Pitfalls and fantasies in ‘The Pit’

A couple of months ago, Movie Vigilante, a long-time reader and supporter of Reel Librarians (thank you!), gave me a heads-up about the new release of the 1981 film, The Pit (aka Teddy). It’s a pretty obscure film, but one that has developed its own cult following. I pre-ordered a copy of the DVD, and it arrived on my doorstep this past weekend, just in time for me to watch and analyze it for the blog. As the film is a horror film — and it even begins with a Halloween party scene! — it’s perfect timing to round out our scary movie theme for October.

*PLOT SPOILERS THROUGHOUT*

The basic plot? This plot summary from IMDb.com sums up The Pit quite well:

Twelve year-old Jamie Benjamin is a misunderstood lad. His classmates pick on him, his neighbors think he’s weird and his parents ignore him. But now Jamie has a secret weapon: deep in the woods he has discovered a deep pit full of man-eating creatures he calls Trogs… and it isn’t long before he gets an idea for getting revenge and feeding the Trogs in the process!

One major detail this plot summary leaves out? That Jamie talks to Teddy, his teddy bear… and Teddy answers him back. Teddy even gets highlighted in the film’s title card sequence, as seen below.

Reel Librarians | Title card from 'The Pit' (1981)

Title card from ‘The Pit’ (1981)

The original screenplay, written by Ian A. Stuart, was a bit different from the final film. Jamie was younger, 8 or 9 years old, and the “tra-la-logs” (what Jamie calls the Trogs) were imaginary, not real. It’s kind of a shame that the director, Lew Lehman, didn’t follow that original vision. I always prefer psychological horror — are they real? are they not real? — because your imagination makes things scarier and more horrifying. And that’s the major pitfall (har har) of this film, the cheesy special effects. Plus some gaping plot holes that rival the actual pit in The Pit. ;D

The Pit is definitely an odd film in many ways, including the fact that it’s a Canadian horror movie that was filmed entirely in the United States. More specifically, it was filmed in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, utilizing well-known locales in that city. Beaver Dam is even thanked in the film’s credits!

Reel Librarians | Special thanks in end credits of 'The Pit' (1981)

Special thanks in end credits of ‘The Pit’ (1981)

When I unwrapped the DVD, I read the back of the cover, which states:  “Jamie will teach everyone a lesson:  the kids who teased and bullied him, the mean old lady down the street, even his pretty new babysitter.”

Reel Librarians | DVD cover for 'The Pit' (1981)

DVD front and back covers for ‘The Pit’ (1981)

My senses went up at the “mean old lady” comment, wondering if this was the reel librarian? But I was mistaken! The reel librarian character, Marg Livingstone, is a much younger and attractive woman (in her 30s?) played by Laura Hollingsworth. IMDb.com lists this as Hollingsworth’s sole film credit. She gets 4th billing, and the credits also list a Library Clerk, played by Cindy Auten.

But before we get to the library scenes — there are several in this film! — let’s get to the context. Within the first five minutes of the film, Jamie (played by Sammy Snyders) is seen writing sentences on a school blackboard, punishment for bringing in a naughty book. The schoolteacher opens the book, titled Creative Nude Photography, and comes across a page with a nude silhouette that’s been cut out.

Reel Librarians | Book closeup in 'The Pit' (1981)

Book closeup in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

Even though the book clearly has NO CALL NUMBER on the spine (the tell-tale clue to differentiate between books in a bookstore vs. a library), the schoolteacher assumes it’s a library book. She also states that she’s sure “Ms. Livingstone can find some way to repair it [the book].”

We then see her walking up to a large and beautiful stone building with the words “Williams Free Library” in scrollwork atop the front windows.

Reel Librarians | Williams Free Library exterior seen in 'The Pit' (1981)

Williams Free Library exterior seen in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

Side note:  The Williams Free Library was also the first public library in the United States to have open stacks, which is quite impressive. This stone building was completed in 1891 and is one of the most well-known buildings in that region. Beaver Dam built a new library in 1984, so this building now houses the Dodge County Historical Society.

Even though a few websites erroneously list Miss Livingstone as a school librarian, it’s clear that she’s actually a public librarian. Here’s a peek into the library itself (the library interiors were actually filmed at Wayland Academy in Beaver dam), when the teacher comes in to the drop off the book. In the screenshot below, you can see a corner of the nameplate on the front counter, which reveals the librarian’s name (and marital status) as Miss M. Livingstone. You are invited to also visually contrast the more formal (and dare I say, more glamorous?) attire and hairstyle of the librarian with the more casual look and hairdo of the library aide beside her.

Reel Librarians | Public library counter in 'The Pit' (1981)

Public library counter in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

Here’s how this scene plays out:

Librarian:  Hello, Marian. What can I do for you?

Teacher:  I’m returning this. Jamie, one of my little boy borrowed it. There isn’t likely to be any record of it having gone out. Perhaps you could slip it back for me?

Librarian:  I’ll make sure it’s put back on the shelves.

Teacher:  There’s been a little clipping from one of the pages, I’m afraid. One of the figures cut out. Can you fix that?

Librarian:  We’ll just take out the whole page. Thank you.

The dialogue of this exchange seems innocuous enough, but the expressions on their faces reveal a deeper subtext. The librarian’s face visibly tightens when the teacher mentions the clipping, and the teacher notices this and looks a bit puzzled.

The next scene reveals WHY the librarian reacted this way to the news about Jamie and the clipping from the book. After the teacher leaves, Miss Livingstone immediately takes the book and her purse to a back room in the library. Unbeknownst to her, Jamie is also peeking in on this scene. (One of many convenient plot points.)

