The cinematic world is littered with mamas. Women who love their child no matter what. Their love is boundless. Ellen Ripley loved her kinda adopted daughter Newt so much she was willing to protect her from the aliens in Aliens. In Friday The 13th, Pamela Voorhees loved her little boy so much that she went on a love-influenced killing spree that would’ve made her son Jason proud. As misguided as she was in doing so, the titular character in Mildred Pierce was willing to take the murder rap for her daughter. In Raggedy Man, divorced mother Nita Longley operates a switchboard when she isn’t looking after her two sons. In The Sound Of Music, Maria Von Trapp loves her kids so much she sings about it endlessly. While these are all stellar movie mamas, if ever was one the physical encapsulation of movie mom, Dee Wallace is it.
Wallace is a good actress who can play other roles, no doubt. My personal fave is her turn as troubled news reporter Karen White with her late husband Christopher Stone in Joe Dante’s The Howling. That being said, there is something about her that makes her easy to assign the maternal duties. It could be her kind voice. Even when angry, Dee Wallace, born Deanna Bowers, sounds endearing to me. It could be her smile. She has an engaging smile. Maybe it’s her eyes. I could over-intellectualize the heck out of it. Whatever it is, I just know that it works so well that if I ever met her, I’d try my best not to cuss around her. Maybe the fact that of her 237 credits an overwhelming amount involve her doing the mom thing. From being the stepmom in Bad As I Wanna Be: The Dennis Rodman Story to being the terrorized mom in Popcorn, she has endured in the role. Maybe it has to do with a few movies (actually one particular movie) that cemented her mom status…
E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL
This is one of those movies that always makes my eyes rain. I won’t go into the plot because it’s damn E.T. Have you really not seen it yet? I’ll only state that Wallace’s character, Mary, is Ultimate Dee. E.T. is the reason she became the go-to movie mom. Whether she’s stifling a laugh when one son calls the other “penis breath,” racing to rescue her kids from the unknown, or tearfully smiling as she watches a spaceship ascend into the air, she does movie-momming like no other movie mom.
No one ever said being a mom is easy. It’s definitely not easy when you’re a character in a movie based on a Stephen King novel. St. Bernards have got to be one of the most lovable dogs on earth. They’re big goofballs. Usually. That can change if they get bit by a bat and contract rabies from said bat. Suddenly a lovable goofball becomes a titan of terror. Donna and her young son spend the majority of the film stuck in a stalled car on an exceptionally sweltering day with the crazy canine trying to get inside. Props and whatnot to Wallace and a pre-Who’s The Boss Danny Pintauro for amplifying the claustrophobic tension by giving their characters depth and humanity that could have easily been lost in all the King-sized shenanigans. Useless trivia: Mr. King and the film’s director, Lewis Teague, would team up two years later to make a horror anthology, Cat’s Eye starring a badass tabby and E.T. co-star Drew Barrymore.
My god is life as a small town mom ever more exhausting than when you have to deal with Crites? Crites, the proper name for the critters in this 1986 sci-fi horror comedy, are racing through space only to land in the backyard of the Brown family farm. Two shape-shifting bounty hunters searching for the Crites are always nearby to cause havoc. Dee Wallace’s Helen kicks a little butt with the assist of her husband and two kids (one of whom is played by Scott Grimes — better known nowadays as providing the voice of Steve from American Dad). I don’t know why but these little mischievous monsters remind me of Gremlins for some reason. Regardless of the blatant rip-offness of the greatest film ever made, they’re pretty cool. Oh more useless trivia- for any Billy Zane completists out there, the famously chrome-domed Titanic actor makes a brief appearance as a horny rat-tail sporting boyfriend. Speaking of Titanic, a pre-Growing Pains Leonardo Dicaprio makes a star turn in the direct-to-video sequel, Critters 3. You’re welcome.
INVISIBLE MOM II
This movie is outta sight. Even moms like Wallace’s Laura Griffin do stupid things. You gotta be on a mental vacation to just randomly drink your inventor husband’s latest concoction. Actually that’s not fair, the concoction was put in a bottle of RC Cola that Laura chugged down. Either way, this faux pas leads to a sequel where our hollow mom helps her foster son keep his inheritance from some bad guys. Honestly, I watched this film during the mid ’90s less because of Dee Wallace and more because it’s B-movie lineage … so here’s even more useless trivia: Invisible Mom II was from the family division of Roger Corman’s New Horizons. It co-starred a Monkee named Micky Dolenz and Roger Corman veteran Mary Woronov being directed by Fred Olen Ray — the gentleman behind cinematic treasures like Evil Toons, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Scalps, Nuclear Hurricane, Bikini Hoe-Down,Bikini Airways, The Ghost In The Teeny Bikini, Genie In The Teeny Bikini, Bikini A Go Go, Bikini Time Machine, Super Ninja Bikini Babes, Bikini Pirates, Bikini Frankenstein, Bikini Royale, Bikini Royale 2.