Dottie gets Spanked is a 29 minute film by Todd Haynes [directed in 1992] about a seven-year-old boy named Steven who is coming of age in America suburbia in the 1960's. The boy's favorite show is an I Love Lucy-like television sitcom called The Dottie Show, which he watches every chance he gets.
Steven wins a contest and is invited onto the set of the show. While there he is witness to an episode in which Dottie gets spanked. The boy is a bit perplexed.
Prior to this Steven learns that his neighbor gets spanked as a form of punishment. This opens up a flood of fantasies and dreams for Steven that are both voyeuristic and masochistic.
Todd Haynes here shows his fascination with middle class American suburbia, the concepts of identity, the power of television and fiction characters as well as some of the works of Freud. The film is well directed, written and acted and Haynes throws in some stylistic nightmare dream flourishes, which gives him free reign to kick around the ideas from his own psyche.
Dottie gets Spanked was originally made for a PBS series about the family. And while it certainly has some family issues it is also very clearly a film with homosexual and fantasy undertones that possibly would not be on the mind of most seven-year olds. However Haynes claims in the commentary track that the film is his most autobiographical.
Needless to say I don't think Conservative America would much appreciate the film. But then again, who cares? It is what it is and it deals with some interesting issues that we shouldn't be afraid to discuss - even with our kids.
The second film is He Was Once a witty 16 minute claymation-with-live-actors short about a boy who gets a spanking by his father for claiming he has seen a bear. Of course, he has seen a bear so he gets to turn the tables on dad. The film is nothing if not odd fun. The film was directed by Mary Hestand in 1989 and has one scene with Todd Haynes.
The DVD image for both films is presented in 1.33:1 and look excellent. Dottie gets Spanked is shot in 16mm and the colors are strong, the image is sharp and clear. He was Once also seems to be shot in 16mm.
Audio is in English stereo.
The Commentary track by Todd Haynes is excellent. He talks most of the way through and gives a good background to the themes and issues of the film as well as production information. Overall a thorough job of explaining the film to the audience. There are also a few behind-the-scenes production photos. The short film He Was Once - described above - counts as an extra too.
This is a good DVD although the overall running time counting both films is only 45 minutes. The video and audio quality is excellent and the commentary track by director Todd Haynes is as good as they get.