Ever since I started recapping bad old Mormon movies people have been telling me I “must” check out Measure of a Man. It appears to be a 1962 film produced by BYU about the perils of youthful gallivanting. I don’t know the plot of this film. I will be recapping it as I go.
We begin with some boys tapping on a jukebox blasting an outrageously rad big brass band rendition of a truly wicked song: When The Saints Go March In.
The teens of the day are not messing around with their raucous and irresponsible behavior, evidenced by their leaving a bowling alley and jumping over the car doors into their red convertible.
They speed away, whistling at women and laughing.
We are then introduced to one of the boys, Mike, age 16.
“It doesn’t seem possible that Mike’s so big and so . . . so grown up,” his 68-year-old mother who, if my math checks out, had Mike at 52, thinks through voiceover as she watches him out the window shooting hoops in the driveway.
“I wonder if Mike’s ever kissed a girl. I mean, like, seriously.” she continues with a look of concerned disapproval.
Mom decides Mike has not kissed a girl. “His father was interested in girls,” she thinks, “but Mike seems to take after MY side of the family.”
Her side of the family includes a lot of people who never date, routinely go on undisclosed vacations in booty shorts every June, and then bring their longtime “roommate” to family reunions.
Mike then enters the kitchen. Mom tells him not to throw the basketball in the house. “Awe ma! All you and dad ever say is ‘stop this’ and ‘stop that!’” Mike objects.
Mom says “someone has to put on the brakes or the house would turn to shambles!”
Mike changes the subject and tells his mom he’s going down to the drive-in for a root beer. “I’ll be back around ten,” he says in such a strong mid-century Utah farmer accent that the word “ten” somehow manages to be 25 syllables long.
Mike explains that he is going with Hal and Blaine, and based on mom’s facial expression, Hal and Blaine might be Soviet communists. Mom winces and suggests Mike invite them to the house for a root beer instead (so she can keep an eye on things).
“A guy’s gotta get out of the house every once in a while,” Mike objects.
Mom vaguely notes that she’s heard about Mike’s friends’ reputation as he storms off to his bedroom where he brushes his hair for a VERY long time and gets his own over-the-top sing songy voiceover.
“What’s mom worried about? I can handle Hal and Blaine. . . . The trouble is you never know what those characters will come up with neaeaext!” I cannot overstate how many unnecessary vowels Mike inserts into every word he says. It’s so bad that even though this was filmed sixty years ago, he still hasn’t actually finished saying that last sentence.
Also, I am so excited to see how naughty these boys actually are. Based on my extensive experience in this genre, I’m predicting the moral turpitude doesn’t extend beyond mild sarcasm and just the whisperings of a personality.
“I wonder how come mothers know sa (sic) much,” Mike thinks a thought no teenage boy has ever actually thought as he pops a number of pimples.
Steam and press, Mike! And not until it’s ready! This is exactly why proper skin care should be a required unit in public schools.
Then there’s a brief pointless musical number where Mike picks up a trombone and plays “When The Saints Go Marching In.” We are 4:49 into this and we’ve already heard this song twice.
Hal and Blaine pick up Mike and three boys go joyriding in the red convertible from such hits as the beginning of this very film.
We are treated to quite a long montage of the boys changing lanes very thoughtfully and using turn signals until finally Blaine stands up in the car and yells “hey! The cops!”
The three very white boys pull up next to an officer so Mike can flash the white pride sign at him from their vehicle that says "Dukes" on the passenger door. This is, so far, unfortunately the most realistic exchange of human interaction we’ve seen in this film.
The boys eventually make it to a drive-in where a waitress with the most confusing accent I’ve ever heard says through voiceover as she delivers some root beers, “these boys won’t even be good for a nickel tip! My mother told me there’d be days like this!” Except when she says it, it sounds more like this: “these boiizz want evan be good forrr a nickel TEEEAAAAP. My momma TOLD me theaeare’d be dayzzz like theeeeeeiiisss.”
As the boys receive their root beer, Hal asks the waitress, “what time do you get off work, darling.”
I don’t know exactly what I mean when I say this, but Hal has murderer jaw and the eyes of someone who will never experience consequences.
The waitress says her shift doesn’t end until way past Hal’s bedtime. Hal responds, “Wouldn’t you like to meet three fine men?”
“Yeah!” The waitress answers. “Where are they?”
Home girl does not care about that nickel tip.
Hal suggests they go someplace else to hunt for women. “Ah, I don’t know.” Mike says. “I promised ma I’d be home early.”
“I never promise my mom NOTHIN!” Blaine tells Mike. “She’s glad if I even come home at allllll!”
Look, I’ve now had to spend several minutes with Blaine and I don’t mean to be harsh but I think he may be overestimating his own appeal here.
The waitress then tells the boys their order comes to 31 “ceaeaeants.” “All I got is confederate money, suga’” Mike says as he tosses her a coin. I guess this means her accent is supposed to be southern?
Yup. The boys drive off as the waitress mutters “Yankees!”
