Bob Clark had a perplexing career in film.
The multihyphenate made one timeless, flawless picture that will run forever -- 1983's "A Christmas Story."
He also made a whole lot of other movies. Some were successful ("Porky's," "Porky's II"), some became notorious over time ("Black Christmas," "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things"), and some were just plain stinkers ("Rhinestone," "Baby Geniuses," "The Karate Dog").
How could the same guy who gave us a contemporary classic, a perennial holiday fave, also be responsible for talking tots and a Dolly Parton-Sylvester Stallone romance? Well, that was the peculiar, strangely endearing genius of Clark, friends and colleagues say in a new docu on the helmer.
"ClarkWorld," produced and directed by Deren Abram, is set to bow Nov. 29 in Cleveland as part of a two-day, 25th anniversary salute to "A Christmas Story," which was shot in and around Cleveland back when areas of the city could reasonably pass for the 1940 time period of the pic with only a little bit of dressing.
The movie about a 9-year-old Ralphie Parker's determination to secure the Christmas present of his dreams -- a Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle (aka a BB gun) -- is so beloved that the house used as the boy's home in the pic is now a tourist attraction and Cleveland is home to an annual "Christmas Story" celebration.
What makes "Christmas Story" so special? It starts with the source material, a story penned by radio humorist Jean Shepherd that so deftly captures the spirit of the season for a kid -- the good and the bad, the crass and the commercial, the sweet and the saccharine, the nobody-understands-me angst and the nervous excitement that borders on madness as the Big Morning approaches.
Clark's movie captures every bit of the sweetness and the edge in Shepherd's story. Thanks to a stellar cast --anchored by Peter Billingsley as Ralphie and Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon as his parents -- the movie can completely transport you back in time, not merely to an America on the cusp of World War II but to a time and a place that exists entirely out of time, but in our collective subconscious under the rough heading of "childhood."
It works as a sentimental journey even if you didn't grow up in the Midwest at a time when Dec. 25 was the day "around which the whole kid year revolved," as the narrator puts it in the movie.