White House Madness (1975) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Mark L. Lester has been around for a helluva long time, and while he has directed no great movies, or even any very good ones, you will recognize some of his film titles. His highest rating at IMDb belongs to Firestarter. Some of his others include Bobby Jo and the Outlaw, Showdown in Little Tokyo, and Night of the Running Man. In his 50's now, he's still at it, having churned out six more full-length films in the past three years, none of them particularly memorable.

Thirty years as a director, and his highlight reel is Firestarter. To paraphrase a famous sports figure, Lester is in the twilight of a mediocre career.

This particular film is not mediocre, but poor, even by his somewhat relaxed standards. It is supposed to be a zany spoof of the goings-on in the Nixon White House during the Watergate Scandals, but its concept of humor is basically at the third grade playground level. Remember that guy in your school who loved to make noises with his armpits? He wrote this.

It is against my principles to discourage the ridicule of Richard Nixon. I believe you have the right, in fact the obligation and duty, to say negative things about Nixon, whether true or not, whether funny or not.  

But I don't necessarily want to listen to them unless they have some entertainment value.

NUDITY REPORT

 Dick Nixon naked? Steve Friedman shows the presidential butt in a dream sequence.

I doubt if this one was funny even back in the time when everyone would have recognized the names of the characters. I doubt if it was ever engaging entertainment of any kind, not even for those people who despised Nixon and his thugs back in 1975. If it did have some value back then, that edge has been dulled over thirty years in which the names and events are only dimly remembered by those around then, and not at all by the rest of a world in which half of its inhabitants have been born after the events portrayed here.

DVD info from Amazon.

Special features with an * require a DVD-ROM drive and Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Commentary by producer-director Mark L. Lester
Origins and Making of Whitehouse Madness Featurette
Photo Gallery, with over 400 production stills, ads, press kit, newspaper clippings and reviews *
Interview with director Mark L. Lester
Original Screenplay *
Widescreen letterbox 1.85:1

World leaders play Monopoly for the world. Nixon declares martial law and arbitrarily changes the year from 1975 to 1984, making people practice to say "Heil, Nixon". Billy Graham tries to exorcise him, during which exorcism Nixon says "Harry Truman sucks cocks in hell". Nixon is finally killed when Martha Mitchell pours water on him. As he melts away he says "I'm melting, what a world, what a world", and some midgets dance around him and sing "the witch is dead". I know it sounds like it might constitute some disrespectful fun. That's misleading. It is much worse than it sounds, entirely because of the lowbrow and ham-fisted execution. To give you a feel for the level of humor, Judge Sirica is played by Grandpa from The Munsters.

The only time I laughed was at Billy Graham's church, when they passed the collection plate. Wordlessly, Nixon gave a shifty look at the people to his right and left, saw that they were listening to the sermon, and decided it was nobler to receive than to give.

Of course, there is a good reason why Nixon was funnier when he didn't speak. The part of Nixon is played by Steve Friedman, whose bio declares him to be a member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and who apparently had no other movie career.

The Critics Vote

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The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. Not a bad concept, but too amateurish and unsophisticated to be funny for more than fleeting moments. The DVD is LOADED, but only if you have a DVD-rom player, which enables you to access all the Adobe .pdf files.

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