Reel Librarians | Library backroom in 'The Pit' (1981)

Library backroom in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

She then takes out an anonymous letter from her purse, which reveals that Jamie has sent her the nude clipping with a picture of her head glued on top! Definitely creepy and unsettling! And now the librarian knows who sent her the letter. But instead of alerting authorities, she just rips up the letter.

Reel Librarians | Ripping up an anonymous letter in 'The Pit' (1981)

Ripping up an anonymous letter in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

The commentary track, provided by a film critic and film historian, highlights a major problem I had with this scene. It’s clear Miss Livingstone is an object of Jamie’s fantasies, but what was his plan or motivation for sending the letter? Is he trying to flatter her? Or is he trying to creep her out? It’s unclear.

Whatever Jamie’s motives, Miss Livingstone remains suspicious of Jamie. This also rises to the surface in the next scene in the library, almost a half-hour into the film. This is when Miss Livingstone meets Jamie’s new babysitter, Sandy, who has come to the library to check out books on “problem children.”

Sandy:  I’m working for Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin, looking after…

Miss Livingstone:  Jamie. Yes, well, I can certainly understand why you’d want a book on problem children. […] Look, I’d like to tell you something about that little boy that you might not know. As another woman, I’m sure you’ll understand.

Reel Librarians | Library scene in 'The Pit' (1981)

Library scene in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

Although Miss Livingstone takes the opportunity to warn Sandy about Jamie, it’s clear that, once again, she chooses NOT to go to the police or other authorities to warn them about Jamie’s escalating behavior.

The next, and final, scene that takes place in the library clocks in at 37 minutes, when Miss Livingstone observes Jamie browsing the shelves at the library. The camera angles on this scene are fantastic, revealing the librarian’s suspicions nature about Jamie. It also visually posits the librarian as the “peeping tom” in this scene. Role reversal!

Reel Librarians | Librarian observes Jamie in 'The Pit' (1981)

Librarian observes Jamie in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

Reel Librarians | Librarian observes Jamie in 'The Pit' (1981)

Librarian observes Jamie in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

The librarian then questions the library aide, seen shelving behind Jamie, about what he checked out.

Miss Livingstone:  What kind of books was that little boy taking out?

Library Aide:  Art.

Miss Livingstone:  What kind of art?

Library Aide:  Some drawing and painting. How-to-do-it stuff. And some on animal husbandry.  Maybe wants to be some kind of veterinarian.

Reel Librarians | Library steps from 'The Pit' (1981)

Library steps from ‘The Pit’ (1981)

We then see Jamie opening up one of the animal husbandry books on the library steps, where he learns about carnivores. Uh oh! This is a pivotal scene, as the library book provides Jamie with knowledge about what to feed carnivores. He starts out buying meat from the butcher’s shop to feed the tra-la-logs… and then when his money funds out, he starts feeding them humans! Convenient that he only feeds them people who have been mean to him…

Jamie’s next prank is quite complex, as he successfully blackmails the librarian. He waits until her niece, Abigail (which he keeps mispronouncing as Abrigail, very annoying), is out of the house and Miss Livingstone is doing yoga in her leotard. He then plays a tape recording over a public pay phone with a pre-recorded message stating that he has kidnapped Abigail and won’t release the child unless Miss Livingstone takes off her clothes. Jamie then sneaks under her window and takes pictures of her on his Polaroid as she undresses.

Reel Librarians | Peeping Tom and polaroids from 'The Pit' (1981)

Peeping Tom and polaroids from ‘The Pit’ (1981)

Major plot holes with this scene? First, Jamie makes NO ATTEMPT to disguise his voice on the recording, and Miss Livingstone has had several disturbing encounters with Jamie already. Why doesn’t she recognize his voice? (The commentary track also brings up this issue.) Second, he says on the recording that he’s watching her yet she DOESN’T BOTHER to look out the window, where she could easily spot Jamie with his camera. Third, a 12-year-old boy has pre-recorded the blackmail message, therefore having to anticipate the reactions of a 30-ish woman. Like I said before, another very convenient plot point.

When Jamie takes the Polaroids home, he shows them to Teddy, who says, “I’m going to look at these a lot.” Creepy! And then I realized that these Polaroids of the librarian are actually included on the film’s poster. Double creepy!

Reel Librarians | Polaroids in a scene from and poster for 'The Pit' (1981)

Polaroids in a scene from and poster for ‘The Pit’ (1981)

We never see the library or librarian again in the film. It’s interesting to note that Miss Livingstone does survive in the end, and there doesn’t seem to be any attempt on Jamie’s part to include her with the “bad people” he lures into the pit. (By the way, the aforementioned niece, Abigail, is not so lucky. She was mean to Jamie and played a trick on him with her bicycle. She got scolded by her librarian aunt for this trick, but that was not punishment enough for Jamie… )

In general, Miss Livingstone comes across as a pleasant, stylish, competent, and intelligent woman (except for when she didn’t recognize Jamie’s voice over the phone). She is seen both inside and outside the library, including at home with her hair down) as well as around town. The reel librarian is a supporting character, earning The Pit a spot in the Class III category.

Reel Librarians | Closeups of the librarian in 'The Pit' (1981)

Closeups of the librarian in ‘The Pit’ (1981)

As for what purpose or role she fulfills in the film? Primarily, she’s an Information Provider:  she, or the library she represents, provides pivotal information to Jamie — unwittingly helping escalate his behavior. Miss Livingstone also provides a reference point, a touchstone, for the audience as she mirrors our growing dread and suspicion of Jamie.

Although she doesn’t actually portray a Naughty Librarian in the film, it’s almost as if the filmmakers are pitting her character against that fantasy in others, namely Jamie. This is also echoed in the commentary track for the first library scene, as the film critic and film historian (both males) talk about how Miss Livingstone is an object of Jamie’s affection.

