O.C. (Daniel Jenkins) and Stiggs (Neill Barry) are two teenagers from Phoenix, Arizona who have one goal in life: to make trouble for the rich Schwab family headed by insurance salesman Mr Randall Schwab (Paul Dooley). Tonight, the last night of summer vacation, the boys wait until the Schwabs are indoors to watch their latest advertisement on TV, then climb over the wall of the residence and make mischief by stealing the lobsters the family have been cooking and getting hold of the telephone. Settling down in the lawn chair, Stiggs makes a long distance call to an African President, Bongo, who is his personal hero and begins to tell him the story of the summer and how successful they became...
You could tell how far director Robert Altman's star had fallen since the seventies when the only major studio work he could get was making a teen comedy, and of despite being based on a National Lampoon story it didn't turn out like Animal House or any of its imitators. No, this was immediately identifiable as an Altman work, with a satirical look at suburbia - Altman is just as determined to ridicule the Schwab family as his title characters are. In fact, O.C. and Stiggs could be the teen equivalent of Hawkeye and Trapper from MASH, but unlike that classic this effort was welcomed with disastrous reviews.
The original story was written by Tod Carroll and Ted Mann, and Mann scripted the film verison with Donald Cantrell, although considering the director no small amount of improvisation must have been involved. The result is a particularly relaxed comedy, perhaps a little too relaxed to contain real belly laughs, but there is a near-constant stream of chuckles to be had here. The reason for O.C and Stiggs' vendetta against the Schwabs is easily missed in the overlapping dialogue, but when they go and see their school counsellor they inform him that the Schwabs refused to pay O.C.'s grandfather (Ray Walston) his retirement insurance.
This means O.C. will have to leave at the end of the summer to live with his uncle, not finish his senior year in school and put his grandfather into a miserable rest home, which leads to a whole run of outlandish antics with the wealthy family in question at the receiving end. For example, the nerdy son, Randall Jr (John Cryer), is soaked when he tries a drinking fountain that our heroes have sabotaged with a small explosive, but they have bigger fish to fry. The spoiled daughter, Lenore (Laura Urstein), is about to be married, so obviously a chance like that to create mayhem won't pass O.C. and Stiggs by.
The first thing is to buy the most obnoxious second hand car they can find, and make it even more offensive, with a roaring engine, huge wheels and a hydraulic system that raises the chassis: perfect for attending the wedding in. Next, an inappropriate present, a machine gun bought from the local Vietnam War veterans (one of whom is Dennis Hopper as the same character he plays in Apoclaypse Now, camera and all). However, when they reach the reception O.C. finds possible love with guest Michelle (Cynthia Nixon) and dances with her in a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire number, for the hell of it. This doesn't stop Randall Jr from firing off the gun, of course. Any serious moments seem out of place, as when one character dies, because largely the laidback humour is more successful, wryly but precisely spoofing the supposedly respectable characters and championing the misifts. This was barely released and gained its cult from the rare TV showings and video tapes, but it's worth seeking out. Music by King Sunny Ade (who is O.C.'s personal hero).
Maverick director responsible for some of the most distinctive American films of the last 35 years. After serving in the military during the 1940s, Altman learnt his filmmaking craft by making advertisements and training films before breaking into TV, where he worked throughout the sixties. Altman's breakthrough feature was MASH in 1970, an acerbic Oscar-winning Korean war comedy that introduced his chaotic, overlapping narrative style. Throughout the seventies, Altman turned in a series of acclaimed films including Images, Brewster McCloud, California Split, The Long Goodbye, the western McCabe & Mrs Miller and the brilliant musical drama Nashville. The 1980s proved to be less successful, as Altman struggled in a decade of slick blockbusters to raise funds for his idiosyncratic movies; nevertheless, the likes of Popeye, Fool for Love and Vincent & Theo were all flawed but interesting work.
Altman returned to the A-list of directors with 1992's cameo-laden Hollywood satire The Player, which was followed by the superb ensemble drama Short Cuts, based on the stories of Raymond Carver. Since then until his death Altman turned in almost a film a year, which ranged from the great (Gosford Park, The Company) to the less impressive (Dr T & The Women, The Gingerbread Man), but always intelligent and unusual. At over 80, Altman remained an outspoken anti-Hollywood figure who showed no sign of slowing down right until the end, with his last film A Prairie Home Companion released in 2006.