Dottie Gets Spanked

DOTTIE GOT SPANKED. 1993

Director & Writer: Todd Haynes

HE WAS ONCE. 1989

Director & Writer: Mary Hestand

Reviews by Paghat the Ratgirl



The DVD contains two short films. In addition to Dottie Gets Spanked it adds a tweeking spoof of those appalling moralistic Christian cartoons about "Davy & Goliath."

I'd seen this latter short, He Was Once, at a film festival when it was new. I could never forget it but also couldn't remember what it was called or who made it. I'm so glad to have accidentaly stumbled on it anew as one of the special features with Dottie Got Spanked.

This shorter of two short pieces has Davy's talking dog played by a stop motion animated footstool, & the live actors also look like stop motion animation. It was the footstool that I could never shake from my memory, it's a great footstool that wags its tail & talks, though nobody but Davy can hear him.

Its a disgusting-looking extremely funny story of how Davy saw a bear chained outside a store, but his father absolutely refused to believe it was possible. Davy is unjustly punished, though if he would actually lie & say there was no bear, he could have saved himself a beating. Dad even beats up the dog/footstool, besides telling a pretty big lie to facilitate abusing Davy. This is one subtly sick little tale.

The main mini-feature is itself only about a half-hour long, beautifully acted by a seven year old child actor (Steven Gale) who convincingly portrays the early stages of incipient spanking fetish. Julie Halston plays the television actress Dottie Frank (obviously Lucille Ball) with whose show little Evan is obsessed. His mother encourages his fixation, but his father seems to understand Evan's obsession is rather fruity, & since the story is set in the late 1950s or early 60s in conservative middle-America, Dad would really like to stop his son from being so, uhm, different.

The heart of the film conveys Evan's inner life which involves fantasies about spankings. Although his parents don't believe in spanking, when he hears about other children being spanked, he tries to disguise his intense interest.

Evan eventually wins a contest that permits him & his parents to attend the filming of an episode of the Dottie Frank Show & to meet in person his favorite comic actress. It turns out that on that day they are filming an scene in which Dottie gets spanked. For Evan, it's alike all his obsessions are colliding.

The entire cast are great performers; being filmed & casted in New York resulted in some great background faces. The dream sequences are artful. But the Freudian overlay is a bit thick & silly, & the commentary track reveals that director Todd Haynes absurdly over-analyzed himself & this autobiographical film about his own childhood.

I almost wished I hadn't watched it the second time with commentary track turned on, as it reveals Todd to be dorkier than Napoleon Dynamite (2004). The film works best ignoring the director's simpleminded psychobabble, because what is really moving is how Evan instinctually tries to hide knowledge of his perverse fantasy world from his parents, & the sorrowful symbolic act he performs at the very end.

As the second thing I'd ever seen by this director (the first was the swishy glam-rock fantasy Velvet Goldmine), this was sufficient to win me over as a fan.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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