Many of us have movies that we watched repeatedly as children.
For my two older sisters and myself, it was the made-for-TV Disney horror comedy “Mr. Boogedy” (1986). My sisters saw it when it originally aired on Disney channel on a Sunday night in April of 1986. Eventually my parents recorded it off of the television to keep and we’ve had it ever since. I’ve watched it more times than I can count and can still quote along.
Our version of the VHS tape was recorded in the mid-1990s, complete with commercials for the New Mickey Mouse Club, an up and coming singer named Brandy Norwood and promos for movies such as “Angels in the Outfield” and “Batteries Not Included.” I’m re-watching this Pickens family favorite on the old VHS as I type.
The 45 minute movie follows the Davis family who moves to small town Lucifer Falls, New England to live in a in their very first house. The parents- Eloise (Mimi Kennedy) and Carleton Davis (Richard Masur)- apparently didn’t see the house in person before purchasing and just went by what the realtor said.
The family plans to open a franchise gag store, Gag City. Carleton is full of practical jokes and frequently quips “just kidding.”
When they pull up to the decrepit old house with wind blowing and lightening striking, Carleton excitedly exclaims, “Just what the realtor said, a definite fixer upper.” The rest of the family isn’t too sure- which includes two sons Corwin (David Faustino) and Aurie (Benji Gregory) and daughter Jennifer (Kristy Swanson).
Carleton puts down their concern that the house is haunted. When they enter, the local historian and head of the Lucifer Falls Chamber of Commerce Neil Witherspoon (John Astin) is waiting for them and warning them to leave the evil house so Mr. Boogedy doesn’t get them.
But since jokes are Careleton’s business, he assumes Witherspoon is just pulling his leg. Their first night in the house, Jennifer hears strange sneezing. She later sees a strange green light coming from a closed door and is the first person in the house to see Mr. Boogedy. She says his face looked like a “grilled cheese sandwich.” The family finds Jennifer passed out in the hall “tapping her heels together and saying ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”
Since their parents still don’t believe them that the house is haunted, Corwin, Aurie and Jennifer, pay a visit to Mr. Witherspoon to find out the story of their home:
During the Puritan days, disgruntled pilgrim William Hanover/Mr. Boogedy falls in love with the Widow Marion, who turns him down. In order to get his way, William Hanover sells his soul to the Devil for a magic cloak so he can win the Widow Marion. While Marion is taking her son Jonathan to the doctor for a cold, Hanover kidnaps Jonathan-this explains the strange sneezing in their house. To prove how powerful he is, Mr. Boogedy casts his first spell with the cloak but ends up blowing up his house instead. Now any house that is built on this property is haunted by My. Boogedy who is trapped there with Jonathan and Marion can not get to her son, who still has a cold. The Davis house is on this property.
Moved by the story, the Davis children decide they need to help Jonathan and Widow Marion, who they end up meeting and the ghosts warn them to get away from evil Mr. Boogedy.
It takes Mr. Boogedy making a stuffed dummy dance and playing their organ to convince Eloise and Carleton that the house is haunted. Eloise meets Marion, hears her story and Eloise moves the family to fight Mr. Boogedy.
Wielding a can of hairspray, a plastic baseball bat, a fly swatter, a vacuum and a toy plastic Thor hammer, the Davis family defeats Mr. Boogedy, steals his cloak and reunites Marion and Jonathan.
The plotline of “Mr. Boogedy” is simple and silly. However, just writing about this movie and spelling out the plot doesn’t truly convey just how much fun this charming little TV movie is. There are small lines in the film that make me laugh every time that typed out, wouldn’t be remotely funny.
For example, there is a moment when the mom says “We need to call the realtor” after being spooked or when Aurie wears gag glasses, making his eyes huge, and urges his sister to “Eat the eggs!” as they play a joke on her. These are lines that have been quoted in my household for years because of this movie.
By far, the highlight of this movie is John Astin as Neil Witherspoon. He is creepy, yet also bumbling in a hilarious and quirky way. He’s easily my favorite character, though he is in the movie for less than 15 minutes.
The two sons in this movie, went on to star in successful 1980s sitcoms-David Faustino in “Married with Children” and Benji Gregory in “Alf.” According to a 2011 interview with “Mr. Boogedy” director Oz Scott, Joaquin Phoenix auditioned for the role of one of the sons and was turned down.
While “Mr. Boogedy” is by no means scary, it has the atmospheric, ghostly music, voices coming from nowhere and suspenseful moments of peering into shadows. But the frights are evened out well with goofiness and humor to make it not scary for children. Audiences don’t even see Mr. Boogedy until the last 10 minutes of the movie.
There is something just so pure and 1980s American about this movie. A family moves to the New England suburbs without researching the home, the daughter complains there won’t be cute boys or Bruce Springsteen listeners, the mom makes sandwiches with Kraft singles and it’s all just so refreshing. The jokes are goofy, but humorous to any ages. The writers didn’t have to resort to bodily function noises or falls like they would today in comedies geared towards children.
A year later, Disney released a second, longer made-for-TV movie sequel, “The Bride of Boogedy,” which Comet is reviewing this week.
If you have never seen “Mr. Boogedy” or need to revisit it, I urge you to do so. It is 45 minutes well spent. Turner Classic Movies is airing this rare gem as part of their Treasures from the Disney Vaults which starts at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 28. “Mr. Boogedy” airs at 2 a.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 29, so set your DVRs.