St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

“Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly” (1970)

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly

Me: Please tell me we’re watching “Girly” tonight!

Parker: Yeah we’ll give it a go.

Me: You’re going to be a wet blanket tonight, aren’t you.

Parker: I’m perfectly willing to watch it.

Me: “Perfectly willing!” After all the crap you’ve made me sit through lately. How can you say this doesn’t look great?

Will Parker’s elegant and mysterious reserve prove to be the wiser course? Will my enthusiasm for this film be rewarded? Find out as we delve into the strange world of… Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly.

'Grey Gardens' meets 'Spider Baby'.

And Jesus, what a strange world it is. Four characters with severe brain damage play happy families — a mother, a nanny, a daughter, and a son. The reason I say they have severe brain damage is that they constantly talk in hyper twee, infantile English. They chant nursery rhymes and playground poetry, they play with spinning tops and slippery-dips, they never even refer to each other by name — only as Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, and Girly. Oh, and they’re serial killers. Dun dun dunnnn.

Girly gets incesty with Sonny.
Girly and Sonny in a shot that suggests they may be bonking. *May* be bonking. And the Pope may be Catholic.

Step one is they run around acting batshit crazy. Normally it irks me when the actors playing teenagers are clearly about twenty-five, but in this case it works because the whole point is that the characters are way too old for this shit. It’s a wonderfully creepy idea that they’re actually like thirty and still wearing prep-school shorts and caps.

Golliwog jack-in-the-box
There’s a lot of casual racism in this movie, but again the characters are supposed to be insane so I’m not mad about it. This ghastly thing is called a golliwog. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Step two is they lure some unsuspecting prat back to their huge, dilapidated mansion.

An unsuspecting prat.
No amount of paper hats can tame the tumultuous soul of this unsuspecting prat.

Step three is they make said unsuspecting prat play their game of happy families. When he gets tired and pissed off enough, he tries to escape and they murder him.

The pissed-off girlfriend of 'friend in two'.
This is a Big Mood.

The bulk of the movie follows the acquisition of a new family member, known as “friend in two”, who they manage to guilt and bully into staying with them by murdering his girlfriend (above), who didn’t seem too keen on the games.

Girly does a racist impression of an Asian person.
Not what an Asian person looks like.

Here’s where we get a nice touch — while our new guy is called “friend in two”, the family make other references to an unseen “friend in five”. And you slowly realize they’re imprisoning and torturing more than one new friend at the same time.

Friend in five makes a break for it.

“Friend in five” doesn’t seem all that bright, though. When he does make a break for it, he seems to stand around a lot in front of big bullseyes dressed in his pyjamas. Stupid man.

Sonny eats spitefully.
Sonny’s got a few Big Moods of his own. I wish I could eat this spitefully.

Eventually the family dynamic implodes for no very good reason and they all murder each other. Weird that the police never even show up in this movie. You get the impression that they live in this unreality where they could just happily keep on murdering people for ever.

Girly gets shot with a suction-cup arrow.

Although we never really get any “origin story”, I would love it if none of these family members were part of the original family. They just keep killing each other off and recruiting replacements. The family could be like 200 years old, they just get new members whenever they get pissed off with the old ones.

The Skinny

Mumsy

“My… name… is Addy-addy-shickory-dickory-dinya-prinya-Upon-the-larry-alla-balla-whisky-chinese-salt… just call me Girly.”

Batshit crazy and thoroughly enjoyable. This movie is Grey Gardens meets Spider Baby, and has an uncanny knack of echoing many movies that came after it. The nursery-rhyme dialogue gets tiresome after an hour and a half, but this movie is thoroughly unconventional, puts you out of your comfort zone, and has some nice subtleties to it as well.