1st commentator:  You can tell because the glasses are so enticing. [sarcastic tone]

2nd commentator:  At some point … the hair’s going to go down and the glasses are going to come off, and she is going to be a hottie.

Here’s how the reel librarian character is described on the Canuxploitation site:

“Miss Livingston is the world’s most uptight librarian and appears to hold some deep, dark secret which is never revealed.”

I don’t agree with this characterization, that she is “the world’s most uptight librarian.” I interpreted her reactions to Jamie’s behavior as quite understandable, as a woman who is trying to do her job and go about her daily life. Instead, she has to deal with unwanted and inappropriate — not to mention unsolicited! — sexual attention and fantasies from a young boy.

Can you tell who I sympathize with in this movie? It sure isn’t Teddy…

One final note:  Although the creatures are listed as “Trogs” in the film’s credit, Jamie refers to them as “tra-la-logs” throughout the entire film. Every single time, this made me think of the “Mr. Trololo” singer and YouTube video clip that made the rounds on the Internet a couple of years ago. More creepiness!

So that wraps up this year’s scary movie posts, an annual tradition each October on the Reel Librarians blog. Here are the scary movies and reel librarians we looked at this past month:

After collating this list, I also realized that during this past month we have looked at movies from four different decades:  the ’50s, the ’70s, the ’80s, and the ’90s. 🙂

Which scary movie post was your favorite? Please leave a comment and share.

Nymphomaniac librarian in ‘The Wicker Man’

That post title should get some visits for sure! 😉

The 1973 British cult classic, The Wicker Man, is a slow-burning (hah!) mystery, a film that slowly builds tension and horror as the central character, Sergeant Howie, along with the audience, slowly put all the pieces together behind the mysterious disappearance of a young girl. The screenwriter, Anthony Shaffer, wanted to craft a more literate kind of horror film, and he definitely succeeded! 

Sgt. Howie is played by Edward Woodward, a stick-up-his-ass policeman who travels from the mainland by boat to a remote island to investigate the girl’s disappearance, and is frustrated by the villagers’ attempts to mislead or thwart his efforts. Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark… er, I mean, Summerisle.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of title screen from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Title screen from ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

When first released, the film did receive an “X” rating from the British Board of Film Censors, now the British Board of Film Classification. The BBFC site explains why the film received that rating; the film is now classified as “15.”

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of X rating card for 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

X rating card for ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

*SPOILER ALERTS*

Ingrid Pitt, a well-known star of the Hammer horror films of the early 1970s, is listed 5th in the credits as simply “Librarian.” But Pitt herself, in a documentary about the film, stated, “My part isn’t very much, actually. What can a nymphomaniac librarian do? Not very much. But I thought it would be interesting to be involved in this type of film.”

In another video interview, she states (with a wink), “It was a nymphomaniac librarian I was playing, and I always liked the librarian bit, because I’m really into books.

The Wicker Man : Ingrid Pitt Interview (1998),” uploaded by Blackdog TV – Cinema, Standard YouTube license.

When I first watched the film, back in college, I thought this film was incorrectly listed as having a librarian, despite the “Librarian” credit for Pitt. Why? Because in one scene, Howie visits an office with a sign on the door that reads, “Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. Authorised Registrar for Civil Marriages,” and he researches the Index of Deaths. I had written back then that “The credits list Ingrid Pitt’s role as “The Librarian,” even though she works in a office clearly marked as Registrar.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Registrar sign in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

But there’s more to it than that! It is confusing, as there are two separate scenes, and two separate sets or locations:  one scene in the Registrar’s office and another scene in the public library, when Sgt. Howie researches May Day rituals. It adds to the confusion that Ingrid Pitt does appear in the Registar’s office scene but not appear in the actual library scene. The film’s Wikipedia entry splits the difference, stating, “Ingrid Pitt, another British horror film veteran, was cast as the town librarian and registrar.”

So let’s dig a little deeper. It’s “nymphomaniac librarian” time! 😉

A little over a half-hour into the 90-odd-minute film, Sgt. Howie goes to an office with a sign on the door, “Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Authorized Registrar for Civil Marriages,” as seen in the above screenshot. He walks into a shabby, disorganized office, with cubbies full of leaning books and folders, and paperwork littering a desk, where a blonde woman sits, eating lunch. 

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Registar’s office in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Registrar’s tight-lipped smile in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

He asks to see the Index of Death, and she immediately responds, “Do you have authority?” He has to get permission from Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee. Sgt. Howie threatens her with jail on the mainland, and she reluctantly opens a drawer and hands him a thin ledger, accompanied by a curt, thin-lipped smile. This scene showcases the “Information Provider” part of her role.

She answers his questions with civility — but no more — and there are a few closeups of her face, buttoned-up clothing, and braided bun hairstyle. This scene serves a purpose, to provide a contrast with how we later see the librarian/registrar. (The Registrar’s messy, cluttered office, also provides a contrast with the clean and tidy library we see later.)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Closeup of Registrar/Librarian character in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

So let’s get to when Sgt. Howie visits the public library, an hour into the film, where he researches May Day rituals. There’s a closeup of the stone sign, “Public Library,” and a well-lit, tidy room full of bookcases and tables. We hear an overlay of narration as he reads about the May Day rituals of sacrifice.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Public Library sign in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Research scene in the public library in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

What’s confusing about this scene, as I mentioned before, is that Ingrid Pitt is NOT in this scene very clearly set in the public library, even though her character is listed as the librarian. But there IS another woman in the scene, an older woman with grey hair, who is clearly annoyed at Sgt. Howie when he reads aloud a few lines. When I first watched the film, I thought this woman must be the librarian, but that’s what I get for assuming! 😉

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

A patron’s frown in the library scene

When do we next get to see the librarian? Sgt. Howie goes searching for the missing girl, vowing to search every house in the village. Upon entering one house and bathroom, we get a glimpse of the “nymphomaniac” side of this reel librarian. Ingrid Pitt lounges in a half-tub of water, clearly naked, with her hair loosely pinned up. One hand covers her breasts while the other hand rests in-between her legs. She reaches up to bite her thumb in a coquettish way — much different from her earlier, tight-lipped smile in the Registrar’s office! This visual contrast definitely emphasizes the part of her role that is the “Naughty Librarian“!

