Friday, November 27, 2009

Mannequin: On the Move (Stewart Raffill, 1991)

A cinematic masterwork that not only manages to comfort me even when I'm not looking in its general direction, but also unclogs my drains, Mannequin: On the Move is magnificence personified. A suicide prevention pamphlet masquerading as an openly lame boy loses girl, girl turns into a doll, doll finds boy as a girl, who is sometimes a doll a thousand years later tale, virtuoso filmmaker Stewart Raffill (The Ice Pirates) and his crack team of writers have thornily fashioned a heartfelt meditation on the power of unconventional love. Unabashedly celebrating inanimate copulation with window dressing and romantic whimsicality in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the breezy sequel is the greatest of all the Mannequin sequels; and not just because it's the only Mannequin sequel in existence. No, what goes on in this film will repeatedly put your joy muscles on high alert. There's an accidental brilliance at work here that can't spotted by merely staring at the screen. Uh-uh, what you have to do in order to receive the benefits that this film is offering at a reasonably low-cost is conjure up the purest, gayest part of your inner self, and, most importantly, be willing to let its rejuvenating nectar inundate your aura the same way expired yogurt attacks your central nervous system. Otherwise, what you'll get is the sensation that you have just watched a stupid movie about an average guy who wants to ejaculate his not-so average sperm (it smells like paprika) in the vicinity of a compact blonde who is sometimes a nonliving entity from a made-up part of Bavaria. And believe me, you don't want to feel that sensation.

Now I don't mean to imply that the act of watching Mannequin: On the Move utilizing more established methods, such as sitting and staring, will be an unrewarding experience. On the contrary, there's a lot of quality material floating around this garish cesspool. It just helps that you're a complete and utter moron. The sheer size of my intellect allows me to adapt to different types of entertainment stimuli. Using words that are different than the ones I just used, I was able to view the from the perspective of someone who is borderline mentally challenged. And I don't mean someone who has a learning disability or some kind of fucked up disease, I'm talking about someone who is just plain stupid.

The first thing that struck me as I watched the film from this more slow-witted point-of-view was the manner in which colours, shapes, and sounds were employed. Okay, maybe that's a little too dumb. But it's not that far off from the truth. Actually, Rolf, Egon, and Arnold, the grunting, colourfully attired, musclebound soldiers who are in charge of protecting the mannequin, epitomize all three of those things perfectly. So, yeah, I stand by my initial instinct.

A thespian in every sense of the word, William Ragsdale, not content with having starred in the best vampire movie of the 1980s (Fright Night), the dark-haired rapscallion attempts to dominate the 1990s right out of the gate. I mean, most wait until the middle of the decade to unleash their masterpiece. But William, an iconoclast in every sense of the word, proves that numbers and dates are pretty much meaningless and lashes out with the full fury of his acting arsenal.

It's true, that he has to mostly bounce this fury off a wooden Kristy Swanson and an excessively flamboyant Meshach Taylor. But, as expected, Mr. Ragsdale laughs in the face of this challenge. Carving out a performance that is teeming subtle nuances, William imbues Jason Williamson with a real sense of humanity. A performance that no stiff blonde or preening stereotype can taint.

When referring Kristy Swanson as "wooden" or "stiff," it should be noted that I'm talking about her work as a mannequin, not as a sentient actress; one that looked totally scrumptious in a series of tight leopard print outfits. However, the blankness of Kristy's face does assist her as Jessie, the freshly animated national treasure of the kingdom of Hauptmann-Koenig. In that, her deadpan expression is perfect for absorbing the wonders of the 20th century.

Playing an "enchanted peasant girl" who was turned into a mannequin by a magic necklace a thousand years ago, Miss Swanson does of an excellent job of displaying genuine wonder. Take, for example, her enthusiasm when it came to eating a Philly Cheesesteak and applying lipstick for the very first time, you really get the feeling that she hadn't done these things before.

The same logic could be applied to Julie Foreman as Gail. If the audience doesn't believe her when she offers a customer a complimentary spray of perfume, the film's integrity is in serious jeopardy. Luckily, the attractive Miss Foreman (no relation to Deborah) is up to task at hand: dispensing fragrances to strangers with a competent grace.

Altering our opinion of what it means to be real, Mannequin: On the Move is more than just a film that starts and eventually finishes, it makes a profound statement on what it must be like to be human.

video uploaded by sarafid


  1. I liked the original, never got around to seeing this one yet, looks a little more campy than the first one.

  2. TheAnswerManMVP2001: I don't know how they managed to do it, but part 2 definitely out camps the original.

    Oh, and thanks for the comment, Ursula. It seems to have disappeared.

  3. Monsieur Raffill also directed The Philadelphia Experiment, a sci-fi flick I actually enjoyed, a rare occurrence indeed. Might have something to do with the Michael Paré factor. :)

    This is a coinkydinky. I subscribe to an Urgh! mailing list, and what film has been much discussed this week? Rock and Rule.

    William Ragsdale is on some FX show debuting next year.

  4. Oh, MC is having a music video battle. Dare me to add Dog Police?!?

  5. Hope you had a tasty Thanksgiving. :)

    Hmmm, I wonder if Pan Raffill got the Mannequin 2 directing gig because of his work on The Philadelphia Experiment? You know, because they both involve the city of brother-related love. (Note to self: Stop wondering about such things.)

    I can see that. After all, Rock & Rule and Urgh! both came out around the same time and both are highly musical.

    Thanks for the Ragsdale info.

    You should definitely nominate the Dog Police. If the battle was based purely on WTFism, it would destroy the competition.

    I'd nominate some clips, but I don't want my choices to be mocked in such a public forum. Plus, I think MC might have an anti-synth bias.

  6. Hey there. I'm back from my blogging vacation. I hope you had a great week and weekend. I enjoyed myself this Thanksgiving holiday. I did miss your blog. Take care. Have a fantastic week ahead. Cheers!

  7. This review made my night. Weekend even. Life is good again.