stuttgart to get a dental cleaning, at long last. But we just never got around to planning anything, even though COVID-19 cases have dropped very low and we’re both vaccinated. Bummer…

Ah well, I guess we’ll figure out something to do. Hopefully, it will be something healthier than sitting around drinking beer. Maybe we’ll get kinky instead.

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movies, true crime

Repost: A review of A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story…

This is a review I wrote in March 2011 of the first of two made for television films starring Meredith Baxter and Stephen Collins as Betty and Dan Broderick. It appears here as/is.

From April 2014

Since I’m reading Betty Broderick’s story as told by her daughter, Kim, I’ve decided to repost the movie review I did of her life story.  I think I only reviewed the first film.  There were two done.  One was about how Betty Broderick ended up in prison and the other was about how she was convicted of murdering her husband and his second wife.  Naturally, this story is compelling to me, even though from what I can tell from other sources, the movie makes Dan Broderick seem too nice.  Of course, Stephen Collins portrayed him and I think Stephen Collins is kind of a boob, so there you go…

From March 2011

I just read Meredith Baxter’s bio, so I thought it would be fun to watch one of her many made-for-television movies.  It so happened that one of Baxter’s most notorious flicks, A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story, was uploaded in its entirety on YouTube.  Naturally, I had to watch it and see Meredith Baxter portray the infamous murderer Betty Broderick.  It was a role completely opposite of Baxter’s turn on the hit sit-com, Family Ties and it also satisfied my love of true crime films featuring psycho women.

Who is Betty Broderick? 

For sixteen years, Betty Broderick was the loyal wife of Dan Broderick, one of Southern California’s most prominent medical malpractice lawyers.  Raised a strict Catholic, Betty Broderick believed in marriage for life.  She reportedly worked very hard to raise the four children she had with Dan Broderick and give him a beautiful home.  She also reportedly worked hard so that he could attend both medical school and law school.  As both a physician and a lawyer, Dan Broderick was a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom.  By Betty Broderick’s rather hysterical account, he couldn’t have achieved that success without her.

Despite his brilliance in the courtroom, by many accounts, Dan Broderick was also a bit of a scumbag.  In the early 80s, he hired a beautiful blonde 21 year old named Linda Kolkena to work as his assistant at his law firm.  Despite the fact that Linda couldn’t type and had little experience, Dan paid her lavishly and it wasn’t long before they were having a very public affair. 

Betty Broderick evidently felt pushed aside as Dan reportedly fooled around with his young lover, but she wasn’t one to take such shenanigans lying down.  While Dan Broderick carried on with his girlfriend, Betty Broderick carried on with his personal property, setting fire to his clothes, smearing Boston Creme Pie all over their bed, and eventually driving a car into the front of Dan’s house.  Dan and Betty got divorced and Betty was served with many restraining orders, but Betty continued her harassment, breaking into his home, vandalizing his property, and attempting to alienate their children and mutual friends. 

When Dan and Linda eventually married, Betty Broderick completely snapped.  On the morning of November 5, 1989, she visited the newlyweds in their expensive home and shot them both as they slept, killing them.  After two trials, one of which ended in a hung jury, Betty Broderick was convicted of two counts of second degree murder.  By all reports I’ve read, she has yet to express any remorse.  Nevertheless, a lot of people feel Betty Broderick was perfectly justified in what she did and even today, she serves as sort of a role model/heroine to disenfranchised women.  She’s even been held up as an example in women’s shelters as someone who invested too much in a relationship.

The film version of the “war of the Brodericks”

A Woman Scorned was not originally aired on the Lifetime Movie Network, but it was destined to become a staple of that channel.  Stephen Collins (of 7th Heaven fame) portrays Dan Broderick, with Baxter playing his wife, Betty, and Michelle Johnson playing Linda Kolkena Broderick.  One interesting aspect of watching a film like A Woman Scorned on YouTube is that people leave comments.  Many people who had followed the Betty Broderick case claim that the film version made Dan Broderick out to be a much nicer guy than he actually was.  Some people also claimed that Linda Kolkena Broderick was, in real life, a “gold-digging hussy”. 

It’s true that the jerkier aspects of Dan Broderick seem to be tempered by Stephen Collins’ “nice guy” portrayal.  Even when he’s threatening to cut off Betty’s alimony for harassing him, he seems sympathetic.  While I don’t know the Brodericks personally, I’m guessing that the real Dan was probably much more of a cut-throat bastard with more of a killer instinct.  Most extremely successful malpractice attorneys are like that. 

I think Meredith Baxter was an excellent choice to play Betty Broderick.  She pulls off the over-the-top behavior of her character without a hitch.  Betty Broderick supposedly has narcissistic personality disorder.  If that’s the case, I think Baxter portrayed that type of person to a tee.  I almost cringed as her character set Dan Broderick’s wardrobe on fire on the front lawn of their swanky home and calmly said, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”  It was perfect.

I wasn’t as impressed with Michelle Johnson’s portrayal of Linda Kolkena Broderick.  She came off as too nice and lady like for the role.  I’m guessing the real Linda wasn’t as dignified as the film version of her was.

The Brodericks’ children are portrayed by Kelli Williams (Kate Broderick), Jandi Swanson (Debbie Broderick), Aaron Freeman (Grant Broderick), and Jordan Christopher Michael (Tommy Broderick).  The characters’ names have been changed from the real Broderick children’s names.  I suppose that was to protect their identities, though this case got a lot of coverage on Court TV and is widely written about on the Internet. 

My thoughts about Betty Broderick    

As much as I enjoyed A Woman Scorned, I certainly don’t condone Betty Broderick’s actions, even if the real Dan Broderick was a scumbag.  For one thing, despite her personal sacrifices to aid Dan Broderick’s career– a choice that she apparently made of her own free will– Betty Broderick comes off as a personality disordered individual.  Even if Dan Broderick cheated on her and dumped her for a younger woman, I could hardly blame him for doing so.  Both the true accounts I’ve read about this case and the dramatized film version of Betty Broderick make her out to be completely nuts.

For another thing, no matter how rotten Dan and his second wife Linda were to Betty, she had no right to take their lives!  When she killed Dan and Linda, Betty took away her children’s father and their home.  She also effectively took away their mother, since she was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.  I do not applaud her crazy actions, though I have to admit they were entertaining to watch on television as portrayed by Meredith Baxter.  And in her memoir, Baxter admits that playing Betty Broderick was great fun; she initially had sympathy for her, but then learned more about who Betty Broderick is and supposedly changed her mind.

And finally, I wonder how people would react if Dan Broderick had been a woman named Danielle with a husband who had sacrificed everything for her career, only to be dumped by a younger, more handsome model.  I wonder if people would be so eager to champion the cause of a man scorned…   I doubt people would be justifying murder if Danielle Broderick had been killed at the hands of a jealous, vengeful husband.  Indeed, I bet a lot of people would be screaming that the jilted man should be locked up for life.  And indeed, that’s the punishment I think Betty Broderick deserves.  Scorned or not, she had absolutely no right to kill.

For kids?   

This is a made-for-TV movie circa 1992, so swearing and smut are somewhat kept to a minimum.  I doubt most kids would be interested in this film and some of the younger ones might be confused by it.  However, I don’t think it’s a bad film for older kids to see.  If anything, it might serve as a warning against getting too involved with personality disordered people.  It might make a good way to introduce a discussion about relationships with others and choosing the right person to be with.

Overall

Yes, A Woman Scorned is typical Lifetime movie fare, but it’s still a pretty good film.  I give it four stars.

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