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  Mooch Goes to Hollywood Paws And Flaws
Year: 1971
Director: Richard Erdman
Stars: Vincent Price, James Darren, Jill St. John, Jim Backus, James Harding, Kim Hamilton, Gino Conforti, Jerry Hausner, Bert Holland, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Richard Burton, Phyllis Diller, Sam Jaffe, Edward G. Robinson, Darren McGavin, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney
Genre: Comedy, Trash, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: You need talent to make it in Hollywood, but it is not necessarily vital: most of what you need boils down to luck and knowing the right people, and many, many hopefuls arrive in Tinseltown every day with hopes and dreams, among them an abundance of beautiful women. Oh, and dogs. Actual dogs, like Mooch, who gets off the train she has been travelling in and starts on her glittering showbiz career, or so she hopes, and to help her Zsa Zsa Gabor's disembodied voice will guide her and offer advice, after all, who knows better about success here than Zsa Zsa? She warns the pooch away from the porn theatres and orders her to search for a producer and make herself sexy so as to appeal all the better - but who is this? Why, it's Vincent Price! He seems to like dogs, why not jump in his jeep and see if he can secure you that big break?

Sounds a bit weird, this, doesn't it? A bit inappropriate? The joke was that Mooch the dog behaved like a starlet, which meant the incongruous sight of the mongrel striking coquettish poses and making herself as attractive, in a human way, as she could. Except Mooch wasn't a she at all, she was a he, and he was Higgins, the dog from the television series Petticoat Junction, and later the indie kids flick Benji, where he played the title role in his final screen appearance. Benji had its problems, but sexualising the canine lead was not one of them, yet that's what you were served up here: maybe somebody back in 1971 thought this television special was fine for the younglings when they got to see Higgins dressed up as a Playboy Bunny Girl, but whether you have the same reaction in the twenty-first century was highly debatable.

Say one thing for this mess, they did secure some big names, or at least some names who were well-known faces of the day. Price was the first adopter of Mooch, and the first thing he does is take her to the vet's, which was a not-so-hilarious running gag as the dog keeps ending up there no matter what celeb she is paired with. This appeared to be an excuse to get more animals into the project, so Mooch barks at a Siamese cat, a parrot, a goose and a brood of goslings and so on, while a goat eats all it can, including an eye chart off the wall. Think on that - what kind of vet needs an eye chart for the animals? That wasn't the oddest thing either: if you wanted to see Benji as a stripper, complete with G-string, here was your chance, with a chorus of cheers and shouts of "Take it off!" on the soundtrack for maximum viewer discomfort.

Behind the camera was director Richard Erdman, a prolific character comedian who would more latterly be known for his role as Leonard in cult sitcom Community, but another light actor, Jim Backus, showed up too, both as himself, taking Mooch to a star-studded pool party, and as one of the co-screenwriters giving rise to the contemplation that the voice of Mr Magoo was unhealthily into dogs, or starlets, or both. He seemed like such a nice man elsewhere, too. After Price embarrassed himself, James Darren stepped in and took Mooch to the beach (each of the special guest stars was introduced in a fantasy sequence as they and the dog romantically ran towards each other - Backus appeared with a false nose, long blue overcoat and black tights on, presumably to approximate his famous cartoon character), then Jill St. John met her in a makeup room and offered advice. Backus must have been ringing around the names in his little black book because topping and tailing this was Richard Burton lending his rich tones, and every so often the likes of Mickey Rooney or Edward G. Robinson would pop up. It's a cliché to dismiss kids' TV of the past as weird or creepy or insane, but this was a very good candidate for all of that. Music by Don Piestrup.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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