Tuesday, July 29, 2008
AFRAID OF ALL THE AMPUTEES
When I was eight years old, I saw Cloak and Dagger for the first time, and for the first time, I had a monster under my bed. I kid you not--I wasn't allowed to watch any of the traditional 80s scary flicks as a youngster. I had to wait until my college years to come under the tutelage of Kevin Still to be introduced to the quasi-baddies, and even today, I don't do so great with the opening scene of Scream. My monster, unlike the Freddys or Jasons or Pinheads or Bill S. Prestons of the 1980s, had three fingers and wore a really bad hat.
In Cloak and Dagger, the villan (SPOILER ALERT) turns out to be a grandmotherly figure who heads up a spy ring interested primarily in government secrets encased in video game cartridges. The distinguishing mark of this matron of evil? Inexplicably, she only has three fingers on her right hand. No background is given for this disfigurement, but like the traditional villans (Jason, Freddy, Pinhead), her villany coinsides with physical deformity. This is a tradition which goes back to Scripture itself, in which the outsiders and sinners are characterized in Scripture by their physical ailments (blindness, leprosy, lameness). Granted, the Gospels characterize sin in this way in order to undo this misnomer about physical disability, but you get the point: traditionally, if you want to point out that someone is "not of us", you give them a physically distinguishing mark, and the job is done: a scar, an extra toe, loss of digits. My childhood is marked, thus, not by a boogeyman under the bed, but a lady with three fingers and a doilie around her neck, stretching out for my pubescent ankles as I jumped into bed.
I watched this again for the first time in nearly two decades this past weekend, and was surprised how well it's aged. Sure, it's got the 80s pacing and acting style, but what didn't? But it's got Henry Thomas, Dabney Coleman, intrigue, spy games, mistrusting parents, and emotional drama. Good times.
The occasion for watching this was being at home with the folks in Shreveport, which turns into a concentrated time of relaxation and general lounging. For the last few years, Dad has sworn that he's going to cancel the cable and just go DVD, and so, every time I come home, part of our ritual is him updating me on the latest DVD acquisitions. I don't think he'll ever cancel the cable, but he enjoys becoming a movie buff, and it's part of coming home that I look forward to, so it works. Dad works hard all day, so enjoying a movie sacked out in the recliner is the least he can expect, I think.
I might also mention that Mom and Dad have this for their TV, so that even the innocuous "pissed" wind up getting bleeped. Again, it's part of what I look forward to about coming home, that there are places in the world left where the f-bomb isn't common currency.