“The dancing Lincoln is one of the standbys of comedy.”
- Dana Carvey, The Master of Disguise audio commentary
I arrived at an FYE in suburban Massachusetts a defeated woman - I was technically in town to see my brother graduate high school, but here I was fishing around for a copy of The Master of Disguise so that I may listen to the DVD commentary.
It's been five years since I graduated high school, and what do I have to show for it? A copy of The Master of [Fucking] Disguise on digital video disc, you idiot.
On a day in late 2002, one-time director Perry Andelin Blake and adult actor turned middle-aged adult actor Dana Carvey sat down and watched TMoD with in defeated boredom, the only exception being when the two spoke loudly over racist sequences.
"You've clicked on something fun," Carvey flatlines as the film open, and if he meant "I'm going to make a joke about masturbating to Bo Derek in a minute" then boy is he right! Here's some of the most insidious intel hidden in the film.
Perry Andelin Blake spends a lot of time during the commentary track explaining to Carvey the direction he decided to take with the movie, which his star takes in quietly. It's not unusual for Carvey to mention that the movie had a small-ish budget ($16 million) here and there, particularly during the handful of bloopers that remain in the final cut of the movie.
Take the moment when James Brolin disguised as Olympic runner steals the Constitution for villain Devlin Bowman (that's a real sentence), and the entire frame jumps half an inch as the "disguise reveal" turns out to be sitting the villain in the same-ish place with a different actor.
"We, uh, we ran out of money," Carvey says sheepishly.
Where did all the money go? Well, when you ask Paula Abdul to choreograph a twenty-second dance to Gloria Estefan's "Conga," pay $17,000 in royalties to make a lifeless punchline involving the lyrics to "Papa Don't Preach" and make a fully licensed thirty-second reenactment of Shrek, it's clear that sixteen million dollars went pretty quick.
Dana Carvey Pulled On a Woman’s Face Aggressively Without Being Asked
“It wasn’t in the script for you to pull her face that much,” Blake said of this sequence, in which Grandfather Disguisey shows Pistachio that he can even disguise himself as an underpaid, unhappy actress playing a maid.
“You sort of just started to pull at her skin and we were laughing off camera,” Blake continues.
Carvey concedes. “That woman was a trooper.”
No, Dana. That woman was a casualty of the business we call show!!!!
Completely Abandoned Genius Dog Subplots
One of the most amazing relevations found in TMoD commentary was the extensive, bizarrely specific rewrites that Carvey and writing partner Harris Goldberg were subjected to before the film could be released. According to the audio, most of these rewrites were in regards to exposition dispensary that is Grandfather Disguisey, played brilliantly by Broadway veteran Harold Gould.
“So we got a note from the studio that they wanted the grandfather to go away,” Carvey explains over a scene where an expositional pop-up book dictates that the grandfather must go away for absolutely no reason.
Upon receiving this note, Carvey and Goldberg attempted to ~*~disguise~*~ the grandfather character in plain sight using the skills he had imparted to Pistachio - after all, it's not like they had many decent characters to burn. Instead, the pair decided to put the grandfather inside the body of the skateboarding dog (brilliant, I know), where he could observe the villains in secret and assist Pistachio on the sly
"In another version the grandfather is the dog and that’s why he’s so smart, you can fine that in the alternate ending,” Carvey says. Sure enough, the final of the nine TMoD endings involve Harold Gould's voice coming out of a dog named The Cuteness.
Once producers demanded that sub-subplot be written out, there are a series of unexplained lingering shots of the dog in the first two thirds of the movie. By the time the audio commentary was recorded, Carvey evidently still feels that the genius dog was the better move, and I have to agree.
“That’s the grandfather in the dog costume up there in the window, watching the villains,” he laments softly, as we all continued our slow march toward death.
No One Mentions That Dana Carvey Was In Full Brownface
I was really interested to hear how the two would talk around Pistachio’s first disguise sequence, Prince Lallijama. It’s difficult to say whether it’s hideously bold or just Adam Sandler’s idea that the first disguise on film would be in full brownface, but perhaps Carvey and Co. could earn just a little credibility back if they at least acknowledged the subversive, inappropriate move.
Instead, they dodge the subject altogether and are racist toward a different group of people.
For many of the disguises, Carvey explains the makeup prosthetics he wore to create subtle changes in his face and physicality. In explaining Prince Lallijama, the only adjustments he would pony up to would be some false feeth and a longer nose prosthetic, with no mention of brownface, the accent or the making everyone generally uncomfortable. When you think about it, he's a guy transforming from Pistachio's offensive Italian accent into Lallijama's offensive Indian accent. A two-fer!
Blake jumped on board, bringing this 2002 commentary to the next level with some good old post-9/11 hatred.
“We had him say India over and over, not Afghanistan or not any, uh, Arab countries,” he assured the audience. Phew!
The Most Confusing Joke Was Adam Sandler’s Idea
The Master of Disguise suffers partially from not knowing what kind of movie it wants to be, likely from a series of script rewrites and/or Dana Carvey never being informed what scenes actually made the final cut. At times it seems like a straight Scary Movie style parody send-up, at times a spy movie, and in select moments it fully endorses magic as a thing that exists, which would discredit the superspy personas of the Disguisey clan.
There’s no clearer moment of disconnect than at the end of the iconic Turtle Guy scene – and I’m not using the phrase “iconic Turtle Guy scene” ironically – where Pistachio, as the Turtle Guy, bites off a man’s nose with no visible wound, then spits it back onto his face. Then he rolls around on the floor and the scene is over. It’s staggering in its lack of sense, and Carvey was a little shocked upon seeing it.