Reel Librarians | Collage of contrasts for librarian character in 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Collage of contrasts for librarian character in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Sgt. Howie is clearly embarrassed and stammers, “I’m sorry.” As he closes the door, we can see a lacy negligee hanging on the hook.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Librarian’s negligee in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

And we get yet another clothing change for our erstwhile librarian. No lacy negligee but this time a peasant blouse and flowing yellow skirt, as well as flowing, loose hair, for her part in the May Day ritual.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Another look for the librarian in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

The librarian’s May Day costume in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

The librarian gets one more scene, toward the end, blocking Sgt. Howie atop the cliffs. In again fulfilling the “Information Provider” part of her role, she helps explains why he’s “the right kind of adult” they’ve needed and researched for their May Day ritual of sacrifice. 

Even though this is a reel librarian role that is never actually seen in the library — isn’t it confusing that she is only seen, in a professional capacity, in the Registrar’s office, and not in the library?! — Ingrid Pitt does appear in scenes throughout the film. It is obvious, therefore, that she is an important person in the community, part of Lord Summerisle’s inner circle.

The story was inspired by David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual, but the novel was uncredited in the film. I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if there’s a librarian character or not in the book. I also haven’t seen the 2006 American remake of the film starring Nicolas Cage and how closely it aligns (or not) to the book or the 1973 original film.

Has anyone else read the book or seen the 2006 remake? If you have, please leave a comment and let me know if a librarian character is in either one.

You, Me, Dupree, and the Naughty Librarian

You, Me, and Dupree (2006) is an odd film. It stars Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, and Matt Dillon, and it’s directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who also executive-produced the TV comedy, Community. You’d think those are ingredients for a potentially amusing film. But overall, those ingredients never really come together, and the half-baked film ends up feeling much longer than its 108 minutes.

It also does and does not include a reel librarian. Confusing? Stick with me.

The main plot is pretty simple:  Molly (Kate Hudson) and Carl (Matt Dillon) are newlyweds, and Carl’s best man, Dupree (Owen Wilson), crashes on their couch after he loses his job (due to attending their wedding). To put it mildly, Dupree overstays his welcome.

*SPOILER ALERTS*

Almost 40 minutes into the film, Molly and Carl are arguing — again — about Dupree staying at their house. Molly is attempting to problem-solve the situation. HINT, it involves a reel librarian:

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Molly:  What if he had a girlfriend?

Carl:  Good idea. But how’s a guy with no job, no car, living on somebody’s couch going to find any kind of  girlfriend?

Molly:  Our new librarian? She seems really nice.

Carl:  You want to fix Dupree up with a ‘really nice librarian’? listen, I’ve known the guy for 25 years. I think he’s more into the young, foreign, non-librarian type.

Molly:  It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Carl:  I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Cut to next scene, after Molly shows Dupree the librarian’s picture in the faculty guide:

Dupree:  I’ll do it.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

That must be some school picture! We also learn the name of this “really nice librarian,” Mandy. And that she has a car. She is a catch! As is Dupree, obviously. 😉

Molly and Carl come home after a date night to a tie on the front door handle and “Funky Cold Medina” playing inside. Their reactions mirror their earlier conversation about hooking Dupree up with the school librarian:  Carl is worried as Molly gets excited.

Carl:  Looks like Dupree brought his date home.

Molly:  What is a tie doing on our door?

Carl:  Molly, I think we ought to drive around the block a couple of times.

Molly:  Wait a minute. No way. Mandy’s a Mormon. She’s not the kind of girl to get busy on the first date.

Carl:  You fixed Dupree up with a Mormon librarian?

And Carl’s skepticism seems to be justified. I will just let the next three screenshots sum up Molly’s — and our — introduction to Mandy, the Mormon librarian:

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Dupree then runs out of the house with a pillow covering his private parts and thanks Molly “for the best night of my life” while Mandy, left alone in the house with all those open candle flames, sets the house on fire. Yes, that’s right. The Mormon librarian sets the house on fire.

That sure is some flammable symbolism, y’all.

The next shot has Dupree wrapped in a blanket and sitting on the sidewalk, talking to Mandy who’s in her car. All we see of her this time is the back of her curly hair. But we do get a nice view of her bumper sticker, which reads:  DO THE DEWEY!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

‘Do the Dewey!’ bumper sticker on reel librarian’s car

Molly and Carl, understandably, have had enough, and they blame Dupree. (Why not blame the librarian?) But Dupree is cool with that, as he plans on moving in with Mandy. Timeline reminder:  He met her yesterday.

Molly:  You sure you got a place to go?

Dupree:  Yeah, I got a place to go. I’m going to Mandy’s.

Carl:  The librarian.

Molly:  Don’t you think that’s kind of moving a little quickly, Dupree?

Dupree:  Maybe it is, but so what? Something special’s happening there. I’m not gonna fight it.

End result? Molly and Carl come home that night to find Dupree sitting in the rain, playing the song “Mandy” on his headphones. No points for correctly guessing what happened with his plan to move in with the librarian.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

And yet we are NOT DONE with Mandy the Mormon librarian. Almost an hour into the film, Dupree shows up to do a Career Day presentation at Molly’s school, thinking this will win Mandy back. Molly tries to let him down easy, making an excuse that Mandy “had a book that was lost.”