I've decided the only explanation for what we just had to witness is she's in the Witness Protection Program and no one has had the heart to tell her she can't pull off a fake southern accent.
In any event, I have no idea what the purpose was of the exchange we just witnessed. I’m adding this particular note after actually finishing the film and I can tell you, the southern waitress never returns. There is no reference to anything that happened in that scene again. There was no character development. There wasn’t even clunky exposition to push the plot forward. That was four minutes of my life spent on terrible accents and an exchange of goods and services and there was no point to any of it.
Anyway, the boys speed along the highway as Mike puts his hands up behind his head and thinks “man, this is living. A fast car and not a thing to worry about.” Mike has obviously not discovered TV and Indian food.
For some reason his voiceovers at this point are all done in a whisper. “Of course, there’s mom at home worrying about me. Ah, she’s got nothin’ to worry about! I can handle these guys!”
Mike continues to think about the evening plans. “I don’t know much about wild girls. Might be educational?” which are the exact thoughts that convinced me to try dating women for a very long time.
Mike tells Hal to speed up.
Hal is now going very fast. Like, 55 miles per hour.
Finally Hal gets his own voiceover. “Here I am barely making these turns and he says ‘step on it’!”
Hal’s inner-monologue then takes a turn I was not expecting. “Mike doesn’t know it, but after we pick up some wild girls . . . we’re heading to Eagle City to get some beer! Then we’ll see what a big talker he is!”
I don’t totally understand what is happening, but it seems clear that girls gone wild are on their way and for some reason they’ll need to go to Eagle City to locate the most mild alcoholic beverage available.
The reckless driving continues for a while. Eventually Blaine’s voiceover recaps the parts of the situation that are not even remotely ambiguous. “What’s the matter with these guys? Are they nuts or something? Going around these big turns. As it is you'll have to uncurl my toes. Then big Mike tells him to step on it!”
Men will literally all drive themselves off a cliff while inner-monologuing instead of go to therapy.
Blaine shouts to Hal, “go man! Go!” which makes no sense considering his apparent concern about their speed.
They then arrive at their destination safely.
What was the point of all that? Did they not have a car accident budget and they didn’t realize it until after they already filmed the mildly reckless driving? Does anything actually happen in this film? Are we ever going to actually meet any wild girls? Am I in hell right now? Is that southern waitress Satan?
In this new café the boys start hitting on another blonde waitress who is the actress who played the evil heavy petting enthusiast whose entire life was destroyed when she made out with a man in college in How Do I Love Thee.
Yes, I hate that I am now at a point where I recognize the actors in these films and their body of work.
OMG she even has almost the same character name in this movie. In How Do I Love Thee she was Penny, but this time she’s Peggy. She also seems to have the same one-dimensional personality and reputation for, I don’t know, being interested in men and not having a hairdo so old the last time it got wet was when the Titanic sank? Man. BYU did Peggy dirty in the 60s.
Peggy tells Mike, Hal, and Blaine that these two wise guys over on the other side of the restaurant put her tip in a malt shake so she would have to fish it out. Hal offers to go over there and “cream them,” which I desperately want to see happen.
This film is about Mike being tempted by reckless youths, but it should be about the way men treat waitresses. And how Mike's mother's family may entirely consist of members of the Village People.
Just then Peggy’s friends or grandmothers Sue and Jackie show up. “Oh good! Now we can have some fun,” Peggy says.
The wise guys who bullied Peggy are never again seen or referenced. WHY.
Peggy tells the group her shift is ending and she needs to go put on her “face” so they can take off and have a really swell time. “Come on, Hal! I want you to come meet my boss!” she says as she leaves Sue and Jackie with Mike and Blaine.
“Man. How does a guy get involved in a crazy deal like this anyway?” Mike thinks.
WHAT? I am SO confused. What is the crazy deal? That he’s in a café with girls at 8:00 PM on a Friday? Literally nothing has happened apart from Peggy, who seems genuinely lovely, introducing her two friends in a public place to these guys.
“These chicks are not the greatest,” Mike thinks about these two very conservatively dressed young women who have done nothing other than demurely say “it’s nice to meet you” so far.
“I can’t believe Sue is THIS kind of a girl.”
Again. WHAT????? Am I watching an edited version of this? Did I miss a scene where Sue robs a bank and then starts an oppressive sex cult?
Also, Mike just met Sue. She hasn’t done or said anything. Setting aside his nauseating holier-than-thou hubris, there is no foundation for him to have any expectations for what kind of person Sue is and there is no basis for determining how she stacks up to those expectations.
I know I shouldn’t expect much from films produced in the 60s by the same university where I was forced to take a religion class in which a paid college professor taught us that dinosaurs never lived on Earth and we only have those bones because God borrowed land from another planet to make this one 7,000 years ago. But this is just lazy! At least I can follow the unhinged alien dinosaur logic!
Mike decides to go call his mom.
As he’s waiting for the operator to connect the cord thingy to the switchboard thingy to whip the horse into running on the conveyor belt or however phones worked back then, Hal walks by and teases Mike about calling his mother, which causes Mike to hang up the phone.