“I never saw that until just now,” he admits.
“That was actually Sandler’s idea,” Blake piped up. Later on, we also find out that Carvey’s bad wig was inspired by Sandler’s worse wig in Little Nicky.
Amazing how garbage is cyclical, isn’t it?
THE MIDGET WAS IN THE SLAPPING DUMMY THE ENTIRE TIME!
After convincing three people to watch The Master of Disguise with audio commentary on a Saturday night, it was important that I kept my cool when reacting to the many exciting informational tidbits on display. When we reached the matter of the Slapping Dummy, I could contain myself no longer.
The Slapping Dummy is a stupid stupid stupid prop introduced to Grandfather Disguisey, primarily to dispense dual catchphrases "You slap me, I slap you!" and "Who's your daddy?" During the film’s sixth ending, the Slapping Dummy is hilariously revealed to be a midget in a Mario suit inside of a wooden dummy! He controls the Slapping Dummy! If executed in real life, this would be abuse of some sort! A cut below a Disney park character! Ha!
Except that was what really happened. Possibly with the Mario suit on. Probably not.
“This dummy was built around a small actor,” Blake confirmed of Slapping Dummy executor and Verne Troyer’s stunt double Gabriel Pimentel, going on to say that they were so impressed with his work that they dedicated three alternate endings involving his reveal.
Every time there’s a slap, that’s Pimentel, potentially in a Nintendo costume form iParty. Sometimes 2002 feels like a long time ago.
All Five Catchphrases Introduced Sucked
Carvey and Blake have absolutely no issue with the sheer volume of catchphrases the movie introduces and abandons in its short running time. The two guffaw at lines such as:
· "Who's your daddy?"
· "You slap me, I slap you!"
· "It's so crazy it just might work!"
· "This is what you're doing - this is what I want you to do!"
· "Become another person!"
While none of these phrases are repeated enough to make it to a lunchbox or, as far as I can tell, any promotional merchandise whatsoever in spite of being released during back-to-school season, Carvey and Blake stand by them. They slap us, we slap them, but this is what I want them to daddy!
Dana Carvey Had No Idea the Movie Had Nine Endings
The closing moments of TMoD commentary track are both the hardest to listen to and where the best information is uncovered. While many have been baffled by the nine different endings posited by the filmmakers to reach an eighty-minute running time, Carvey is perhaps the most audibly perplexed and confused of all.
One of the early alternate endings taps into the film’s deeply sexist themes, Pistachio’s susceptibility to women with big asses. Carvey laughs a little when the ending begins, taken aback.
“I thought that was gonna be on the DVD,” he muses.
Blake took no prisoners, boldly defending his garbage and probably dreaming up the set to 50 First Dates. “Well, we put it in the movie.”
Carvey reacts a second time when the credits transition into a full screen blooper. “Full screen?” he asks.
“Well,” Blake says. They have gotten along this whole time, both quietly resigned to the task at hand, but things grow tense in these final moments.
"I feel like the end credits are a whole other movie," Carvey half-laughs around the fourth ending, where they're steadily running out of credits but still have seven minutes of movie to fill.
“We’re gonna submit it to the Academy,” Blake jokes. Carvey says nothing.
Two endings later spent in silence, I like to think Carvey is checking his Razr phone, wringing his hands, tearing up.
“It’s not over yet,” Blake mumbles.
One of the Scenes Was Written in Fifteen Minutes
Correction: one of the scenes was admitted be have been written in fifteen minutes, and I’d be willing to speculate that it was written, shot and edited in the same amount of time.
I’m not even going to tell you which scene it is. Which scene in The Master of Disguise looks like it could have been written in fifteen minutes? If I did not know already, I could not narrow it down for you.
Just kidding. It's this one.
Master of Woman Hating and that Sweet Sweet Ass
“They like women with large derrières, big bottoms and hers is subsize, substandard, unfortunately.”
- director Perry Andelin Blake on Jennifer Esposito's ass
There are a handful of stunningly sexist sequences in The Master of Disguise that suggests that Pistachio is motivated by and attracted to women with big butts, based on his Freudian attraction to his own plump Irish mother (played by Edie McClurg).
On more than one occasion, Pistachio Disguisey lusts after the sexy Maria, a female character who is programmed by writers to fuck whoever the most powerful man in the room is, and is attached to the fakest fake prosthetic butt that the 46-year-old Carvey drools over time and time again. Alternatively, he is repulsed by women with small butts.
“We were trying to do an anti-anorexia spin, he [Pistachio] likes full-figured women which isn’t…bad,” Blake states incorrectly.
He continues through one of the endings, where big-assed women try to tempt Pistachio away from his family and lady love / Celiac's disease advocate Jennifer Esposito. He’s the stock art director for Happy Madison Productions, where hating women is a hiring pre-requisite.
“’Bigger is better,’ that’s what we always say. ‘Bigger is better. More is more,’” the director prattles on.
There’s no better endorsement of embracing all types of female bodies than making fun of a thin woman’s scrawny ass and then strapping a gargantuan Styrofoam war crime onto a different thin woman’s ‘substandard’ behind and call it progressive.
Asses deserve better.
If the audio commentary for TMoD is indication of anything, it's that the movie had been hacked to bits by the time it was released, frantically trying to cover up its own budgetary deficiencies and plot holes with decent impressions and production design. You can call it a waste of eighty minutes, but the midget was in the slapping dummy for the entire movie and the grandfather was the dog so what do we know about anything???
Tomorrow: Counterpoint; The Master of Disguise Is a Masterpiece