Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Oooooooh ... fuuuuuuuuuudge ...

Much of the local news shows in L.A. this morning were devoted to covering a grisly car accident that closed down the Pacific Coast Highway for several hours. At the time all viewers were told was that two men were killed in the accident and that they appeared to be father and son. Now it's been revealed that the deceased victims were film director Bob Clark and his adult son Ariel. In the early hours of what was a very foggy morning, Clark's sedan was hit head-on by a GMC Yukon that had swerved into their lane, PCH being a two-lane road for much of its stretch. The driver of the Yukon faces serious charges, including vehicular manslaughter, as he was driving under the influence at the time.

The name Bob Clark may not resonate with a lot of people, but not unlike many people in the business of show, his work speaks louder volumes than his ID. In fact, he has the distinction of being at the helm of two of the most iconic films of the 1980s - two films that couldn't be further apart in genre and tone. In 1982 Clark made Porky's, a sex comedy about 1950s Florida teens obsessed with losing their virginity. The movie was a surprise commercial hit (indeed, it is the highest-growing Canadian film in history, having been financed and produced by Canucks) and opened the door for a new wave of R-rated fare in the days before softcore dominated Fridays nights on Cinemax. And along with the nudity and juvenile behavior (including an infamous sex scene that featured a very young and very loud Kim Cattrall), though, was a large dose of nostalgia and even a bit of poignancy and drama, as the sex-obsessed high school students also learned lessons about friendship and racism when they weren't concerned with getting their knobs polished.

Those sweet moments in Porky's also set the stage for Clark's more enduring movie, the 1983 holiday comedy A Christmas Story, based on the stories of the humorist Jean Shepherd. It didn't do much at the box office, but today the charming tale of little Ralphie's fervent campaign to get Santa to send him that precious air rifle has become a holiday staple, to the point where cable channel TBS has aired a 24-hour marathon of a continuous loop of the movie for the past several Christmases.

Bob Clark was not a filmmaker on the same level as a Spielberg or Scorsese. But how many directors are lucky enough to make one movie whose reputation endures long after their careers or even lives are completed. Clark has two. That's a life well lived, at least in professional terms.

P.S.: For the sake of this post, I'll ignore the fact that Clark also directed both Baby Geniuses flicks. Hey, no one's perfect.

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