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  Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang Kid Power!
Year: 1978
Director: Theodore J. Flicker
Stars: Stephen Rosenberg, Alex Karras, Marfa Richler, Thor Bishopric, Walter Massey, Jill Frappier, Deena Baikowitz, John Wildman, Guy L'Ecuyer, Joy Coghill, Earl Pennington, Claude Gai, Victor Désy, Yvon Leroux
Genre: Comedy, Weirdo, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Nobody ever listens to poor little Jacob (Stephen Rosenberg), which is why he always repeats himself, earning the nickname Jacob Two-Two. His mom and dad, big brother and sister don't seem to want him around. Feeling sad and dejected, Jacob goes to buy some chocolate ice cream at the grocery store where a misunderstanding ends with him escaping to the park where he falls asleep. When Jacob wakes up, he is promptly arrested for insulting the store clerk and sentenced to life underground in the Land of Smog, an otherworldly prison for children run by a burly big brute called the Hooded Fang (Alex Karras). He was once the vilest, most vicious wrestler in all the world, until a child's laughter ruined his career. Now he hates kids and uses them as slave labour, stoking the furnace so clouds of smog will stop the sun from melting his army of hideous slime monsters. But Jacob is actually an undercover spy working for caped super-kids the Intrepid Shapiro (Marfa Richler) and Fearless O'Toole (Thor Bishopric) of Child Power, aiming to reveal the prison's hidden location so they can set all the children free. Unfortunately the plan goes awry when Jacob loses his supersonic beeper...

Among the craziest and, at times, creepiest children's films ever made, Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang was adapted from the popular series of books written by Mordecai Richler, the celebrated Canadian author, essayist and screenwriter whose adult novels Barney's Version and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz were also brought to the screen. Its wildly eccentric tone should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with writer-director Theodore J. Flicker, the man behind sublimely subversive psychedelic spy comedy The President's Analyst (1967).

Shot from a child's eye view, Flicker's use of low angles, wide lenses and surreal expressionistic sets distort the everyday world into a kid's worst nightmare. Indeed the film scared more than a few kids at the time, confronting sweet little Jacob with such hideous villains as Master Fish (Guy L'Ecuyer, with his face painted silver) and Mistress Fowl (Joy Coghill, with orange skin and witchy nose) while his encounter with the smooth-talking, truly creepy Mr. Fox (Claude Gai) carries queasy, borderline paedophilic undertones. Yikes! Flicker even turns Jacob's subterranean journey through the Land of Smog into something tantamount to a descent into hell with lurid comic book colours not far removed from Mario Bava's efforts in Hercules in the Haunted World (1961). Strengthening the Italian horror parallels the hulking Hooded Fang bears a passing resemblance to Mickey Hargitay's crazy cowled Crimson Executioner in Bloody Pit of Horror (1966).

Although stilted and slow in some spots the film is nonetheless consistently engaging and fun with an appealing lead in young Stephen Rosenberg plus a charismatic performance from Mordecai Richler's own daughter, Marfa Richler, as the Intrepid Shapiro. It is also often riotously funny, sporting some quotable dialogue and surreal sequences such as the court judge surrounded by a sycophantic gospel choir who sing pious parental platitudes like "It's for your own good!" Richler taps into a small child's sense of insecurity, of feeling unwanted and dwarfed by a big scary world. Much like The Wizard of Oz (1939) characters from Jacob's everyday life have alter-egos inside his fantasy world. The plot conveys the fairly profound statement about grownups ruling through fear, only to lose their power the moment they are unmasked as fallible and insecure. Jacob gains emotional maturity through learning to laugh at human foibles. The music by John Lissauer with songs by Lewis Furey - whose unorthodox career ran from porn star to recording artist, soundtrack composer and film director - plays a big part in the film's eccentric appeal, sounding somewhat like some of Todd Rundgren's pop songs from the Seventies. A supposedly inferior remake came out in 1998 starring Gary Busey as the Hooded Fang, which sounds scary for all the wrong reasons.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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