Every scene that mentions the reel librarian, we learn more about her. Thus far, we have learned:

  • she’s new at the school
  • she has a name, Mandy
  • she has a car
  • she’s Mormon
  • she’s ok with getting busy on the first date
  • she likes butter
  • she shaves her legs
  • she’s not to be trusted around open flames
  • she has curly, reddish hair
  • she loves the Dewey Decimal system
  • she’s not ok with Dupree crashing on her couch one day after meeting (and sleeping) with him

And here are the final things we learn about Mandy:

Molly:  There’s something you need to know about Mandy. Well, it turns out she’s a total slut, sleeping with half the male faculty.

Dupree:  What? No.

Molly:  I’m sorry.

Dupree:  My Mandy?

Molly:  Yeah. I’m sorry, I would never have set you up with her if I would have known. Ever.

Dupree:  There really aren’t any more Audrey Hepburns out there, are there? What a sucker.

This conversation continues when Molly comes home after school to find Dupree watching the end of Roman Holiday, the classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn.

Molly:  You really were serious about Audrey Hepburn.

Dupree:  She had it all. Style, grace, ethereal beauty. Just like I thought Mandy did.

Molly:  I don’t know. I have a hard time imagining Audrey Hepburn getting buttered up to “Funky Cold Medina.”

Dupree:  Really? I don’t.

All that carnage Mandy causes — setting the house on fire and breaking Dupree’s heart — and we still don’t ever get to properly see her. At first, that felt like yet another odd thing in an overall odd movie. Even though Mandy plays an arguably substantial role in the latter half of the film — she is part of the motivation for Dupree getting his act together, as he wants to win Mandy back (and he keeps trying, by the way, calling her later) — she is never technically, fully seen onscreen. We learn so much about this reel librarian, yet we never fully see her. We hear her name dozens of times, yet she doesn’t even earn a screen credit!

So what purpose does this reel librarian serve in this film? Since she is referenced so much — and we do see parts of her — I am going to classify this film in the Class III category, which includes films with reel librarians as supporting or memorable minor characters.

For the role that “Mandy the Mormon librarian” fills, it has to be the Naughty Librarian:

  • She is definitely a flirtatious or sexually charged librarian, a seemingly conservative young woman who then “lets her hair down” outside the library.
  • Adding the detail that she’s Mormon sets up the “conservative” aspect that immediately leads to the payoff that she is not-so-conservative after all.
  • Naughty Librarians also tend to have sexual undertones in their conversation. Since we never actually hear Mandy talk, the sexual undertones in this case come from her “Do the Dewey” bumper sticker!
  • Naughty Librarians also have a tendency to become violent or exhibit otherwise criminal behavior when their love/sex desires are repressed (see Personals, Maxie, Tomcats, etc.)… and Mandy happens to set a house on fire when their lovemaking session is interrupted. Just sayin’.
Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

In this light, knowing that she fulfills the Naughty Librarian character type, it makes more sense about why we never actually see her face onscreen. That would ruin the fantasy, right? Naughty Librarians are fantasies — sometimes even violent fantasies — and without actually seeing her onscreen (or rather, just parts of her, like her bare leg and curly hair), viewers are free to conjure whatever image they have that fulfills their own personal “really nice librarian” fantasy.

So while this reel librarian portrayal is disappointing, to say the least — and equal-opportunity offensive to librarians, school teachers, Mormons, and Audrey Hepburn — it does serve up some interesting twists to the Naughty Librarian character type. Not enough for me to recommend the film — but that’s why I watch and analyze these reel librarian movies films, so you don’t necessarily have to. You’re welcome.

Final lessons from You, Me, and Dupree? Stay safe, y’all. 😉

Little miss serial killer librarian

Would you like to meet “the girl of your screams” this Halloween? Look no further than the title character in Chainsaw Sally (2004)!

In this lower-than-low-budget indie horror film — made with a budget of $40,000, at least half of which must have gone toward purchasing gallons of fake blood — Sally Diamon (played with red-lipped relish by April Monique Burril) plays a buttoned-up librarian by day and serial killer by night. The ultimate Naughty Librarian.

By day By night
Reel Librarians |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot Reel Librarians |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot
Wears drab, oversized clothing Wears short, tight clothing, ripped stockings, corsets
Says phrases like “hunky dory” and “that’s swell” Curses and uses sexual innuendos
Wields a pointing finger to say “shhhhhh” to loud patrons Wields a chainsaw to slice up patrons who break library rules

I first wrote about this Class I film last Halloween in this round-up of killer librarians. I had also bought a DVD copy of the film, but didn’t get around to watching it until this Halloween. This low-rent film seems to have achieved a kind of cult status, even inspiring two seasons of web series, entitled “The Chainsaw Sally Show,” both starring April Monique Burril as the titular character (in more ways than one). It should come of no surprise that the director of all things Chainsaw Sally, Jimmyo Burril, is also the husband of the main star. In fact, April Monique Burril was pregnant during the filming of this first film!

Even though it seems to be a minor cult film, is it any good? The film seems to have inspired an either love-it-or-hate-it kind of reaction. Some find the purposefully over-the-top gore and camp refreshing, like in the DVD Verdict review here, whose reviewer proclaimed it as a “nifty little indie horror-comedy,” while others dislike the trashy, low-rent look and feel. It is decidedly trashy, but also very self-aware of being so. The overall acting talent, as well as the production values and sets, are really bad, be warned. Really bad. And the ending is ludicrous. Throughout the film, I was also distracted by the main star because she kept reminding me of someone. Toward the end, I figured it out:  April Monique Burril looks like a cross between Shelley Duvall and Kristen Stewart!