Hal then suggests to the group they drive up to Eagle City to get some beer. Both Mike and that absolutely wretched Sue (for some reason) look uncomfortable with this.
Mike says he’d rather stay in town and “drag Main,” which causes Hal to call him chicken. “Mike’s not chicken!” Peggy defends him. “And just to prove it he’s going to come along to Eagle City and have one little teeny weeny beer!”
There’s yet ANOTHER driving montage, this time in a full clown car.
Meanwhile, Mike’s mother back at home is not pleased. She’s sitting on the side of her bed thinking “where in the world is THAT BOY!?”
Mom mentions several times she doesn’t want to wake her husband because he’ll be furious if he finds out Mike isn’t home yet. But she finally decides to go for it anyway. John, the husband, does not give one single damn about any of this.
“He’s a good boy. He’ll come home.” John says. “He’s probably down at the library.”
It’s 1:00 AM.
I know it’s probably too late for this advice, but ladies: if you want to be married to a man in 1962, set your expectations very low.
The kids arrive in Eagle City and pull up to a door that helpfully says “BEER” on it.
Mike tells everyone to go on in because he wants to stay in the car and talk with Sue. “Ok,” Hal delivers totally unnecessary exposition. “The owner is a friend of mine. He thinks I am 21. He will sell me some beer and then we will bring it out to the car to drink it.”
We finally get a voiceover from Sue. “How did I EVER get mixed up with THIS bunch of creeps?!”
Sue thinks about Mike and decides that he’s cute but probably “wild.”
Mike thinks about Sue. “Man,” his voiceover says. “I bet this girl necks like crazy!” To be clear, this is spoken in a tone of supreme disappointment. Mike is not impressed with his completely baseless assumptions about Sue’s first-base promiscuity.
The kids come out with a few cans they purchased inside. “Oh boy. Beer.” Sue says, monotonically.
Hal hands them the drinks and then everyone goes back inside for unspecified reasons, again leaving Mike and Sue alone.
Sue is in turmoil. She doesn’t want Mike to think she’s a square, but she “can’t think of anything worse than beer.”
I can think of several things worse than beer, starting with being on a date with Mike, who has the personality of a bargain bin full of Christian DVDs at the checkout of a corner market that sells jeans and cantaloupe in Beaver Utah.
Hal hands Mike and Sue cans of beer. Mike reads the ingredients aloud. The ingredients include “hops” and he assumes that’s what gives beer the “kick.” “Have you ever noticed how a beer can sweats?” he says to Sue. “A beer can sweats?” he then thinks as the camera zooms in on his perspiring forehead. “What about me?!”
“How many cans of beer do you think are being opened around the world right now?” Mike asks.
“Probably thousands if you count Germany and Switzerland,” Sue helpfully answers.
Lord I do not miss straight dating.
Mike contemplates what he’s going to do. “If you don’t drink some of this stuff this chick will think you’re a real clod(???).”
Sue has similar thoughts.
Suddenly the screen cuts out and we are presented with a question:
What would I do? Honestly, BYU, I would not be out at 1:00 AM.
I would be home, doing a cooling hydrating facemask and watching trash TV. I also wouldn’t be drinking beer in the middle of the night under any circumstances because it’s not worth the bloating. Whiskey nightcap? Sure. An entire pan of lasagna? Probably. But if I somehow ended up in the outrageously unlikely scenario where these kids drove me in a drafty car to another city just to buy one damn can of beer at 1:00 in the morning, I would immediately demand I be taken home and when they called me “chicken” that would remind me that I want some fried chicken and I’d change my demand to include a stop for just that on the way back to my goddamn house.
Obviously if I had been asked this in Sunday School I would have just said “I’d demand to be taken home” and leave out all that other context, mostly to impress the cute boy on the other side of the room who in his heart is vociferously praying the gay away.
We are brought back to Mike and Sue. Sue asks Mike if he’s going to open the can.
“That little lush,” Mike thinks. “Her father is probably a drunkard, too,” he fairly predicts based on absolutely no information.
Mike tells Sue he’s not going to drink it. “You’re not!?” a teary-eyed high-looking Sue gasps.
Mike and Sue both admit to one another they aren't, in fact, wild. We still have not been given a definition for this word.
The other kids come back out and Hal demands to know if they drank their beers. Hal is very concerned about whether Mike and Sue are drinking.
Mike tells Hal they didn’t drink the beers and they’re not going to!
Hal is disappointed. “We drove all the way here. I guess you and me are gonna have to kill these, Blaine,” he says.
“That’s the funny thing,” a now reluctant Blaine responds. “I suddenly got a pain in my side right here.”
“Well if you guys aren’t gonna drink, I don’t wanna drink,” a suddenly repentful Hal meekly offers out of nowhere.
Blaine then volunteers to take the beers back inside as Mike and Sue smile into one another's faces as they call their mothers in the background.
My takeaway. Mike is a real clod.
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