Charlie McCready (Bob Crane) has a comfortable job as a lawyer to a high-flying corporation, a nice house in the Los Angeles suburbs, and a happy, healthy family, so why is it he is permanently disgruntled these days? It's all down to his daughter Wendy (Kathleen Cody) who is about to start college: now she has grown up, he worries about her future, and the fact that she continues to hang around with what he regards as a bunch of losers and layabouts she has known since she was a little girl. Take her boyfriend Bart (Kurt Russell) - what is he ever going to do with his life? No, Charlie is well aware what is best for his daughter, and that's a boy just like himself, someone he can be proud of...
If the notion of a father essentially wanting his daughter to marry a younger version of himself doesn't creep you out, then here's the Disney comedy you've been searching for. But back in 1973 when this was finally released after the executives felt they had a bomb on their hands, the general public tended to agree with that assessment and the movie floundered among a collection of other live action efforts from the studio which were having issues with finding an audience now they were being seen as rather passé in the seventies. No longer were Tommy Kirk or Annette Funicello available, or maybe even wanted, to act in their family fare, and Kurt Russell was being touted as their latest big star for the seventies.
Russell would become a substantial celebrity, and win a cult following to boot, but that was down to the choices he made after leaving Disney for work with John Carpenter and other young directors making an impact on the movie landscape, not because he was playing second banana to a hasbeen sitcom star as he was here. Bob Crane was that man, and Hogan's Heroes was that comedy, which had been cancelled in 1971 leaving him heading for bankruptcy as the roles began to dry up, so identified with the plucky P.O.W. camp inmate colonel was he, a career affliction affecting many small screen stars who have one big hit. But that's not the reason Crane is recalled today, nor the reason viewers would often seek out Superdad, no, it's because of the sensational revelations about his sex life.
Not only those, but the way that private life appeared to lead to his eventual murder in 1978, as detailed in the Paul Schrader biopic Auto Focus which concentrated on making Crane look like the sleaziest swinger in town. Couple that with the big selling book of the crime, and interest in Crane's habit of making his own pornography in the comfort of his own home (and others') has unavoidably coloured the perception of his performances, so if Hogan can be viewed by the fans without placing uncomfortable images in the mind, rather less accomplished works like Superdad were more casualties of that. It didn't help that Crane was giving an uneasy reading of a role that didn't do him any favours, as Charlie tries to keep tabs on Wendy by following her around and even at one point spying on her through her college dorm window.
Oh, he gets the wrong window, so it's not an Animal House situation, but he does gain a criminal record for his troubles. While maybe not quite as terrible as its reputation back in the seventies, it was certainly a strange film as Disney's ageing heads tried to make sense of the younger generation this was ostensibly aimed at, while appealing to the parents in a bemused "kids today, huh?" attitude that only creates a muddle of point of view. Any reasonable person would want the best for their daughter, but to go to the needling lengths Charlie does, even inventing a university place for Wendy to get her away from Bart and her pals, is difficult to react to as anything but skincrawling. Even then, the film throws in such randomness as Charlie going waterskiing, with the unwanted chance to hear his bloodcurdling shriek yet again, or beating up a crazed artist who claims he is engaged to Wendy. Superdad does have academic interest as it wrestles between the generations, plainly illustrating what a perilous state Disney's creatives were in during the seventies, but it's only funny peculiar. Music by Buddy Baker.