KENNY & CO.
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Produced by Don Coscarelli
Written by Don Coscarelli
Director of Photograpy Don Coscarelli
Music by Fred Myrow
Cast: Dan McCAnn, Michael Baldwin, Jeff Roth
1976/90 mins/Color/Dolby Stereo
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
I've been a movie fan my whole life and I've heard the term "lost film" numerous times over the years. I've always felt that the idea of a "lost film" referred to an older generation of movie lovers, as most of the movies that I wanted to see were only "lost" until they found their way to home video or cable. And yet, there were a handful of movies that I would read about occasionally, but had never seen (and I had the feeling that not many others had seen them either). One of those movies was KENNY & CO., an early film from PHANTASM director Don Coscarelli. The descriptions of the movie were always quite vague and it was quite hard to imagine a "wholesome" film coming form the man who gave us the flying sphere of death. Thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment, KENNY & CO. has now found its way out of obscurity and onto DVD.
Simply put, KENNY & CO. is a "slice of life" film -- it may be the ultimate slice of life film, as it borders on verite at times. Kenny (Dan McCann) is a 12-year old boy who lives with his parents. He is a fairly normal kid who likes to play with his friends and think about girls. His best friend is Doug (Michael Baldwin of PHANTASM), a born trouble-maker who lives with his dad, Big Doug (Ralph Richmond), a secret-service agent. Kenny and Doug love to pick on their younger neighbor, Sherman (Jeff Roth) -- who is always following the older boys.
As the film progresses, we see Kenny and Doug deal with issues such as bullies, elementary-school crushes, and the questions of life after death. (Trust me, it does fit into the story.) Kenny and Doug are also very excited about Halloween night, as Kenny has been working on his bear costume for months. Halloween will prove to be full of adventure for the boys and will force Kenny to face one of the biggest challenges in his life.
KENNY & CO. is a truly interesting film which must be judged on two levels. As a PHANTASM devotee, I intently watched the movie looking for any indication that this was a film from the future director of that horror classic. I was sure that KENNY & CO. would give some indication that Coscarelli would spend the bulk of his career working in the horror and fantasy genre. However, there isn't much in the film which points to Coscarelli's future. Of course, much of the cast of PHANTASM is in the film (including Reggie Bannister as Kenny's teacher), but other than that, KENNY & CO. is a straight-ahead drama, with touches of comedy. Many writers have pointed to the section of the film which takes place on Halloween as being both a) the main part of the movie, and b) a pre-cursor to PHANTASM. Well, neither is true, as the Halloween scenes last only about 10 minutes, and they are mostly played for laughs. The look of the film is somewhat similar to PHANTASM, as Coscarelli shows a penchant for tracking shots, and composer Fred Myrow features the kind of electric piano score which made PHANTASM memorable. Otherwise, if someone were to simply show you KENNY & CO. and ask you to guess what the director's next film was, PHANTASM certainly wouldn't be your first guess.
Putting the PHANTASM angle aside, KENNY & CO. must be judged on its own terms. To that effect, this is an odd little movie. Throughout the 1990s, the bulk of independent films were "slice of life" movies which dealt with a character or group of characters going through a particular situation. However, KENNY & CO. takes this idea to the extreme, as the film has no real plot, and only serves to document the lives and activities of Kenny and those around him. Sure, the movie has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and there are certain obstacles which Kenny must face or overcome, but there isn't one overriding story guiding the film. Instead, we get a razor-sharp view of the life of an adolescent in the 70s. Remember, this was before video games and cable TV, so kids had to make their own fun. Thus, we see Kenny and Doug building a race car, skateboarding, and watching a guy lift weights (man, that sounds like fun). Along the way, Kenny learns some life-lessons, such as standing up for one's self (and others) and dealing with the death of a loved-one. The lack of a true plot actually gives the film an air of suspense, as one doesn't know what could happen next.
KENNY & CO. isn't a great film, nor is it a bad one. Actually, it's a bit hard to judge a movie is either a carefully crafted piece of cinema, or simply a movie in which the director set up a camera and had a bunch of kids run around. In truth, KENNY & CO. is both of those things. The movie definitely has a home-made feel at times and the acting isn't always great. But, it also paints a nice portrait of the lazy, often confusing days of childhood. PHANTASM fans will certainly want to check this one out as a curiosity piece, and those who grew up in the 1970s may find it comforting to know that you weren't the only one with clothes that ugly.
KENNY & CO. has been brought to DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer shows some flaws, although given the film's age and obscurity, it doesn't look all that bad. The image is noticeably grainy and this persists throughout. The colors are OK, but they are washed out in some scenes. In the commentary, Coscarelli explains that some of the film was shot with diffused lighting, while other scenes weren't. These diffused lighting scenes look almost blurry, as the haloes around the characters are out of control at times. On the plus side, there are very few defects from the source material, and Anchor Bay was apparently able to track down a print which was in good shape. The DVD has a Dolby Digital stereo audio track which delivers clear dialogue and music. There is a slight degree of hissing to the track. The audio is good, but unremarkable.
The KENNY & CO. DVD contains a few extras. We start with an audio commentary from writer/director Don Coscarelli, associate producer Paul Pepperman, and star Michael Baldwin. This is a fun commentary as the three reminisce about this low-budget film. They all have surprising detailed memories about the making of the movie and Coscarelli's affection for the movie really comes through in his comments. "The Story of KENNY & CO." (12 minutes) is a making-of featurette which offers comments from Don Coscarelli, his father D.A. Coscarelli, Pepperman, Baldwin, and Bannister. The segment also features some behind-the-scenes stills and home movie footage showing the shoestring conditions on which the movie was made. The extras are rounded out by two "TV Spots" and a "Don Coscarelli Bio".
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©