Stuckey's Last Stand

Director: Lawrence G. Goldfarb   
Whit Reichert, Tom Murray, Rich Cosentino

We have all had favorite televisions shows while growing up. But I didn't just have favorite television shows when I was growing up - I had favorite television stations as well. My second favorite television station as a youngster was ITV, which came out of Edmonton (which is in Alberta, Canada, for those of you who don't know.) It was my second favorite television station because of the crop of movies they would show late night. They would show obscure Canadian tax-shelter movies that were real movies, not the so-called movies funded by Telefilm. But even better were the kung fu films they would broadcast, kung fu movies not available at local video stores such as The Tattoo Connection and Street Gangs Of Hong Kong. But the television station that was my absolute favorite while growing up was KIRO, a CBS affiliate that came out of Seattle, Washington. It was an absolute dream for someone who was a fan of obscure movies that nobody had heard of. The CBS Late Night Movie program would show movies made in the last few years, yet even I hadn't heard of - movies like the family movie A Billion For Boris or the teen comedy Snowballing. And when The CBS Late Night Movie wasn't on, the local programming heads of KIRO would broadcast older and even more obscure movies, such as Didn't You Hear, Double Nickels, and Memories In My Mind. It was a crushing blow to me when, while still in my youth, both stations suddenly stopped broadcasting these obscure movies around the same time. Today, I may have more access to television stations, but it still isn't the same.

For a variety of reasons, I hated going to school when I was growing up. So you are probably thinking that when it was vacation time, I was in heaven. Well, when it was Christmas vacation, I did indeed have a happy time. And during summer vacation, when my family would go on a trip out of town for ten days or so, I was in a blissful situation. But the rest of summer vacation, I was in a torturous situation. You see, at the start of summer vacation, my mother would enrol myself and my siblings into day camp. I hated day camp. There was the subtle insult from my mother by this decision of hers - she was essentially saying, "We don't want you around the house." Plus, no matter where it was located, I would loathe what I had to face. There were sports at day camp, and I hated (and still hate to this day) sports - probably because I have never been good at any sports. There were arts and crafts at day camp, and I hated day camp arts and crafts - although I have always had an artistic edge, the arts and crafts at day camp were very low budget and did not fulfill my artistic ambitions. I could go on for some time about the reasons why I hated day camp. Anyway, during each summer I was forced to attend it, I tried to make the best of the situation. I would go fishing in the nearby creek with a fishing rod that I found abandoned. I would also wander off into the nearby woods and pretend I was an explorer. My exploring paid off; one day I came across some abandoned pornographic magazines in the woods, and I shared them with the other kids fed up with day camp.

I imagine that by this point, many of you readers are confused as to where all this writing is heading towards. What, you may be asking, do favorite television stations and day camp have in common? Well, I'll answer that right now. Both of those topics are related to the movie being reviewed here, Stuckey's Last Stand. Stuckey's Last Stand was one of the many obscure and unknown movies that I saw on KIRO as a youngster. And the events that happen in Stuckey's Last Stand all revolve around a summer day camp. I never thought I would ever see the movie again, or relive those summer days again with memories of weather-stained pornography. When I saw it for sale at a used video store recently, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia - nostalgia for those days of unknown movies and when I was a youth. I didn't remember too much about it, so it seemed perfect for more than one reason to immediately grab it and write about it for my web site. The events of the movie center around the character of Whit Reichert (played by an actor named... Whit Reichert). At the beginning of the movie, he is seeing a psychiatrist because of his fears that he is an incompetent person. All this is an excuse to flash back to his experience as a day camp counsellor the previous summer. In his flashbacks, we meet Russ Stuckey (Ray Anzalone), the head counsellor of the day camp, and the other counsellors, among them a tough guy type named Duke (Cosentino), a cool dude (Will Shaw), one of the only two minorities in the movie (Ellis Rice), and dumb ox Pete (Murray), who may be even more incompetent than Whit. Plus, there are assorted kids, so various wackiness with all these types crammed together is sure to happen.... right?

