GHETTO BLASTER (1989) – Rose Marie, best known as Sally Rogers on the ancient Dick Van Dyke Show, started in movies at age 4 in 1927 billed as “Baby Rose Marie.” Legend holds she was in a Vitaphone SOUND short released as an opener for The Jazz Singer, usually credited as the first feature-length movie with sound.
That Al Jolson feature film kicked off the slow but inevitable end of the Silent Film Era but Rose Marie was still going by Baby Rose Marie until 1934. This legend of the big and small screens gets the usual affectionate Balladeer’s Blog sendoff with a look at one of her worst and most bizarre cinematic appearances – Ghetto Blaster.
IMDb screw-ups strike again as they mistakenly have the much younger actress Rosemarie (one word) listed in the credits for this film in which Rose Marie portrayed Helen, the mother of Richard Hatch’s character Travis.
I’ll start the review-proper for Ghetto Blaster by pointing out that you should buy this film for the Battlestar Galactica (Original Series) fan in your life. Richard Hatch from that show tries to portray the kind of grim and relentless inner city vigilante made iconic by Charles Bronson in Death Wish.
Given Hatch’s generally pleasant and inoffensive demeanor this is roughly similar to having Ned Flanders star as Dirty Harry but is twice as funny. Travis (Hatch) returns to his old neighborhood after being away for years. He’s disgusted to see how much the place has changed for the worse.
Crime in general is the problem and a gang of drug pushers called the Hammers is the problem in particular. The no-name gang members strut and dress like they’re in a parody of Blaxploitation films and will keep you laughing.
Travis’ mother Helen (Rose Marie) is part of the chorus of voices warning our hero about how dangerous the neighborhood has become. Several ugly outrages keep making the viewer sure that THIS INCIDENT must be the trigger for Travis’ inevitable rampage … Then surely THIS NEXT INCIDENT must be the one, and so on.
Adding to the unintentional humor of this flick is the way those expectations are repeatedly subverted as Travis proves to have the patience of Ghandi when it comes to not letting himself be provoked into violence. Hell, even HIS OWN FATHER’S MURDER does not mark the start of his revenge quest.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde you’d have to have a heart of stone to watch the immolation of Travis’ childhood friend without laughing. That’s right, the bad guys literally SET THE GUY ON FIRE! At any rate after 45 minutes of screen time in which Charles Bronson would have killed at least 46 violent criminals Richard Hatch FINALLY gets off his butt.
Travis’ revenge spree is the comedy highlight of this very inept and ineffective movie. In action scenes which look like they were directed by a 1989 version of Tommy Wiseau the villains get … childishly inconvenienced by Hatch a few times before he finally moves on to hard-core violence.
As the title of the film indicates, Travis himself is the “Ghetto Blaster” but the type of boom-box portable music device that the title is a play on words of gets short shrift. One such ghetto blaster is booby-trapped and explodes by way of an awkwardly rendered ANIMATED EXPLOSION EFFECT which you’ll want to watch again and again, no doubt gasping for air from how hard you’ll be laughing.
That’s my favorite scene from the movie but many other people prefer the absurdly surreal segment where Richard Hatch is dressed as a clown to pull off one of his Magilla Guerilla (sic) attacks on the bad guys.
You know how these films go. Travis wins out and gets a lovely lady (Diane Moser) as his romantic interest. But to me Rose Marie will always be THE star of Ghetto Blaster. Rest in peace. +++
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