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Comedy Is Hard to Do
Regional cheapjack horror films are beloved by many (including me). Regional cheapjack action flicks have their fans, too. But even among fans of Regional Cheapjack comic relief is often derided for falling flat on its face. The Pickle Goes in the Middle is a Regional Cheapjack comedy which bodes ill, but comes off much better than expected for a variety of reasons, not all of them comedic.
The Baroness' jewels are stolen and she blames her housekeeper, Madame Baclava, responsible even though it is known Giorgio is the actual thief. To help his mother, Leo Baclava takes off to America where the dastard is to deliver the jewels to his Mafioso relative. Needing a job to live while looking for Giorgio, Leo signs on at Scarfie Burger, the nation's biggest fast food chain, which is in open warfare with its competitors. It has goon squads to rough up and shake down diner operators like Prohibition gangsters forcing their product on hapless saloons. Not coincidentally, Scarfie Burger is owned by the mob boss Giorgio works for, and Leo is eventually able to finagle his way into the Mafioso's good graces so that he can retrieve the gems.
Much of the running time involves a satirical take on the fast food industry which was in its first explosive growth when this was filmed. Various fast food mavens and mascots--Col. Sanders, Minnie Pearl (remember her chicken join?), Swiss Miss, etc.--are skewered, and Scarfie's mascot Skeezix the Clown is often front and obnoxious center. When failing to adapt to the fast food assembly line, Leo is shipped off to Scarfie School to learn Proper Pickle Placement. Scarfie's secret to success is its No.1 ingredient--PLASTIC. They have learned that babies which grow up sucking plastic nipples will gravitate to plastic food. Are the competitors horrified by this revelation! No, they all want in on the action, as does Leo our hero.
The satire is simplistic, but that a film of this sort even tries, much less kinda pulls off, such satire is a pleasant surprise. Charlie Dell and Len Kimmick are not bad as Leo and the Mob Boss, and fans of Larry Buchanan and S.F.Brownrigg will delight in Bill Thurman and Anne MacAdams as the drunken and nagging, respectively, Mr. and Mrs. Stanovich. Best performance of all is from Bill McGhee, best known as Sam from Don't Look in the Basement, as the Pickle Placement Professor with his giant prop hamburger ingredients. He is hilarious. There is also a hamburger car that Skeevix tools around in, whether built for this film or not I dot know. But it is sweet.
Lastly there is an extended chase throughout an amusement park--Six Flags?--that totally fails as comedy, but as a nostalgia trip it was wonderful. I swear I remember some of those exact rides down to the paint jobs, and I've never been to Texas.