Friday, May 11, 2012

CHARLIE GOES DISNEY! "No Deposit, No Return" (1976)

I would consider myself a fan of Disney. I love the theme parks. I enjoy their animated films. Some of their live-action films are favorites of mine (take a guess which one in particular). However, I feel like the studio's output in the 1970s was rather weak. As a kid growing up, of course I was entertained. There were so many from then that I loved at the time: "Bedknobs & Broomsticks" (1971), "Freaky Friday" (1976), "Candleshoe" (1977), "The Rescuers" (1977), "Child of Glass" (1978), I could go on... But watching a lot of the Disney movies from that decade now as an adult can sometimes be a tedious experience. In particular, I'm talking about this entry's film, "No Deposit, No Return" (1976). As the poster above advertises, at least it's got an all-star cast in it's favor: popular film and television performers Darren McGavin, David Niven, Don Knotts, Barbara Feldon, Vic Tayback, Herschel Bernardi, Brad Savageand Kim Richards. Last-but-not-least, there's Charlie Martin Smith, making his first appearance in a Walt Disney production and finally grown up enough to cross the line from "cute" to "HOT". I would guess he would have been 21 when the film was shot. Usually too young for my tastes, but CMS here is a definite exception (the mature demeanor helps a lot). No clothes come off this time, but that's alright. He's still looking very sexy in his polyester suit-and-tie. 

Charlie plays Detective Longnecker, fresh from the Academy and ready to put his new skills to work in the real world. He is paired up with much more experienced Sgt. Turner (Bernardi, who also co-starred with CMS in an episode of "Lucas Tanner", one of the TV appearances I was unable to find). When we first see them, about 20 minutes into the movie, they are arriving at LAX to investigate an attempted  safe-cracking robbery, which seasoned pro Turner suspects was attempted by a thief he has been trying to apprehend for years. Little do they know that the robbers, Duke (McGavin) and sidekick Bert (Knotts), fleeing the scene of the almost-crime, have ended up in a cab with spoiled but resourceful rich kids Tracy (Richards) and Jay (Savage), along with Jay's pet skunk Duster.

The kids are supposed to stay with their wealthy grandfather JW Osborne (Niven) for the holiday break from boarding shcool, but he doesn't want their bratty butts messing up his fancy mansion. The kids don't want to be there either, wishing to join their magazine editor-in-chief mother Carolyn (Feldon) in Hong Kong instead. They pretend to have been kidnapped by Duke and Bert to get ransom money: splitting it between them to buy plane tickets to Hong Kong, while their "kidnappers" can pay off their debt to mafia crimelord Big Joe (Tayback). Which brings us back to CMS and Bernardi: When Tracy makes a frantic call to the police to get the fake kidnapping taken seriously, Turner & Longnecker are taken off the safe-cracking case and reassigned to this new kidnapping case. Turner is rather pissed, wanting to focus on catching the "phantom safecracker" he has been so eager to finally apprehend, but I am a bit confused here. Turner calls the thief the best in the business, but also mentions that this particular thief has also never been successful in actually stealing anything. So how could he be the best, and why would Turner want to catch him so badly? Never mind... I'm trying to find logic in a film that's not meant to be scrutinized so closely.

Moving right along, Turner & Longnecker pay a visit to Osborne, who they assume will be horribly distraught. But grandpa is pleased as punch to have the kids off his hands, having figured out that the kids were the masterminds behind this stunt. Even more, he knows kids are safe and sound at Duke's garage, having followed them from the airport and assigning a servant keep an eye on the situation from nearby. Of course, he does not mention any of this to the police. So when the visiting detectives urge him to ignore the ransom and not contact the kidnappers, while the police conduct an investigation, that suits Osborne just fine.

Turner & Longnecker return to Osbourne's mansion, mistaking his pleasant demeanor for a mask covering his grief and worry. There's a new ransom note in Osborne's hand, with the ransom amount deeply discounted by Duke & Bert in an attempt to get rid of the trouble-making kids (and pet skunk). "Your 'do-nothing' approach is working perfectly," Osborne tells them with a smile. It's a real shame: Longnecker is so eager to show how capable he is, but he is repeatedly ignored. Even Osborne pays no attention to Longnecker when he offers his hand for a shake (not once but twice). And no one ignores him more completely than his own partner, Turner. Damn!

Longnecker even figures out that the safe crackers and the kidnappers are the same people, using very sound logic and well-reasoned deductions. It's quite impressive, really. But Turner dismisses his theory as pure stupidity, not realizing that he's the one being an idiot. He's being an asshole too, as he yells at Longnecker repeatedly and overall treats his partner like poop. Awww... poor Longnecker. It's OK, I believe in you.

