HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! LOVE, GEORGE (1973) – Category: Bad movie elevated by kitsch value in the casting.
Directed by THE Darren McGavin and featuring his wife Kathie Browne in a small role, this hilariously bizarre film is also known as Run, Stranger, Run. “Run, Potential Viewer, Run” would be a more appropriate title.
Happy Mother’s Day Love, George (henceforth HMDLG) is often described as a psycho-sexual thriller but actually it is nothing more than a melodramatic soap opera with a few murders and VERY few scenes of blood and gore. Those blood and gore scenes are so over-the-top they are completely at odds with the low-key, almost made-for-tv mildness of the rest of the movie.
This was a theatrical release but is so subdued and slow-paced it seems like a telefilm. You and your friends can keep yourselves entertained making jokes about the recognizable cast members to kill time since the first murder doesn’t happen until we’re more than an hour into this flick.
Ron Howard IS Johnny, a teenager who has come to town to discover who his birth parents are but who mostly just stands around staring at people and ESPECIALLY at houses. He seems completely taken aback that the townspeople find this somewhat creepy. Johnny is intrigued by the rash of missing persons plaguing the small town and feels they are connected to the secret of his past.
Cloris Leachman IS Ronda (no “h”), Johnny’s real mother, as we learn very early in the film. Ronda is in such dire financial straits she had to hock the “h” in her name for rent money. (I’m kidding!) She never speaks to her sister, sleeps with a gigolo passing through town and serves up meals along with expository dialogue.
Patricia Neal IS Cara, Ronda’s sister. Cara wears a ratty old fur coat, chews the scenery and overacts so badly she’ll have you laughing with every distraught line of dialogue she spouts. She doesn’t so much spit the lines out as projectile vomits them out. Cara has a son named Porgie and she’s fond of saying lines like “Don’t call me mother you lazy fart!”
Tessa Dahl (real-life daughter of Patricia Neal and Roald Dahl) IS Celia, Cara’s insane daughter who is childlike in mind but horny as hell. She’s always embarrassing her mother (and embarrassing a woman that demented is NOT easy) by peeping in on neighbors having sex, by sending passionate love letters to half the men in town and by trying to seduce Johnny, who is her cousin on the surface but even closer to her in reality once you figure out the family’s deep, dark secret … like in about the first fifteen minutes of the film.
Bobby Darin IS Eddie, the wandering gigolo who vanishes partway through the film. You won’t miss him a bit.
Simon “Tony Vincenzo” Oakland IS the town sheriff who wants to run Ron Howard’s character out of town for being the creepy, skulking, surly jackass that he is.
and Kathie Browne IS the loose woman who stumbles into the most graphically gory scene in the movie. The bubbling, gurgling blood and guts in this scene are so out of place the whole bit feels edited in from an Italian zombie film of the time period.
Skeletons of the missing men turn up on the beach and there are more shots of the aftermath of the killings but the bulk of HMDLG is one long straight-line for the sarcastic remarks you and your fellow viewers will find yourselves chucking at the screen.
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