Bad Boy Bubby (1993)



(director/writer: Rolf de Heer; cinematographer: Ian Jones; editor: Suresh Ayyar; music: Graham Tardif; cast: Nicholas Hope (Bubby), Claire Benito (Flo, Mom), Ralph Cotterill (Harold, Pop), Carmel Johnson (Angel), Syd Brisbane (Yobbo), Nikki Price (Screaming Woman), Norman Kaye (The Scientist); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Giorgio Draskovic/Domenico Procacci/Rolf de Heer; Blue Underground; 1993-Australia/Italy-in English)

“The success of the film is largely due to the bravura performance by Hope.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An Australian weirdo black comedy cult classic directed and written by the Netherland-born Rolf de Heer (“Ten Canoes”/ Dingo”/”Incident at Raven’s Gate”). It won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. One can’t deny its originality, offensive nature (lewdly pays homage to big tits and skewers organized religion), ambitions and its disturbing insights despite its sometimes muddled visionary effects.

Bubby (Nicholas Hope) is a demented man-child of 35. He has been imprisoned his entire life in a squalid windowless two-room apartment in Port Adelaide by his domineering corpulent depraved fanatical religious mother Flo (Claire Benito), who shaves him, bathes him, cooks for him, berates him and has sex with him. The born out of wedlock child can only communicate by mimicking what others say and do. He’s never been outside because mom told him you need a gas mask to breath because the air is poisonous. When Bubby’s long lost alcoholic derelict father Harold (Ralph Cotterill) returns pretending to be a pastor by being garbed in a priest’s collar, mom directs all her attention to him and incurs a jealous outburst from her son. Pop replaces Bubby in bed and when the lad makes a fuss, he’s thrown outside for the night. Bubby returns in the morning to suffocate them both to death with a cling wrap. We then follow his strange spiritual odyssey into the cruel world, where he encounters a Salvation Army group, restaurant pizza, an aspiring rock ‘n’ roll band (takes pot shots at rock music by having the demented Bubby turned into an icon singer for the band because of his mimicry skills of all his humiliations), feminists, a buggering in jail and, finally, meets the love of his life in caregiver Angel (Carmel Johnson). The overweight Angel, an abused child from a good home, is in charge of cerebral palsy victims and takes to Bubby when she sees there’s a real love between the desperate for love children and Bubby.

The success of the film is largely due to the bravura performance by Hope, who manages to look both sinister and vulnerable. He’s the innocent babe in the woods who moves out of the dark to find redemption by tapping into a love for others he has inside. It plays out as a parable over good and evil, and the ones who are on the side of good are all sinners who realize they need help to take responsibility for their lives and not the self-righteous who are too set in their ways to change.

The film was never widely distributed in the States supposedly over a scene showing a cat being suffocated to death, which drew the objections of animal right’s groups. But the filmmaker assures us no harm was done to the cat.