Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

The Adventures of Mark Twain

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You see before you one of the very special few.  That’s right… I saw The Adventures of Mark Twain in the theater.

Mom took my baby sister and I to the movies, and this is what was playing.  Mom didn’t know much about it, I think, but I looked at what else was showing in March of 1985, and this was definitely a better choice than Ghoulies, anyway.  I remember it vividly, because the three of us were the only people in the theater.  I’d never had that experience before.  I didn’t know you could see a movie by yourself.  In fact, as I reflect, I think that’s still the only time I have seen a movie in a theater that no one else at all showed up for.

According to IMDB, it made a grand total of $849,915, so I guess there were a lot of empty theaters that March.

I can understand why it failed.  It’s hard to imagine who the intended audience is.  Its main characters are children, and we thought it was a children’s movie, but it is dark and scary and disturbing.

Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher stow away on a balloon piloted by Mark Twain, a sad, aging writer.  They just want to have an adventure, and maybe become famous.  Instead, they discover that something is terribly wrong on this adventure.  Twain, bitter, world-weary, and despondent after the death of his wife, is sailing his balloon directly at Halley’s Comet.

As they work to understand what Twain has planned, what their chances are of surviving it, and what to do about it, the three children explore Mark Twain’s written work.  It’s a tour that focuses on Twain’s later work – the dark, bitterer, angrier stuff.  After a brief stop at ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’ and a nod to Injun Joe, it leaps right into ‘The Mysterious Stranger.’

This is the bit that stuck with me as a kid.  Seriously, watch this.

And yet the movie was unpopular, if you can imagine that.  In a different universe, this is the movie that college students are getting stoned and watching over and over on DVD.

I re-watched the movie last night.  I wanted to see if it was as strange as I remembered from my childhood.  And, no, it’s actually stranger.  And clearly written by people who knew and loved Twain – all of Twain, not just the homespun sweetness of ‘Tom Sawyer.’

I love Twain, as it happens.  Now I wonder if my love of Twain’s work might have been born in this movie, a long time before I ever read his work.


Written by Contented Reader

January 2, 2015 at 6:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized


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