Back to School

A doer takes on teachers for his college-student son. No time is wasted on academic subterfuges like critical theory, direct knowledge is put on the table, winning all. This is exemplified in economics class, where a hypothetical business concern is immediately analyzed by the expert as properly situated in Fantasyland. “What’s the product?”, he wants to know, adding a summation of actual liabilities not covered in academia, including mob waste disposal.

Kurt Vonnegut’s own paper on Kurt Vonnegut is dismissed by the English prof as completely ignorant of its subject. The American History prof is a veteran maniac whose badgering on Vietnam ultimately coerces a satisfactory response by analogy with Korea, “Truman was too much of a pussy wimp to let MacArthur go in there and blow out those Commie bastards!”

“What’s a bubble bath without bubbles?”, asks the expert in his dorm-room jacuzzi. “Hey Bubbles, come over here!”

With all his getting, he’s got wisdom. The dean (whose last name is Martin) is wise enough to know a benefactor when he sees one.

Dangerfield’s heroical rendition of Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night” is followed by an analysis of its meaning, “I don’t take no shit from no-one!”

Not since George Seaton’s Teacher’s Pet has there been such a brilliant sendup of the groves, a walk in the park with genius.



It’s all very well to say with the Washington Post that this is a satire on moving-men or a spoof of home-buyers and their travails, but then you have to explain that circulation is down because of the damn Internet.

Metter’s great comedy takes off from Death Wish (dir. Michael Winner) and Straw Dogs (dir. Sam Peckinpah). A man is driven from his home and job to a new life thousands of miles away, only to find he’s lost everything. The style is closely related to silent film and W.C. Fields, the worm turns at the last most elegantly.

Moving begins early one morning with a noisy neighbor and his weekend supermower that cuts right through the protagonist’s dreams, his position in the firm, his place in society, and the world as we know it.

Buster Keaton is your man for the job (or Harold Lloyd in Why Worry? as a hypochondriac on a rest cure in a war zone), Richard Pryor plays this all the way to speechlessness and staring before he’s hit over the head with a bottle in Pottersville and decides to strike back.

The family dog so moribund it “hasn’t farted since March, ‘78” comes to his aid as he deftly disengages the distant neighbor’s twin brother’s supermower’s engine, after commando ops on a wayward moving van that clarify in passing a shady deal at his new firm.