Actress lookalikes
Click collage for sources

Ok, so what’s the film all about? No spoilers that Little Miss Chainsaw Sally is a serial killer, sawing off victims left and right in a small Maryland town called Porterville. But how did she become a serial killer? The film has an easy answer for that:  Sally and her brother, Ruby (who grows up to be a stay-at-home transvestite), witnessed their parents’ murders years earlier when they were kids. Flashbacks reveal that they witnessed three escaped mental patients shoot their father before raping and killing their mother. But lo and behold, their father managed to kill the killers with a chainsaw before dying of the gunshot wound. And just to MAKE SURE we pieced together all the bits of symbolism, we see that Sally also wore her hair in braided pigtails during the traumatic event, as seen below; no wonder she does the same when she straps on the chainsaw as an adult.

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

The film also has a few scenes set in the home that Sally and Ruby share together. It is a rarity to see any kind of home life for a reel librarian. And this reel librarian’s home is definitely a house of horrors.

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

We’ve covered the why, now on to the who. Because her daddy’s dying words were that he killed the men because they were bad, Sally sticks to killing people she decides are bad. And because she’s a librarian … that’s right, she goes after people who disrespect librarians and the library! She and “Conan the Librarian” in UHF would probably have a lot to talk about. 😉

What counts as a killable offense in Sally’s book? Let’s take a look at some of her victims in this film (SPOILERS):

  • A man who talks loudly in the library, spouting off curse words and heckling his girlfriend for needing to finish a school report. He also sasses Miss Sally, calling her “Miss Frosted Flake and “frigid little freak.” He gets sliced in the library bathroom, with Sally’s words ringings in his ears, “I said, be quiet in the library.” Should have paid attention to the sign, dude.

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

  • A young woman named Tina never returns a book she checked out. Sally hunts her down in the woods, yelling, “Is it not true that in June of last year you checked out a book from the public library? … And is it not true that since then that book has not been able to be checked out by any other patron of the Porterville Public Library? Is it?!”
  • A young woman who works at the local ice cream truck misspells “malt” on an order form and also makes fun of Sally when she tries to correct her misspelling. Later, after seducing the Ice Cream Girl at a nightclub one night and taking her home, Sally gets revenge by carving out the correctly spelled word on the girl’s belly.

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

I get that the film’s tone is firmly tongue-in-bloodied-cheek. The ultimate message? Don’t mess with a librarian! (And return books on time. Seriously. You really are depriving others if you don’t bother to return items you’ve checked out. Golden rule, y’all.) But the film also wants it both ways. It wants to make fun of librarian stereotypes and all those library rules, but it also wants to give Sally an easy out with her family’s tragic backstory.

And even though Sally uses library rule-breaking as an excuse to kill, they are just that — excuses. Every person Sally kills has insulted her personally, or insulted other women in her presence. And each of those insults earns a look that could kill. Literally.

ChainsawSallyStare

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

There are also lots of fun nods to scary movies or memorabilia throughout the film:

  • The film opens with a closeup of a “Miss Sally” nameplate, as well as a closeup of the book Sally’s reading, The Big Book of Serial Killers

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

  • The calendar on the wall by Sally’s desk reads October

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

  • Sally and her brother reenact scenes from scary movies, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but her brother keeps confusing scary movie villains and plotlines

In the midst of all the killing, does Sally do any work during her day job? Yes … to a degree. She helps a local real estate owner, Steve Kellerman, locate articles about her parents’ murders (after first cutting out any mention of herself, of course, in old newspaper clippings, of course). And upon discovery of the (self-)mutilated clippings, she complains, “Why do some people have to destroy everything?”

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

We also see her interact briefly with a blind library assistant, George (Kit Bateman), an Information Provider there to reinforce the library setting. In a scene late in the film, she asks him if he minds “watching things out here” while she makes a private phone call. He responds, “No problem, hon.” Awkward.

Reel Librarians  |  'Chainsaw Sally' screenshot

Last, but not least, I’ll finish with some choice quotes about our resident serial killer librarian:


Guy at pool hall (talking about ex-girlfriend):  She’s a mental case.

Sally:  And how do you know I’m not a mental case?

Guy:  I can tell, babes. You got your shit together. There ain’t nothing wrong with a girl like you.


Bumbling cop:  Librarians. It’s always the quiet ones.  Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I dated a mime?


Steve Kellerman:  There is more strangeness here than you may be aware of. You just might be the most normal person in this town.

Sally:  That’s funny.


Funny, indeed. Of course, Steve is wrong about our Chainsaw Sally. Dead wrong. 😉

Happy Halloween!

The Killing Kind vs. The Attic

As I mentioned in last week’s post, The Attic (1980) serves as a kind of cinematic continuation of two characters featured in The Killing Kind (1973). I have a copy of both films, so I set about watching The Killing Kind this past weekend and comparing the two. There are some eery similarities in both films, but some interesting differences, as well. Enjoy!

(Beware:  SPOILER ALERTS throughout)


Basic details:


The Killing Kind The Attic
1973 1980
Director:  Curtis Harrington Directors:  George Edwards & Gary Graver (uncredited)
Screenwriters:  Tony Crechales & George Edwards Screenwriters:  Tony Crechales & George Edwards
Filmed in and around Los Angeles, California Filmed and set in Wichita, Kansas
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' poster Reel Librarians  |  'The Attic' poster

The two screenwriters,  Tony Crechales and George Edwards, wrote both films, and they obviously wanted to further explore the themes and characters introduced in the first film.


