Motorama (1977) from Tuna

Motorama (1991) is a seriously strange film, and was probably created to become a cult classic. A ten year old boy, sick of his drunken abusive parents arguing, makes special stilts, breaks his piggy bank, steals a Mustang, and drives off to play Motorama, a filling station contest. With a minimum purchase of $5.00, you get Motorama cards. Pull off the seal, find  the letters to spell Motorama, and you win $500 million. The first odd thing is that nobody seems to notice that he is only ten. He encounters one wacko after another, and has no end of mis-adventures, including the loss of an eye, and having his arm tattooed against his will.
The exposure comes from Cynthia R. King. Gus (Jordan Christopher Michael) is sitting by his car at a vista point opening Motorama cards, and a couple  ask if they can "borrow his back seat to get it on." When he doesn't even look up, that is exactly what they do. The film takes place in a mythical country with mythical states that look a whole lot like Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. 


see the main commentary
The film is chuck full of cameo appearances, including Robert Picardo, Mary Woronov, Jack Nance, Michael J. Pollard, Flea, Meat Loaf, Drew Barrymore and Dick Miller. It is dark, and very long on what used to call off-beat energy. 

I don't want to reveal any more of the plot details, in case you decide to watch it. Technically, the film is well made, but it is a very strange film.   

Scoop's notes

Not only do people not notice that the kid is ten, but apparently nobody notices that the game is illegal. If any retailer ran this game in the USA in 1991, the Feds would have closed it down in about five minutes. An illegal game of chance occurs when a contest includes three elements: 

  • chance
  • consideration
  • a prize

All three exist in this case. It could become a legal game if supported by "no purchase necessary", or if the game were a game of skill instead of simply pure fortune. Even if it were legally constructed, with a "no purchase" disclaimer, it is customary to restrict participation to people 18 and over. That, however, is pretty much of a formality. When McDonald's does their Monopoly games, for example, they don't ask for your ID before giving you a game piece. Of course, a minor can't claim the prize, but I'm sure mom would be happy to claim the prize for you if you win a few million bucks. 

The director could easily have made the same movie with a game that actually could exist in reality. The kid could simply ask for a Motorama card under the "no purchase necessary" rule, and the clerk could simply ignore his age, as they usually do. 

DVD info from Amazon.

bare bones

But he didn't want to make that film. That would have located the film in our plane of existence, which was never intended. This isn't the USA, and it isn't 1991. It takes place in a fictional alternate universe with non-existent place names, "money" which looks like it was made at home with crayons, illegal games, and a ten year old who can cruise across the country in a 'Stang.

The guy who wrote this also wrote Scorsese's "After Hours"

If you're the right kind of person, this movie could represent your Valhalla. 

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.0 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C if the genre is cult black comedy.

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