Actor Matthew Perry Cotton and director Ron Oliver on the set of Warner Bros.’ A DENNIS THE MENACE CHRISTMAS

Alligators Have the Right Idea

As I write these words, I am hurtling through the atmosphere at thirty thousand feet encased in what amounts to an oversized metal cigar tube and for some reason I find my thoughts turning toward children.

It could be the ear-shattering howls currently emanating from the rather foul-smelling infant two seats away from me—in First Class no less! (With all the concern over airline safety these days, why oh WHY isn’t it a law that people should have to keep their offspring in a cat box down in the hold where they belong?)

Or it could be that I’m travelling to a double bill of my latest epics being held at the Image+Nation Film Festival in Montréal, Canada, a place which brings back very fond memories for me, some far too scandalous to relate, but most revolving around the various productions I’ve helmed in this most European of North American cities over the years, all of which seem to have involved children in one way or another.

Now one would like to think this is a result of a laudable national interest in entertaining the youth of the land, but in fact it’s simply that the Canadian government—like so many around the world—gives considerable tax credits to any filmed production which has even a whisper of “No pudding ‘til you eat your meat!” about it. This has, in turn, created an entire sub-industry of utterly dreadful television programmes featuring Pre-Teens Who Don’t Fit In Because They’re Aliens/Ghosts/Monsters/Amish (And Isn’t Our Allegory Clever?), most of which seem like unimaginative variations on the ones that preceded them.

While I resolutely hold these shows responsible for the sorry state of today’s youth—of COURSE they’re lazy dullards, they all think they’re from another PLANET!—I must admit some culpability in this regard, having had a hand in more than a few of these endeavours; a fellow has to eat, after all, and tax credit dollars are as good as any. In fact, there was a time not terribly long ago when I was known as the “go-to” guy for children’s television entertainment.

My reputation started on a clever little anthology series featuring a group of Campfire Pals who, each week, tried to scare the crap out of each other with “ghost” stories. It lasted for five seasons until the Canadian producers were caught scamming the government for tax credits based on scripts falsely credited to, in one memorable case, a housecat. The show is apparently available on bootlegged DVDs throughout the world and has been credited by no less a concept thief than M. Night Shyamalan as inspiring THE SIXTH SENSE; I suppose we should be honoured, but frankly I’d prefer some residual checks.

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