For me, THE RESCUERS is a movie I had almost completely forgotten. I almost didn’t even think I had seen it until we popped it in over a few beers, and had that unnerving vague sense of deja vu over the entire proceedings.
After that brilliant opening number, “The Journey,” it was clear I had seen THE RESCUERS, perhaps on multiple occasions, but I had blacked it out for a very obvious reason.
Madame Medusa (voiced by HONDO actress Geraldine Paige):
AHHHHHHHHHHHH. My reaction was, and still is to this petrifying villain, much like Bernard’s reaction to Luke’s moonshine:
If you want nightmares, check out this spotlight on Medusa.
THE RESCUERS is dark, depressing, but thankfully ultimately uplifting. Even with a happy ending, it’s the kind of animated film that Disney would never make today. In fact, I can hardly grapple with the themes watching it at 26 years old, let alone when I was 5-6 when I likely first encountered it.
THE RESCUERS is essentially about a little orphan girl named Penny and her stuffed teddy bear enslaved by an evil Pawn Shop owner who lured her into a car and never looked back until they reached the dreary depths of the Devil’s Bayou. There, she’s guarded by two ALLIGATORS (!), one of whom can play the piano (!!), and Mr. Snoops (Joe Flynn of MCHALE’S NAVY & THE LOVE BUG), filling the Smee role aboard Medusa’s creepy boat, except far more greasy and disturbing. Madame Medusa seeks the world’s largest diamond, and for whatever reason (she’s small enough to fit in the cave), Penny can help in that quest.
Penny sends a message in a bottle, just as effective as a The Police song, which the rodent run Rescue Aid Society, located deep within the bowels of the United Nations, recovers. They respond to the plea for help immediately, sending their best two mice on the mission.
Well, one sexy mouse named Miss Bianca voiced by Eva Gabor (GIGI, MY MAN GODFREY, FANTASY ISLAND, but more importantly, ARISTOCATS) and the clumsy janitor Bernard, because one needs an adorable odd couple for a movie to succeed. There aren’t many better captured on celluloid than Miss Bianca and Bernard.
Bernard is voiced by Bob Newhart, who you shouldn’t need me to tell you is an icon of Hollywood. And starred in ELF.
From there, they ride to Penny’s rescue onboard Orville (Jim Jordan in his final role before his death), an albatross/pilot, in a presumably empty sardine can. They also must deal with the aforementioned moonshine from muskrat Luke, another example of Pat Buttram doing what he does best: playing a lazy, drunk redneck. The two fledgling lovers/mice receive help from Evinrude, a dragonfly with a mustache and uncanny strength. Needless to say, the film is incredible.
It even has an owl cameo:
Is that Archimedes? Or Owl from WINNIE THE POOH? Or any of the other incredible fictional owls in the known universe? Scholars are still trying to figure this mystery out.
It’s hard to come up with a movie where you’re rooting for the protagonists to succeed more, that’s how scary Madame Medusa is, and how unsettling Penny’s predicament is. Penny’s so frightened, meek, perpetually teary eyed, lonely, that your heart breaks every time she’s on screen.
Try not to cry when Miss Bianca and Bernard meet up with Rufus, a cat who grew up taking care of Penny in the orphanage:
To cope with that, we’ll follow Luke’s prescription: booze! So onto the RULES!
1. Drink any time something Miss Bianca says comes off as sexual (“Ooooh, I just love takeoffs”). Since it’s Eva Gabor, that’s almost every line, but use your judgment.
2. Every time Madame Medusa is the scariest woman you’ve ever seen, drink to forget.
3. Drink for every Orville take-off sequence. I’d waterfall for this swamp sequence (“Great balls of fire…and holy smokes!”), but that’s on you.
4. Take a sip any time Bernard is frightened/apprehensive. Double it if it’s due to his fear of the number 13, which is a thing.
5. Drink any time a character ingests Luke’s crazy strong moonshine.
6. Whenever Madame Medusa drives/commandeers a different type of vehicle, drink.
7. Any time you see the sparkling Devil’s Eye, the world’s largest diamond, drink!
8. Drink every time Penny’s life is the most depressing.
EXPERT EDITION: Drink for every different type of animal we see in the swamp. This includes the Rescuers gang upon arrival.