100 Years, 66 Villains: #30 – #25
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 16, 2008
Bill Lumbergh, Office Space
Played By: Gary Cole
M.O.: I’m not going to pretend like I have any personal reason to shudder at the very mention of Bill Lumbergh. Fact is, I’ve never really had that horrific office experience–in fact, if there’s one complaint I could have about my current internship at Sirius it would be that there aren’t enough AAFs (Asshole Authority Figures) for me to sort of wink at my co-interns about, bonding through our mutual hatred. And even considering that, I’d always rather have a boss that I knew for a fact was more clueless than I was–better that than the other way around, right? Still, even if I don’t have that personal connection, it’d be extremely remiss of me to not include Lumbergh on this list, just for the iconic status that he’s achieved, becoming the very image of Boss-From-Hell upper-managment incompetence, sucking any sort of energy or creativity out of the workplace with every “Peter, hey….what’s happening?” God willing, I’ll never have to relate to this one on any level other than “man, good thing I don’t know anyone who wears suspenders.”
Classic Villain Quote: “Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too…”
Mitch Hiller, Enough
Played By: Billy Campbell
M.O.: “You wanna fight? I’m a man, honey. It’s no contest.” No abusive husband in cinematic history has laid down the law quite like Enough‘s Mitch Hiller, played by multi-medium That Guy Billy Campbell, perhaps best known to recent audiences as the prophetic Jordan Collier in recently cancelled sci-fi series The 4400. There’s a brief honeymoon period as he courts wife-to-be Slim (Jennifer Lopez), but soon she’s catching him cheating on her, and he decides that rather than go through the trouble of sneaking around and lying to her, it’d be easier just to show her the backside of his hand (or front side of his fist) when she complains. Slim goes on the run, and the stakes quickly get raised to life-or-death, as J. Lo realizes she has had the titular amount of Mitch’s shenanigans.
The classic moments come fast and furious as the two duel, but there’s one I’ve never understood–when Slim high-tails west with her old college boyfriend Joe, the wimpy dude who’s obviously still in love with her, and Mitch suddenly tracks her down and comes careening violently into the picture. “DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND,” he advises J. Lo, “THEY’LL BE FISHING HIS GUTS OUT OF LAKE WASHINGTON!” This would clearly seem to imply that Mitch has killed Joe (and violently disposed of his corpse), and indeed, as Slim struggles for her life, he is nowhere to be found. But in the last scene, Slim hooks up with a perfectly-fine-seeming Joe again, with no explanation given whatsoever. So what did Mitch do to him in that scene, exactly? Kidnap him for a few hours? Give him a couple of bucks and send him McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin while he takes care of business? And does a decidedly unconcerned-seeming J. Lo somehow sense that he’s lying when he says this, or does she just not care all that much? Very strange.
Not Without Precedent: I’ve still yet to see 80s TV Movie classic The Burning Bed–they don’t show it on IFC much, for some reason–but from the I Love the 80s clips, Robert Greenwald’s character probably taught Mitch everything he knows.
Mrs. Lisbon, The Virgin Suicides
Played By: Kathleen Turner
M.O.: I guess there’s no saying how anyone would react to the suicide of their youngest daughter–especially when there seems to be so little in the way of explanation–and until Lux (Kirsten Dunst) gives it up to Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) on the football field after prom, Mrs. Lisbon keeps her more insane impulses relatively in check. But once she starts imprisoning all her daughters after Lux’s indiscretions, you know that it’s only a matter of time until the film title applies to all five girls (well, maybe not the virgin part quite so much in Lux’s case, but the important part). The scene where she burns all of Lux’s records as she sobs on the staircase is particularly painful–although why any girl would cry so much for lack of Kiss is somewhat beyond me. The worst part is that James Woods’ father character really seems like he’d be a pretty good guy–just a typical dorky Science dad–without Turner’s stern, ultra-conservative influence overruling his more mild-mannered opinionating.
Impressive Resume: Hard to believe based on her steely performance here, but Turner was nothing less than the reincarnation of Barbara Stanwyck back in the 80s, playing fatale-ish roles with varying levels of seriousness in Body Heat, Prizzi’s Honor and The Man With Two Brains.
