Saturday 4 December 2010

Obscurity Files #31 - Repossessed

To commemorate the life of Leslie Nielsen who sadly died this week at the age of 84, we thought we'd look at one of his lesser remembered films. Today it's the turn of Repossessed.

After surviving an exorcism as a child, Nancy (Linda Blair) goes on to start a family and live a normal life; that is until the devil possesses her through her television and she starts to vomit pea soup again. Pulled out of retirement, it's up to Father Jebedaiah Mayii (Leslie Nielsen) to banish the devil back down to hell.

When assessing the quality of a spoof film the question I have is, can a film like this really work if you've not seen the film it's spoofing? Well, I saw Repossessed as a child, way before I'd had the chance to see The Exorcist. I can remember enjoying it despite not getting a lot of the references, but then I was a kid, I'd laugh at anything. It's a crazy fact that more people have seen Scary Movie than have seen Scream, but why? No matter what I think about the quality of Scary Movie, that's another film that relies heavily on knowledge of the film it is spoofing; otherwise, what are you laughing at?

In comparison to the spoofs of today (if you can still call them that), this film is a classic. At least it's able to stick to its exorcism theme, not just throwing in references to Lady GaGa and Amy Winehouse because they're current. If you ask me, anyone over the age of fifteen who enjoys the work of Friedberg and Seltzer (Epic Movie, Disaster Movie and Vampires Suck) are just wrong. They're stupid movies for stupid people. Repossessed may be the kind of film that throws as many gags as it can at the screen to see what sticks, but enough of them do to make it a fairly good time.

Of course the main trump card this film plays regularly is the casting of Linda Blair, reprising her character from the Exorcist (albeit with a different name). Given her typecasting after the release of The Exorcist and its sequels, perhaps this was the only way for her to use her fame to try her hand at comedy. It must have been a double edged sword to become so famous for one role at such a young age. 

Leslie Nielsen plays Father Mayii (whose name generates a surprising amount of misunderstandings) a lot goofier than Frank Drebin. He visits the gym for a bit of exercising (exercising, exorcising, geddit?), but can't help but be distracted by all the girlies on show.

Originally a dramatic actor, it was through his work with Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (ZAZ for short) that Leslie Nielsen became a household name. He parlayed his appearance in 1980's Airplane into a starring role in 1982's short lived television series, Police Squad!. It was when the character of Frank Drebin was transferred to the big screen in The Naked Gun that he truly found his niche. Repossessed actually arrived on screen before The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear, and in spite of having no clear connection to ZAZ, it's obviously influenced by their previous works.

A lot of the gags in Repossessed are of what I would describe as the "mnnh" variety. Few are laugh out loud, but there's plenty of daft sight gags in the background. If you're looking for a measure of the quality of jokes, I've only just got one of them now, fifteen years after I first saw the film. Linda Blair's character in Repossessed? Nancy. Linda Blair's character in The Exorcist? Regan. Nancy. Regan. Nancy Reagan. If it's that kind of slightly dated, groan worthy gag you enjoy, look no further.

The film's finale sees an attempt at a televised exorcism from the clueless Ernest and Fanny Rae Weller, an almighty smack-down with the devil overseen by wrestling commentators Jesse Ventura and 'Mean' Gene Okerlund. Of course, the devil was only using the Weller's popularity to pull in the largest television audience possible, so now it's up to Father Mayii to step in and defeat the beast before it works its way into people's homes through their TV's. How? With Rock and Roll. Or more accurately, with dodgy impersonations of dated musical acts.

As to why some of that was in Spanish, I really don't know. That's YouTube for you. 

By no means a film full of must see performances, at least Linda Blair is game for a laugh and gives it her all, clearly enjoying the chance to play with audience expectations and rip into her on screen persona. As is usually the case when he's on the cast list, it's Leslie Nielsen who provides most of the film's highlights. Part Max Von Sydow and part Father Ted, Nielsen's far from his Frank Drebin best, but I'd take this over his more recent appearances in the Scary Movie franchise and Stan Helsing any day.

To sum it up, Leslie Nielsen is a comic talent that will be missed, always able to deliver laughs even when the film isn't a classic. Repossessed is far from his best work (for me he'll always be Frank Drebin), but it's worth checking out if you want to see Nielsen in another role.

Save from obscurity? YES

1 comment:

  1. loved when Leslie walks into the women's locker room by mistake and he strolls past naked women in the shower, goofy!