Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1965)


USA. 1965.


Director/Story/Producer/Photography (b&w tinted) – Ray Dennis Steckler, Screenplay – Ronald Haydock, Music – Henry Price, Optical Effects – M.F.E., Makeup – Mary Demos. Production Company – Morgan-Steckler Productions


Vin Saxon [Ronald Haydock] (Lonnie Lord/Rat Pfink), Carolyn Brandt (Cee Bee Beaumont), Titus Moede (Titus Twinkly/Boo Boo), George Caldwell (Linc), Mike Kannon (Hammer), James Bowie (Benjie), Romeo Barrymore (Ape Trainer), Mary Jo Curtis (Irma La Streetwalker)


Three thugs pick the name of Cee Bee Beaumont out of the phonebook at random and make harassing phone calls to her. They stalk and abduct Cee Bee and then demand a ransom from her boyfriend, rock’n’roll singer Lonnie Lord. However, Lonnie is really the masked hero Rat Pfink, while Cee Bee’s gardener Titus Twinkly is Rat Pfink’s sidekick Boo Boo. Together the two fearless crimefighters head into action to rescue Cee Bee and foil the evildoers.

The name of Ray Dennis Steckler has developed a cult among aficionados of B movies and the audiences for Psychotronic cinema. Steckler made a host of B movies during the 1960s and 70s but the one he will always be known for is the unforgettably titled The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964). Steckler’s other films include the psycho film The Thrill Killers (1964); the comedic monster bash The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters (1965); the evil child film Sinthia, the Devil’s Doll (1968); The Chooper/Blood Shack/Curse of the Evil Spirit (1971) about a vengeful American Indian spirit; the horror porno Sexorcist Devil (1974); and the psycho film The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher (1979) and its sequel The Las Vegas Serial Killer (1986).

Rat Pfink a Boo Boo holds almost as culty a position in the Ray Dennis Steckler oeuvre as Incredibly Strange Creatures does. Rat Pfink a Boo Boo apparently started life as a psycho film. You can clearly see which parts these are – the relatively seriously scenes at the start where the three hoodlums stalk and abduct Carolyn Brandt. Steckler generates fair suspense during the scenes stalking Brandt, even if they go on far too long, while the rock’n’roll numbers are certainly perfectly listenable. However, these scenes feel at odds with the rest of the film. Indeed, the rest of the time you are not sure what type of film Rat Pfink a Boo Boo is trying to be at all – a psycho film, a hip work of Beat Generation counter-culture, a rock’n’roll film, or a tongue-in-cheek superhero film. It seems to abruptly swing through any of these at a moment’s notice.

On the other hand, while Rat Pfink a Boo Boo starts passably well, there is the point about a third of the way in where the film nosedives and never recovers. This is the scene where Vin Saxon/Ronald Haydock and Titus Moede suddenly emerge wearing superhero costumes that consist of shabby tights, ski masks and even a joker’s hat that has bells and lights on its tips. This is the point that Rat Pfink a Boo Boo launches into being a superhero parody, or at least what one takes to be a superhero parody – it is hard to tell if the film is being meant tongue-in-cheek by Steckler or is just being incredibly bad. The film contains what is possibly the lamest fight scenes ever committed to celluloid – after abducting Carolyn Brandt, the kidnappers just sit around in somebody’s backyard and then engage in a fight scene that takes place accompanied by dumb sound effects and without the slightest bit of conviction upon the part of the actors. There are classically bad pieces of dialogue, like where the two superheroes prepare: “Remember, we only have one weakness.” “What’s that?” “Bullets. Let’s go and fight some crime.” After sorting out the hoodlums, Rat Pfink and Boo Boo must then deal with an escaped ape that has kidnapped a girl. These scenes do at least appear to be intended as comedy – with Vin Saxon doing ape impressions before trading fisticuffs with the gorilla and offering up lines like: “Ape – put that girl down.” At the very end, everybody that has appeared in the film, even the ape, appears boogieing on a beach and we even see panels from Rat Pfink and Boo Boo’s own comic-book.

Rat Pfink a Boo Boo of course comes accompanied with all the amusing behind-the-scenes stories of any Ray Dennis Steckler (or indeed any Z-budget) film. The title was originally intended to be Rat Pfink & Boo Boo but the ‘&’ was inadvertently changed to an ‘a’ because of a typo in the lab. There are also all the funny shot-on-the-fly stories – how the parade scenes that finish the film were shot on inspiration when a parade just happened to be passing and Steckler simply got his two costumed actors to join in and filmed them as though the parade were in their honour.

The most interesting part about Rat Pfink a Boo Boo would appear to be its coincidence with tv’s Batman (1966-8). Almost certainly, Batman and its campy, tongue-in-cheek take on comic-book superheroics had some influence on Rat Pfink a Boo Boo. The similarities in style are so much that it is impossible to believe otherwise. However, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo also has a copyright date of 1965 – which is one whole year before Batman appeared on tv screens. This leads to the intriguing possibility that either enormous coincidence is in play or that Rat Pfink a Boo Boo actually had some type of inspiration on Batman. Either that or the far greater likelihood that Ray Dennis Steckler has deliberately gone and fudged his copyright date with the intention of giving the impression that his film came out first.

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