"4:00, Wharf 33, San Pedro. Be there in person." These were the instructions in the last note for Osborne to hand over the ransom money. But standing in for Osborne, poised to make an arrest, are Longnecker and Turner, with Turner disguised as Osborne and Longnecker posing as his driver.

Besides the fact that the Osborne mask looks like caca, it doesn't have enough room for Turner's big schnozz, which tears through the mask and pokes out. Just ahead of their limo, Duke & Bert are also pulling on masks (a clown and a big bad wolf) as they drive up to the meeting point. Longnecker gets all excited when their car pulls up, eager to show how  his foolproof Academy-training techniques will catch these guys for sure.

As the disguised Turner and Duke approach each other, another limo comes around the corner. Longnecker is shocked to see it contains the real Osborne and his daughter Carolyn, who came running from Hong Kong the second she found out about her kidnapped kids being in danger. She's mad as hell and on a rampage, determined to deal with the kidnappers herself. "It's a trap!" Duke yells, sounding (I swear to God) EXACTLY like Admiral Ackbar in "Return of the Jedi". The "kidnappers" start to drive off, but Carolyn takes a leap into the back of their car as they peel away.

We now enter an extended slapstick chase sequence that drags on for what seems like forever: Duke, Bert, and Carolyn pursued by Longnecker & Turner in a police car. In the course of their pursuit, there's lots of crashing and skidding around, with the cop car taking on a lot of damage. The top is sliced off, for example (as seen above). Even the top of Longnecker's hat was chopped in the process. Even scarier,  they pass through a junkyard and drive under one of those super-magnets on a crane that movie junkyards always have. Chunks of metal tear free from the cop car, hurling up in the air and sticking to the powerful magnet. The scary part: Longnecker's glasses are pulled off by magnetic force and he almost loses them, grabbing them back in the nick of time! Yikes! Not the glasses! Don't lose the glasses!

There's also lots of shipments of food items laying around the dock, waiting to be crashed into or dumped on the speeding cop car (purely by accident, of course). Fruits, vegetables, fish, and what-not all end up splattered on the car and strewn across the passengers. Longnecker tries to radio for help, but he's accidentally talking into a fish instead of the CB. Wah wah... I hate when that happens.

The chase concludes with the unlucky detectives going off the end of a pier and into the water. Later, they stand side-by-side on the dock as they watch their car being fished out of the harbor. Of course, I can't help but notice how Charlie's wet clothes cling to his body, pulling nice and tight around that beautiful butt of his. Mmm-hmm!

Once again, Longencker correctly deduces something (the location of the captive children) using his trusty Academy know-how, but Turner will hear none of it, silencing him by planting a thick digit right on Longnecker's piehole. "I'm gonna try to forget that you and the Academy ever existed," Turner fumes, and he storms away. Jeez, give the poor guy a break, dude!

There's one more scene with Charlie, as Longnecker is still going to the garage to find the kids. Instead of finding Tracy and Jay (who have escaped out a window), he discovers several people hanging from the ceiling, caught in traps that Jay has set around the place. He recognizes Osborne (who came here to put an end to the kidnapping ruse and finally claim the kids), who points out Big Joe hanging next to him (who came to kidnap the kids for real and ended up outsmarted).

Longnecker runs over to where Big Joe is hanging, and begins to read him his Miranda rights. But he's standing on another trap. As he sets it off, the cord wrapping around his ankles and flipping him up in the air, I get a good view of that perfect posterior of Charlie's. So nice!

Go, Longnecker! He refuses to let something minor like hanging upside down get in the way of his good Academy training and continues to read Big Joe his entire Miranda rights! Haha! Meanwhile, other stuff happens and everything turns out great for everyone, like that was ever in doubt.

That may not have sounded so bad, and admittedly the film has it's amusing moments. There are several decent performances to be enjoyed. CMS in particular is pretty entertaining in his goofy enthusiasm. But a lot of it set my teeth on edge: Jay losing his pet skunk and running around shouting "Duster! Duster! I can't find Duster!" constantly. Carolyn running around in a tizzy, shouting "The children! The children! Where are the children?" all the friggin' time. It really wore me out, I'm telling you! It might have helped if I had seen this one as a kid too, and had some sentimental attachment to it. But that's not the case: this is another one of those movies I never bothered to see until I started working my way through Charlie's filmography. Which brings me to the bright point in all this...

There is one thing I enjoy very much about this film: how incredibly adorable Charlie is in it! Like I've said before, I feel like this is the first movie where he has fully transformed from being a cute kid to being a hot man. And what a man! Brainy guys have always turned me on, and his character Longnecker sure shows some smarts, which definitely adds to the appeal. What's with that name anyways? Longnecker... Hmmm. Well I guess it makes sense, since I could sure see myself necking with Charlie for a long time...

CMS is so cute in this movie that I can barely stand it! And he gets even hotter in the films to come. Check out the next entries and you'll see what I mean!

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