If you were to ask a group of film critics what their definition of a "family film" is, they would probably answer that it is a movie that will entertain adults as well as kids. I would probably add that the movie does not necessarily have to entertain both groups on the same level. With that definition in mind, can Stuckey's Last Stand be considered a "family film"? After seeing it, I have to say no - and not for the reasons you may be thinking of. One reason I can't consider it a family movie is that I can't see it entertaining adults. Let me give you some examples of the lame, so-called "humor" this movie has to offer. There's one scene when Pete talks to one of the other counsellors, talking about the dog he had in his childhood that kept getting him lost, and how his mother then banned him from hiking. Pete sighs and adds, "I can still see those big brown eyes looking at me under those shaggy eyebrows. Always running around the house yapping at me." It turns out Pete was talking about his... oh, you guessed it already? Lame, isn't it? Then there is the scene when Duke tells the children that are with him on a hike, "We're going to do everything together in a group. If you want to stop, raise your hand, we'll all do it together. If you want to go, raise your hand, we'll all do it together. If you want to rest, raise your hand, we'll all do it together. If you want to relieve yourself, raise your hand... (pause) ...we'll all, uh, wait for you to finish." Then there are assorted one-liners that are just as big as duds as the humor I illustrated above, like when one counsellor says, "I've put my foot in my mouth so many times, I've got athlete's tooth!"

So Stuckey's Last Stand is not a family movie. Can it be considered a kiddie movie, one that is made for and appeals to kids? Well, I don't see this movie being appealing to the majority of kids. Maybe for those few kids who are really, really young and haven't seen any better family or kiddie movies might giggle at some stuff like adults being hit with food or getting worms dangled in their faces, but the vast majority of kids who watch this will probably be bored stiff. For one thing, kids today, who are brought up watching a lot more harder stuff, will almost certainly find this movie very tame. The movie is rated PG, but barely gets this from just one or two cuss words and maybe for the scene where one kid wets his pants. This tame attitude would probably not matter to kids if they found the movie funny, but I can't imagine them laughing at it. For one thing, a lot of the attempted humor in the movie will go over their heads. They will be puzzled by the character of Duke, who talks and acts like John Wayne, and wonder why he is speaking so funny (and they may also ask why his John Wayne-ish voice keeps going in and out over the course of the movie.) Even during the scenes that have more accessible humor, like moments of slapstick, I can picture kids watching the movie in stony silence. There's a scene early on in the movie with the kids playing baseball, and the kids are shown to be absolutely inept in catching balls and stealing bases. It's supposed to be funny, but the way it's staged will just remind kids how inept they can be in real life playing sports. Kids may learn from this scene what it means to have your intelligence insulted.

I haven't seen a movie that has been made this incompetently for a long time. It's no wonder that director Lawrence G. Goldfarb (who also wrote the screenplay and acted as producer) never made another movie. Technical shoddiness runs rampant throughout the movie. There's one scene where a character is playing the trumpet, but you never see him move his fingers as the notes change on the soundtrack. There's one scene where the editor had to resort to putting a freeze-frame of the actors on the screen while the characters are still talking. And this technique happens again later in the movie. And then again later. Then later again. The use of locations is also ineptly handled as well. Scenes taking place at the summer camp feel like they have been filmed at several different locations far from each other, and a dream sequence supposedly taking place in a courtroom was clearly filmed in a locker room. Is there anything of merit in Stuckey's Last Stand? Well, some of the adult actors do have a rough, likable charm to them despite the fact that they give bad performances with the absolutely terrible material that is handed to them (a few of them did go on to appear in other productions.) There is also a lively Dixieland musical score, though if you ask me, all Dixieland music starts to sound the same after a while. But as you have probably guessed, these things are far from saving the movie. If you are still determined to watch the movie, amuse yourself by trying to answer why the character of Russ Stuckey is mentioned in the title when he hardly appears in the movie, and doesn't have any kind of stand, last or otherwise.

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See also: Kenny & Company, King Kung Fu, Local Boys