Friday, April 04, 2008

John's DVD of the Month Club - April 2008

The Boy With Green Hair

One of the consequences of knowing a great deal about something is that it can sometimes prevent basic pleasure. After getting a degree in film production, I find I analyze movies and television shows rather than simply watch them, as if they’re homework assignments and I’m the teacher who must grade them. This means that most things I like, I “appreciate.” But it also means that I especially treasure anything that overwhelms my critical facilities and reminds me of how it felt to watch a movie when I was young. I’m either engaged or bored, like or dislike, without analyzing the reasons why. Charmed while watching The Boy With Green Hair, I decided to share it with as many people as possible and came up with the idea for the DVD of the Month Club. The movie isn’t as obscure as I thought. Two different people, upon receiving their discs, said “Oh, The Boy With Green Hair. Dean Stockwell.”

I’m not sure what lead me initially to record The Boy With Green Hair rather than one of the other old films on Turner Classic Movies, but it may have had something to do with a story from my youth. The first time my cousins visited us after they moved to Florida, they told stories about what seemed like an exotic and foreign land. My favorite story came from my cousin Pat, who told us he knew a kid with green hair. It seems his hair was normally light blonde, but he went swimming every day and his parents had a tendency to over-chlorinate the pool, to the point that his hair turned a light shade of green. I thought that was the funniest story, though, like most stories that impress a child, it was mixed with a healthy dose of “there but for the grace of God go I,” despite the fact that I have dark-hair and swam infrequently.

Things I liked about the movie:

- The montage of various homes the boy lived in.

- The cartoon-like sequence of Paps singing his song. I’m a sucker for non-authoritative Irish man-child characters because I had one for a father.

- The propaganda: “Be nice to war orphans.” They had to make a movie to tell people that? Overt messages in films are considered obvious and counterproductive, but I love them for their primitive approach. Have the war orphans appear in a quasi-religious vision. Make the main character look directly in the camera and deliver your message. Make sure the audience gets the point. Propaganda in films now is much more subtle and much less fun.

- Given that extreme hair color is barely noticed today, it’s almost quaint to watch a story in which unnatural hair color is not only shocking but threatening. The movie has an individualist vs. conformist theme, but the boy doesn’t really choose to have green hair, he just makes the best of it when it happens.


Julie said...

I liked the movie in spite of its lack of subtlety. It's interesting to note that the townspeople's reaction to Peter once his hair turns green, making him an outsider, is the mindset that created so many WW II orphans. The movie would be as relevant at an AIDS rally as a message about war orphans.

the hanged man said...

The post-WWII years are characterized as conformist and "safe" but considering the war ended with two atomic bombs being used against civilians and revelations about the Nazi concentration camps, you can't blame people for wanting quiet stable lives.

It is interesting that the townpeople in the movie turn against the boy because his green hair reminds them that they live in an irrational uncontrollable world. Remove the green hair, remove the problem.