Rose Chausseur, The Ref
Played By: Glynis Johns
M.O.: “What is the matter with you? I thought mothers were sweet, and nice, a-a-and…patient! I know loan sharks who are more forgiving than you!” Gus’s (Dennis Leary) reaction to Lloyd’s (Kevin Spacey) mother is understated, if anything–Rose is pretty much the nightmare mother, and even moreso as concerns Lloyd’s wife Caroline (Judy Davis), the textbook nightmare mother-in-law. Domineering, manipulative, and completely unsympathetic, she constantly henpecks at Lloyd’s masculinity and undermines Caroline’s authority, making an already-memorable Christmas (in case you’ve missed it on TBS the last 15 December 25ths, burglar Gus is holding couple-on-the-rocks Caroline and Lloyd hostage while the couple try to host a family Xmas) a legendary disaster. Lloyd and Caroline get the last laugh, getting to tie her up and gag her while Gus prepares his escape route, but you get the feeling that that’s just going to make things that much more awkward come next Thanksgiving. (And as for having two crum Mums in a row…don’t worry, we got plenty of bad Dads coming up too)
Small-Screen Equivalent: Pure evil matriarch Livia Soprano, who not only would be assured a place on this list were TV roles acceptable, she’d be pushing for top honors.
Cobra Kai Dojo, The Karate Kid
Played By: Martin Kove, William Zabka, others
M.O.: You know the deal–hell, if you grew up even the slightest bit dorky in the 80s, you probably had nightmares about ’em, chasing you down in their “Around the World”-esque matching skeleton costumes. You definitely remember the quotes–“Get him a body bag!” “STRIKE FIRST! STRIKE HARD! NO MERCY!” and of course, the Order 66 of 80s teen film, “Sweep the leg!” But what you might not remember, and what I didn’t remember until watching the movie again recently, is how darn likeable that Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is. Even before Mr. Miyagi (Noryiuki “Pat” Morita) turns him into a crane-kicking machine, he’s not just some simpering nerd–he’s an athletic, affable, sympathetic guy who loves his mother and just had the misfortune to accidentally cross some bad dudes early in his California stay. He’s not Anthony Michael Hall, where even if you felt bad for the guy, you sort of understood that bullies risked runing their reputations if they didn’t pick on him at least a little. He’s just a good guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, up against a bunch of real assholes.
But for all the attention that Billy Zabka gets as lead bully Johnny Lawrence–and certainly he deserves it, personifying priviliged insider High School villainy to a T with his blond hair and arrogant demeanor–it’s really Martin Kove as dojo Sensei John Kreese that gives you the heebie jeebies in this one. He just seems so motivationless in his villainy–at least Johnny has turf to protect, and an ex-girlfriend to act jealous and entitled around. What’s in it for Kove to have his students beat up on some high schooler, cheating in their fights to the point of practically crippling him? I mean his Dojo has a rep for winning, sure, but is that win-at-all-cost-of-human-life mentality really the sort of thing that really got a Dojo good publicity out west in the 80s? Too bad it wasn’t Kove who would go on to appear as similar characters in Just One of the Guys and Back to School–he could’ve been an immortal.
Lesser-Known Knock-Off: The gang of bullies in 1992’s Sidekicks, torturing poor little Jonathan Brandis so much that he went and killed himself a decade later.*
Played By: Kim Walker, Shannon Doherty, Lisanne Falk
M.O.: Probably would be safe to say that most girls in the 80s would’ve rather contended with the Cobra Kai Dojo than with their female equivalent, the Westerberg High clique known as the Heathers (the shared first name of the three primary antagonists, Mrs. Duke, Chandler and McNamara). There was certainly no beating these Heathers by symbolically taking them down in a tournament–as J.D. (Christian Slater) found, the only way to stop the Heathers from spreading their villainy against Martha Dumptruck and her ilk was to actually kill them. Yet arguably the real innovation of Heathers was showing how despite their villainy, they still attracted people like Veronica (Winona Ryder), otherwise a well-meaning free-thinker, with their promises of hallway respect and college frat parties. (Scene cut from Karate Kid: Daniel, wishing for acceptance from the Cobra Kai crew, is encouraged to slip a roofie into Elisabeth Shue’s character’s coke while mini-golfing and date-rapes her inside the 15th hole windmill).
Lesser-Known Knock-Off: I thought Jawbreaker was gonna be so badass when I first saw the previews back in ’99, far before I first caught Heathers on Comedy Central. “Hm, that Rose McGowan is pretty right on,” I remember thinking. “But I can’t shake the feeling that this has probably been done somewhere before…and probably not quite so terribly…”