There’s No Real Way to Review One Got Fat (1963)
I’m breaking with my tradition from reviewing standard feature films for this particular entry. The only other time I have reviewed a short was when I took a look at another anomaly of filmmaking: Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
I can summarize for you what exactly you will be looking at if you even choose to seek One Got Fat out. This is (ostensibly) a bicycle safety film from the early sixties featuring a cast of actors dressed in grotesque “monkey customs.” The terrifying expressionless quality of the masks alone is enough to give any rational person nightmares.
There is also a (perhaps unintentional) cynical nature to the entire proceeding. Why? Because the aforementioned monkeys start making crucial “bicycle safety” mistakes and parish like teenagers in a slasher film. They are hit by cars, fall down manholes, and have their arches collapse on them. (That last thing happens when you don’t inflate your bike tires properly. You have to run on your own two feet…and bam!)
We are not dealing with something that is quite “good” or “bad,” but inexplicably odd. My movie reviewer capacities are momentarily switched off and I have the only human response that is reasonable: “What the fuck is this?”
There are, of course, subsets of that particular question: “Why the fuck does this exist?” Or the more accusatory: “What the fuck were they thinking?”
There is also the personal question: “Why the fuck do I even know this exists?”
The answer to that is relatively innocuous; one of my oldest friends called me to tell he and his wife were expecting a child. I wholeheartedly congratulated him, and then implored not to gross everyone out by posting the ultrasound photos on Facebook. (This is something my friend and his wife respectfully did refrain from. To the expectant parents out in the world; baby pictures are at least moderately tolerable. But do we really need to see the horror movie like spectacle of an unborn child via your ultrasound? Consider the people who eat and look at Facebook.)
Why did our conversation turn to obscure bicycle safety videos? I don’t know.
The experience of watching One Got Fat is almost impossible to describe. That won’t stop me from asking a bit of a loaded question.
What Exactly Is “Educational Content?”
This is a bit of a personal digression, but please follow me down the rabbit hole.
There was a time in my distant past when I had to suffer through Driver’s Ed. I assume that most of my readers have had to go through this humiliating experience; a full week of your life given away to constant drilling about traffic safety rules. I had come prepared, however, for the “highlight” of the class.
That’s right, I was dying with anticipation to watch gory videos. I couldn’t wait to be “scared straight” by having my eye sockets bludgeoned with the “worst” auto safety had to offer.
The instructor (in his best version of a “big pal” act) spent some time “lovingly” warning us about what we were about to watch.
After that, we began to sit through “the most traumatic experience of our young lives.” There was a disconnect; outside of the blood and gore, the videos were largely like watching a lost ‘50s sitcom episode. A badly dressed businessman would have a drink in his “vintage” living room, and then stumble out to his car. There would be an abrupt cut to a real, horrific automobile accident. The mayhem was rendered almost inoffensive because anything following a subpar episode of Ozzie and Harriet can’t be taken seriously.
Our instructor also completely switched his manner from “big pal” to “wannabe Freddy Kruger.” This meant that he had to point out every gruesome bit of mayhem to us after he continually pushed the pause button.
“Do you see that blob on the ground?” he screamed “That’s his lung.”
Was this educational? No. Was it properly scary? Absolutely not. No, this was one of the most hilarious experiences of my entire life.
I had chosen to sit all the way in the back of the classroom (possibly to limit my interaction with the other teenagers). I just sat there snickering and making mental commentary. All of this while my instructor continued to scream: “Do you see that red blotch on the highway? That was from his head flying through the windshield and bouncing…”
To bring this full circle to One Got Fat; there was absolutely no way I was ever going to learn from these videos. They might have been chalk full of “educational content,” but they had very little “educational value.”
Does One Got Fat have any “educational value?’
What Was The Original Reception for One Got Fat?
There are different ways that I can imagine ‘60s kids reacting to One Got Fat.
- · The Monkey masks traumatized the first groups of kids. They went home crying to their Mommies about how the Monkeys were coming for them at midnight.
- · The second group of kids were so befuddled by the over all oddness that they didn’t pay attention to the “educational content.” They were my spiritual ancestors; and they watched things ironically.
The one thing I can hand the film is that it does teach you something about proper educational etiquette. Use hand signals! Don’t ride on the sidewalks! Don’t ride against the flow of traffic! These are all valid pointers, aren’t they?
But; Why grotesque monkey suits? Why the death of innocents? Why the cheerful canned music?
I haven’t even mentioned…
The Greatest Twist Ending in the History of Educational Film
I haven’t mentioned that this film has a through line; there is one bicycle passenger that we never see. This is the kid who has his bicycle basket filled with his companions’ lunches. His face is never revealed, until after all of his friends have perished.
The “last man standing” is a human being, and not a grotesque monkey. The point is that he is too “evolved” to make such hazardous mistakes. He “gets fat” (hence the Zen like title) as he eats all his friends’ lunches alone. Monkeys make mistakes, but little human beings never do. Isn’t that a wonderful moral, kids?
I tell you, dear reader, that I just didn’t see this ending coming. This puts Jacob’s Ladder and The Sixth Sense to absolute shame.
The Original Question I Will Never Be Able to Answer
Why the fuck does this exist?
I feel slightly bad poking fun at One Got Fat because it reeks of “sincerity.” The people behind this little film worked hard, and had great intentions. They spent a ton of time making sure those Monkey masks looked just right.
Someone willed this little film into existence, and I congratulate them on that.
Now why not sit back and laugh at it?