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Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss
Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss
Directed by Dick Bartlett
Produced by Fred Barzyk
Written by Jean Shepherd
Starring James Sikking

Dorothy Lyman

Jerry O'Connell

Jason Clarke Adams

Cameron Johann

Ross Eldridge

Music by Steve Olenick
Cinematography D'Arcy Marsh
Release date(s) August 6, 1988
Running time 89 minutes
Country United States
Language English
IMDb profile
Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss is a 1988 television comedy film written by Jean Shepherd and directed by Dick Bartlett, based on the 1968 short story by Shepherd. A satire of childhood recollections of annual family vacations, it follows the Parker family (of A Christmas Story) as they travel to a Michigan lakeside camp, the eponymous Haven. It was a co-production of The Disney Channel and PBS.

The film originally aired numerous times on the Disney Channel beginning August 6, 1988, then shortly thereafter on PBS nationwide, and was released by Walt Disney Home Video on VHS in 1993.

Plot

The blue-collar working world of 1950s Indiana, with period-style footage and clips from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, is accompanied by Shepherd's voiceover narration as the adult Ralph. The fourteen-year-old Ralph and friends, Flick and Schwartz, endure bureaucratic "terminal official boredom," to get their "working papers," to be able to apply for their first summer jobs.

The next day at breakfast, Ralph announces that he, Flick, and Schwartz have job interviews, and Mom notices that the family dog, Fuzzhead, (Shepherd's dog Daphne[1]) seems to be missing. Adult Ralph describes this as the beginning of the "Scary Fuzzhead Saga, which traumatized our family for years." The three friends interview at Scott's Used Furniture Palace, where adult Ralph describes the owner as "a cross between Rasputin and The Wolfman" (played in the film by Shepherd himself!). They are hired, in "a truly historic moment." They fantasize about what they'll do with all the money they'll make. Clocking in on the job, they proceed to their first assignment - depicted in stock footage as enslaved workers descending to a dark basement. Mom calls the police to report Fuzzhead's disappearance and announces to the Old Man, as he leaves for work, that she's "not going on any vacation" until she is found. She posts hand-drawn "reward" posters for her return and places an ad in the newspaper. The Old Man, at the Bluebird, the neighborhood bar, laments the likely delay of his vacation. The first day of Ralph's moving job is difficult and exhausting, as they struggle to move a mammoth refrigerator up five flights of stairs. At dinner Ralph is so sore and stiff his joints creak and pop. The next day, back on the job, they move an identical refrigerator up another seven flights of stairs. Over the next two weeks, Ralph "toils ceaselessly" at Scott's, while Mom relentlessly "like Ahab" searches for Fuzzhead, with visits to dog pounds and repeatedly dragging the Old Man out to drive around looking for her. At night, Ralph has eerie nightmares, including a towering, laughing refrigerator. The next day, having seen Mom's badly-sketched reward posters, "people from three counties arrived with their mutts, trying for the big reward." Ralph's summer job ends abruptly when they are fired. Then "a miracle" happens - the Old Man, driving around again with Mom, spots Fuzzhead in the rear window of a black Rolls Royce, and gives chase, all the way to the home of the rich dowager at whose doorstep she appeared. She returns to the family home, left with "only her memories", a montage of meals on crystal and pampered treatment. At dinner, Ralph fibs, saying he quit his job to spend time with the family. As a result, they are free to pack and, as adult Ralph describes, begin their "epic" road trip.


The trip includes drastic overpacking of the brown Chevy sedan, a reluctant starter motor, an endlessly carsick and complaining Randy, side trips to shop for unnecessary "slob art", a flat tire, running out of gas as the Old Man insists on only "Texas Royal Supreme Blue" gasoline, a misadventure at a gas station with an unseen enormous growling "meers hound," a boiled-over radiator as an occasion for a roadside picnic, and a missed detour sign and resulting circular detour due to squabbling among the kids. In the middle of a pasture, as cows surround the car, adult Ralph describes the scene: "beset on all sides by strange creatures, the lost mariner searches and searches, in the Sargasso sea of life." Rounding out the road trip, more unnecessary shopping, a Dutch lawn windmill being bought and put on top of the car, Ralph's confession of forgetting the fishing tackle, being stuck behind a live poultry truck, and panic over another "magically appearing" carbound bee. When they finally arrives at Clear Lake, the Old Man learns that the fish have stopped biting. Ralph discovers the Old Man had packed the fishing tackle after all, and they walk out onto the boat ramp to take in the view, as a few drops of rain fall. A torrential downpour develops, and in the cabin, leaks from the roof drip into every available pot and basin, as adult Ralph describes, all day, everyday of their vacation. At bedtime, Mom reassures him that the Old Man loves him, even though he never calls him by his real name (just "watermelon", "radish-top", "cookie cutter", etc.). A lightning strike knocks out power to the rain-drenched lakeside camp's welcome sign, and the credits roll.

Cast

Adult Ralph: Jean Shepherd

Old Man: James B. Sikking

Mom: Dorothy Lyman

Young Ralph: Jerry O'Connell

Randy: Jason Clarke Adams

Scott: Jean Shepherd

Flick: Cameron Johann

Schwartz: Ross Eldridge

Cop: Bill McDonald

Clerk: Marjorie O'Neill-Butler

Johnson: Edward Logan

Archie: W. Clapham Murray

Zudoc: Frank T. Wells

Gertz: Peter Gerety

John: Robert T. Colonna

Ace: Arnie Cox

Mrs. Kissel: Leslie Harrell

Animal Shelter Assistant: Dorothy Chiesa

Chauffeur: Martin Rayner

Colette: Annabelle Weenick

Grannie: John William Galt

Gas Station Attendant: Peyton Park

Ollie: Desmond Dhooge

Fuzzhead: Daphne

Production

The film was a co-production of "Disney, public TV's American Playhouse and Boston public TV station WGBH," funded by Disney, under the terms, according to Shepherd, that "they would have nothing to do with production." Fred Barzyk was producer for this film, as he was for Shepherd's other work for WGBH. It was produced from Shepherd's studio in Florida, and exterior scenes were shot in several locations around Dallas, Texas, to stand in for the film's "Pullman, Indiana".

Awards

The film was nominated for a Cable ACE Award for "Best Movie or Miniseries" in 1988.

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