Opening scene:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
The film begins with a gang rape of a young girl on a beach. Terry Lambert (John Savage), the central character, is involved in the gang rape by peer pressure, taunted by his friends to participate. This film begins with the suicide attempt of Louise Elmore, the reel librarian. She is watching old home movies of her ex-fiance and has slit her wrists.

Both films begin with a violent opening scene. The later film starts with a more subtle visual introduction to the suicide attempt, panning around Louise’s bedroom before closing in on her bloody wrists. The first film, however, is quite shocking in its immediate, graphic depiction of a gang rape.

It is also important to note that there are also several depictions of violent, gruesome murders in this first film, which qualifies more as a horror film or thriller. The second film is more of a suspenseful drama, with depictions of murderous fantasies in place of actual murders.


Central characters & conflict:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
Terry Lambert (John Savage) and his mother, Thelma (Ann Sothern). Terry comes back to live with his mother after spending 2 years in jail for the rape. Mysteriously, those with a connection to the rape — and subsequent prosecution — start being killed off. Louise Elmore (Carrie Snodgress) and her father, Wendell (Ray Milland). Louise is a librarian being forced to retire, and has been forced to take care of her wheelchair-bound father all her adult life.
Terry’s mother, Thelma, is overbearing in the sense that she is too intimate with her son, almost smothering him with affection. She often kisses him and demands more kisses (“That wasn’t much of a kiss”) but then complains that she will “get a hickey.” She also surprises him in the shower in one scene and takes a photo of him naked. Wendell is overbearing in that he is repeatedly cruel in his actions and words toward Louise. He is constantly criticizing and berating her verbally, comparing her unfavorably to her mother. He does stay too long in her bedroom in one scene, watching her get dressed, until Louise tells him to leave.
Terry makes a point of calling his mother “Thelma” instead of “Mom” or “Mother” — further confusing the boundaries of their mother/son relationship Louise always refers to her father as “Father” and never calls, or refers, to him by his first name.

Both films feature former screen stars in prominent roles:  Ann Sothern and Ruth Roman in The Killing Kind (1980), and Ray Milland in The Attic (1980).

It is also interesting to note that the central relationships in both films focus on single parents, but the gender of the single parent is switched (one mother vs. one father).


The reel librarian:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
Luana Anders as Louise (no last name), a supporting role Carrie Snodgress as Louise Elmore, the main character
Class III Class I
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' screenshot Reel Librarians | 'The Attic' screenshot
Louise does not mention her occupation until her second big scene, when she talks to Terry by the pool. She also doesn’t mention what kind of library she works in. Louise is identified as a librarian right away, in the first scene after the opening credits. It is quite clear that she works in a public library and is referred to as the “head librarian.”
Louise is the only reel librarian in this film. There are three other librarians featured in this film besides Louise:  Ruth Cox as Emily, a supporting character and second female lead; Terry Troutt as Donald; and Frances Bay as Librarian, an older lady

Luana Anders was 35 during The Killing Kind (1973), and Carrie Snodgress was 34 during filming of The Attic (1980). The two actresses look similar in that they are about the same age and both white females with light brown hair. Louise in the first film wears glasses — and always sports the same hairstyle of bangs and a low bun. In the second film, Louise does NOT wear glasses, and changes up her hairstyle quite frequently.

It’s interesting to note that Louise’s age is specified in the first film, as she has Terry guess her age; he (correctly) guesses 35. Louise’s disappointed reaction? “Too old?” Louise’s age in the second film is not explicitly stated, but she must be around 40 years old, considering that she was jilted 19 years before. So, age-wise, one could see the second film as a natural continuation from events in the first film.


The father:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
Peter Brocco as Louise’s Father (no name) Ray Milland as Wendell Elmore
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' screenshot Reel Librarians  |  'The Attic' screenshot

Both characters are wheelchair-bound, although the reasons why are explored more in the second film. The two actors approach the role quite differently. In The Killing Kind (1973), Peter Brocco seems to play the role a bit effeminately, as evidenced by lifting up his pinkie finger to sip tea, the abundance of makeup on his face (although that could be shoddy film makeup work), and his whiny, needling voice. He seems to be of a weaker internal character than that of the cruel, confident, bombastic Wendell in The Attic (1980).

Also, in both films, Louise admits to having fantasies about harming or killing her father. In The Killing Kind (1973), Louise tells Terry that “[S]ometimes I have this terrific urge to put ground glass in my father’s food. I can almost hear his false teeth grinding on the glass.” In The Attic (1980), the film visually acts out several of Louise’s fantasies about killing her father, including putting poison in his glass at dinner.


The library:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
No scene set in the library; Louise is seen only in her bedroom or around the neighboring houses Several scenes set at the city library, including a retirement party scene.
Louise first shows up 12 minutes into the film, typing on a typewriter and sitting at an outdoor table with her father in a wheelchair beside her. A long scene after the opening credits introduces the physical library space. There are also external shots of the library exterior, including wide front steps and a closeup of the “City Library” sign etched in stone.
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' screenshot Reel Librarians  |  'The Attic' screenshot

Both characters state — in no uncertain terms — that their work in the library is boring. (SIGH.) However, in the second film, Louise seems genuinely sad both during and after her retirement party.


