This last Saturday, I gathered together a group of movie-freaks to see a South African “children’s” film called LOST IN THE DESERT at The Cinefamily in West Hollywood. I already had seen it last year when it played there and it left quite an impression on me. It was shown again as part of the “Fucked Up Kid’s Movies” series they’ve been doing for the entire month of May, which also included the sleazy (yet charming) talking-monkey masterpiece CARNIVAL MAGIC, as well as the nightmarish, product placement laden, E.T. rip-off insanity of MAC AND ME. But when it comes to twisted films that were marketed for youngsters, LOST IN THE DESERT – A.K.A. DIRKIE (1969) takes the cake. It is the most sadistic children’s movie ever imagined.
“The most amazing adventure a boy ever lived through!” – tagline for LOST IN THE DESERT
Little eight year old Dirkie (DIRKIE UYS) has a really bad cough, so his doctor recommends that he leave the city for awhile and get some fresh air in the open country. His father, a famous songwriter (played by JAMIE UYS, the writer, director and actual dad of the actual kid) sends Dirkie and his pet dog off in a tiny commuter plane, piloted by the kid’s own uncle. Sounds safe, but unfortunately the uncle has a fatal heart attack while flying over the African desert and the plane goes down in the middle of it.
Dirkie and his cute little doggie survive, but find themselves trapped in the middle of a dangerous wilderness, all alone. Just about every horrible thing you can imagine befouls this poor kid and his pooch. First, he and the dog are menaced by a vicious hyena. In an attempt to frighten the beast off, Dirkie inadvertently sets fire to the plane wreckage he’s using for shelter and blows it up, along with the radio his father and the authorities have been using to pin-point his location! Next, the kid’s arm gets ripped open when he tries to get some water from a cavern! Then, the dog is attacked and injured by the dreaded hyena! If that wasn’t bad enough, a poisonous snake spits a wad of venom in Dirkie’s eyes, blinding him! This causes him to accidently step too closely to a scorpion and, yep you guessed it, it stings the poor little bastard! Christ on a cracker!
Meanwhile, back in the big city, Dirkie’s father is comforted by the authorities and his agent, who inform him that the odds of finding the boy are pretty slim and that he should “just try to forget he ever had a son and get back to work, earning money.”
Salvation comes to Dirkie in the form of a local African bushman and his son, who happen upon the kid and his dog while on walkabout. They treat the child’s wounds and nurse him back to health, but when Dirkie mistakenly thinks the bushman has cooked his dog and wants him to eat the canine too, the child insults the native and is promptly shunned and abandoned. Once again alone, Dirkie carries his wounded dog and a pocketful of dying puppies (that the dog just gave birth to), across the bleak desert landscape, searching for rescue. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the kid finally gets reunited with his father again. However, the way the film concludes leaves speculation as to wether or not rescue has truly arrived.
LOST IN THE DESERT is a kid’s movie where the filmmakers try to make the audience think the cute dog has died not once, but on three separate occasions! This film has been nicknamed THE PASSION OF THE DIRKIE by those who’ve seen it, for the Christ-like way the child is battered throughout. I recommend it highly if you can find a bootleg of this rarity out there, somewhere.
This Saturday is Cinefamily’s conclusion to their “Fucked Up Kid’s Movies” program, and they’re showing a BUGSY MALONE-esque kid’s flick called HAWK JONES, which features children acting like adults in a cops and robbers style mystery. It features a big shootout between the little ones. I wouldn’t bring the kids! Nerd out!