Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks is a celebration of the characters we love to hate in the movies we love to love. They’re not always the main villains – and sometimes they’re not even villains at all – but they’re definitely jerks. So let’s take a look at this week’s jerk-off, and why they find themselves forever enshrined here in the hall of shame. Also, since I’m not a jerk, this is your spoiler warning for the 1984 movie, Gremlins.
Gremlins is a classic Christmas movie. Okay, it’s perhaps not a classic in the same way that It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic, but as far as Christmas movies about horrible little green monsters terrorising a small town go, it’s pretty much head and shoulders above the rest. But while the horrifying creatures causing murder and mayhem for much of the second half of the movie are undoubtedly the villains of the piece, the first half of the film is plagued by the vile, dog-threatening, money-grubbing, Mrs. Motherfuckin’ Deagle. She sucks.
So let’s set the scene. It’s Christmas. The time of merriment, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, Home Alone 2, and good will to all men and women. The pavements of Kingston Falls are blanketed in pure, white snow, and festive cheer is in the air. The “Holidays are coming…” Coca Cola advert is being shown on television, advent calendar doors are being opened, and ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade has re-entered the singles chart for the eleventh time, proving a steady income stream for wild-haired frontman, Noddy Holder. It’s Christmassy, alright, people? Still, as Christmassy as it is, there’s always one moaner determined to ruin the whole thing. They can never be quiet, can they, the Christmas haters? It’s never, “Oh, actually I don’t celebrate Christmas because I don’t like it, but thank you, and please continue to enjoy yourselves.” It’s always status updates on Facebook, “Fuckin’ h8 Christmas, me” or Tweets saying, “Sick of all these morons adopting a Pagan festival to continue their unwitting support for the capitalist agenda,” or an old woman threatening to kill a dog because she doesn’t like its face. Erm…
Mrs. Deagle is the stereotypical, ruthless landlady of Kingston Falls, making money off the misery of her fellow residents and enjoying every God-damned minute of it. She’s introduced to us when a poor mother begs for a little time to pay the rent lest her children be cast out onto the streets on Christmas morn, and with nary a second thought for the welfare of the poor babes, she tells the struggling woman to go and swivel. “It’s Christmas!” cries the young mother. “Well, now you know what to ask Santa for, don’t you?” replies Mrs. Deagle. And with that, she calls them deadbeats and marches off to tend to her business affairs, not sparing another thought for the family that might be drinking their eggnog out of a brown paper bag by a burning trash can in a couple of day’s time.
To be fair to Mrs. Deagle, rules are rules, and if you can’t pay your rent then perhaps you shouldn’t have chosen to live in such an expensive house in the first place. Allow me to give you a fiver’s worth of free advice; don’t live beyond your means, young family. Yes, I understand that unexpected tragedy befalls people from all walks of life, and perhaps this family of paupers had simply found themselves victim to a patch of decidedly rotten luck, but as Kurtis Blow once said, “These are the breaks.” When I was but a boy my parents survived Thatcher’s Britain not by going to the landlord with their hat in their hands, saying, “C’mon, guv’nor. Can we just ‘ave a lil’ more nickle to pay our Burton?” No, they didn’t. They knuckled-down, and pulled their socks up, and did a bunch of other clichés, just to make sure that we always had a roof over our heads. Or something.
Anyway, contractual obligations of paying tenants aside, next to face the wrath of Mrs. Deagle in the days leading up to Christmas was the bank of Kingston Falls, and more specifically, the hero of the movie, Billy Peltzer, the cashier of said bank. Mrs. Deagle hates Billy, and she hates his father even more, which is kinda understandable since the elder Peltzer is a crackpot inventor, trying to peddle hopeless inventions to anyone who’ll buy them. But most of all, Mrs. Deagle hates Billy’s dog, Barney, because Barney accidentally destroyed her specially imported Bavarian snowman. She actually threatens the poor mutt, and then when it jumps up at her, she claims she’s been attacked, presumably so she has just cause to have the poor pup put down by the authorities. I’m not sure why the dog is in the bank, actually. Maybe he works there. I don’t know. Anyway, that’s not important. What’s important is that she threatens the dog. This I can’t abide. You may cast out a family onto the street for not paying their rent, hell, cast them all out. Make them all homeless. But you don’t threaten to kill a dog in my town. Not at Christmas.
Jerk-off Quote: “I’ll catch the beast myself. He’ll get what he deserves, a slow painful death. Maybe I’ll put him in my spin-drier on high heat.” Mrs. Deagle, threatening Barney the dog with an excruciating Christmas death.
Comeuppance: Man, oh man, does Mrs. Deagle get it. Honestly, this is one of my favourite, all-time movie scenes. It’s right up there with that sit down between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken in True Romance, and that bit in Commando where Arnie gets all tooled up in his little Speedos. So basically, the Gremlins play around with Mrs. Deagle’s stair lift while she’s out, and then when she sits down in it to head up to bed, it goes totally haywire, speeds up to near the speed of sound (not proven) and hilariously catapults her out of an upstairs window to the cold, unforgiving street below. Perhaps it’s a metaphor for how she’d previously condemned a family to presumably die on the street earlier in the movie, or perhaps it’s just a fucking gnarly stair lift related murder. Either way, it rocks, and she totes deserves it. It’s so good, here’s the YouTube video.
Jerk-off Rating: If Mrs. Deagle was a Christmas present, she’d be the Gillette set that the Aunt you hardly ever see gets you every year.
Tune in next week – same jerk time, same jerk channel – to find out who’s next in our celebration of cinema’s ultimate jerks.