The fires:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
The first scene in which we meet Louise and her father, their conversation hints that Terry set their house on fire, because, as he puts it, “the boy’s a psychopath.” There’s no mention, however, that the fire is tied to the father’s paralysis or why he’s in a wheelchair. In the first scene set in the library, a gossipy old lady hints that the reason Louise is being retired is due to an accidental fire in the library. She also hints at a prior house fire that caused the paralysis of Louise’s father — the implication that Louise caused both fires.
In a later scene, in which Louise tries to seduce Terry after having a few drinks, she reveals that “I have these hallucinations that are so real about burning all the books!” Louise also describes the book-burning scene, but this time to a younger librarian, Emily. “The books were my enemy. Destroy them, before they destroy you, a voice whispered to me. It felt so wonderful, to see all those books going up in flames.” This description is accompanied by a visual depiction of the book-burning.
There are no visual representations of Louise’s hallucinations in this film. Reel Librarians | 'The Attic' screenshot

Sex and the single librarian:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
There are two sexually charged scenes in this film. One occurs a little over a half-hour into the film, after Louise has been drinking. She has been watching Terry swim in the pool at night and goes over to talk. She reveals several personal tidbits (like wanting to burn all the books) and then moves closer to Terry, even taking off her glasses and rubbing them along his thigh. Then she reveals another personal fantasy, “It must feel wonderful. […] Being raped. I wouldn’t have told on you.” !!!!! While there are several shots of old home movies featuring a young Louise kissing Robert, there is only one overtly sexual scene in this film. When Louise goes to the movies and then goes back to a hotel room with a sailor, she is visibly nervous and over-talkative. It isn’t until she pretends the stranger, the sailor, is her ex-fiance — even calling him Robert — does she engage in sex. This act of “getting laid” (her exact words) begins her slow climb to self-confidence and independence.
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' screenshot Reel Librarians  |  'The Attic' screenshot
The other sexual scene comes in ten minutes later, when Louise goes over to the pool — this time in daylight — to make excuses for her behavior. Terry makes fun of her (“Why don’t you just hop into a goddamn cold shower?”), but Louise turns on him instead. She has a cruel smile on her face as she taunts his guitar-playing:  “That thing that you hold so close to you, like a woman, you can’t even play it.” Late in the film, after being retired from the library, Louise mistakes (hallucinates?) the young man who comes over to mow the lawn as her ex-fiance, Robert. Dressed in a nightgown, she goes out to the young man and tries to kiss him, as she believes he has finally come back to her. She is ridiculed later by her father for this embarrassing incident.
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' screenshot Reel Librarians | 'The Attic' screenshot

Different librarian roles:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
In this film, Louise comes across as no-nonsense. She stands up to her father frequently and seems almost dismissive of him. She also declares her independent streak, stating outright that she’s not afraid of Terry. She also taunts Terry in a later scene. In the later film, Louise has a more multi-faceted personality; this is not unusual, given that she is the main character and given more scenes and scope to explore emotionally. Overall, Louise is more tentative, pathetic, and less confident. She also expresses sensitivity and openness to her librarian friend, Emily.
In her relationship with her father, she comes across the more domineering, cruel personality. In her relationship with her father, Wendell is the more domineering personality.
In the scene where she tries to seduce Terry, she does reveal her loneliness. “I’d rather be with somebody I didn’t like than to be alone.” Louise is very lonely, but the cause of this loneliness is explained by being left at the altar 19 years ago.
We see Louise hiding a liquor bottle behind her pillow one night when her father comes up at bedtime. She also apologizes for her drunken behavior to Terry. It’s interesting to note that she does admit her drinking. “Like I said, I was drunk.” Louise is shown drinking in several scenes but never admits her alcoholism. Rather, she makes excuses for having a drink at lunch, etc. and hides a bottle behind the front library counter.
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' screenshot Reel Librarians | 'The Attic' screenshot
Louise serves the role of a Naughty Librarian in this film. She’s shown to be a peeping tom — even with binoculars! — spying on Terry and his increasingly violent behavior. She also tries to seduce Terry one night by the pool — and resorts to vindictive behavior when her sexual desires are rebuffed. Louise’s primary role in this film is that of a Liberated Librarian. She is a trapped/naïve woman who discovers herself — and what she’s capable of — under extreme circumstances. Louise’s “liberation” supplies the main plot of this film.

Biddies and birdies:


The Killing Kind (1973) The Attic (1980)
Mrs. Orland is the name of an older, gossipy woman. She rents a room in Thelma’s house and is shown to be affectionate toward Terry. Mrs. Orland is played by character actress Marjorie Eaton. Mrs. Fowler is the name of the older, gossipy woman who reveals the back story about the fires. Although the character name is different, it’s played by the SAME character actress, Marjorie Eaton!
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' screenshot Reel Librarians | 'The Attic' screenshot
Terry buys a myna bird for his mother, after one of her cats mysteriously dies early on in the film. The myna bird calls out, “Are you a good boy?” repeatedly through the film — which was the original working title for the film! When the two main librarians, Louise and Emily, stop by the pet store, there are both birds and chimps pictured in the front window. Emily eventually buys the chimp as a present for Louise.
There are a few shots of stuffed animals, particularly a stuffed teddy bear and a Raggedy Andy doll that Terry curls up to after another gruesome murder. The film begins with shots of stuffed animal monkeys, which cover every surface of Louise’s bedroom.
Reel Librarians  |  'The Killing Kind' screenshot Reel Librarians | 'The Attic' screenshot

There are still more striking similarities and differences between the two films. For example, Terry has personal hallucinations in The Killing Kind (1973) that feature Louise the librarian vs. the hallucinations in The Attic (1980) that come from Louise herself. Also, Louise’s bedroom in the first film is quite stark and sparsely furnished, whereas Louise’s bedroom in the second is quite cluttered and almost juvenile in tone (because she’s mentally stuck 19 years in the past).

All in all, I found this an intriguing exercise in comparing and contrasting the two films. Each film does stand alone on its own merits. While, like I said before, the two films are not officially recognized as a series, the recurring characters of Louise and her wheelchair-bound father, as well as the recurring themes of fires, hallucinations, overbearing parents, and repressed sexual desires do strongly link the two films together.