THE EXCELLENT EIGHTIES: Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982)

Editor’s Note: Well, we polished off Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast and Gorehouse Greats movie sets! So, 62 films down and 50 more to go. Here’s our first review as we crack open Mill Creek’s Excellent Eighties 50-Film Pack for the rest of February. We’ll round up that set with all the links at the end of the month.

Joe Pesci gets an opportunity to sing in this movie, which is pretty much what I think he’s always wanted to do. By the age of ten, he was already At age 10, a regular on a TV show called Startime Kids with Connie Francis and then, he introduced his friends Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito to singer and songwriter Bob Gaudio, leading to the forming of The Four Seasons.

While attempting to break into a music career, he worked as a barber. In 1968, his album “Little Joe Sure Can Sing!” came out, in which he sang cover songs before he started a comedy act with Frank Vincent, doing Abbott and Costello mixed with Don Rickles jokes.

While living above and worked at Amici’s Restaurant, Pesci started acting, appearing in The Death Collector alongside with his partner Vincent. Four years after that movie, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro remembered his ability and called him to be in Raging Bull. After that, Pesci worked consistently — even if it was in small movies like this and Easy Money — before becoming a star.

He’s still singing. He just put out an album in 2019.

Ruby Dennis (Pesci) is a small-time lounge singer and bowling alley owner who is — like the man playing him — just trying to be a big star. When his sister abandons her son, he struggles to keep him away from a life of crime and has something of a spiritual awakening.

This movie was directed by a German director, Peter Lilienthal, which is odd for a movie so Italian in nature. It’s a dark little film, one on which Pesci’s character has the heart to make it, if not the talent.

Vincent, who is often in films with Pesci, is in this, as is Ed O’Ross (Itchy from Dick Tracy), Richard S. Castellano (Clemenza from The Godfather), Larry Rapp (who was also in Pesci’s short-lived TV series Half Nelson), Paul Herman (Heat), Evan Handler (Harry from Sex and the City) and Tony Martin (the husband of Cyd Charisse).

Most strangely, the character of Ben was played by Ben Dova, the stage name for actor, comedian and acrobat Joseph Spah. Spah not only lived through the crash of the Hindenburg but was a suspect in its destruction. That’s because during the flight, he was granted access to the interior of the zeppelin so he could feed and walk his trained dog Ulla. As the cargo room was not far from the spot in the portion of the ship where the fire started, two different books on the disaster claim that Spah was behind the explosion.

The FBI investigated Spah and cleared him. Sadly, Ulla did not survive.

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