UNDER THE RAINBOW
Certainly, Under the Rainbow has a very mild basis in truth. It is true that the 100+ midgets and dwarfs were recruited to play the Munchkins and were housed at a hotel just opposite the MGM studio. (In fact, the film uses the same location where the little people were lodged the now disused Culver City Hotel). There have been rumours over the years that the little people were engaged in drunken orgies but Wizard of Oz historians have determined these are a complete fiction at most, the little people threatened to go on strike at one point after rumours circulated that they would not be paid.
The entire film is premised around an hysterically-paced series of confusions, encounters and mix-ups between the various parties in the hotel. Everything is played as utterly inane slapstick. There is a particularly overblown climactic chase through the MGM backlot, which involves dozens of dogs, pursuit by a horsedrawn carriage, runaway horses and vehicles, people running past swimming pools and through womens dressing rooms, even the interruption of the shooting of Gone with the Wind (1939) where the Nazi dwarf manages to hide under a womans skirt. Almost every time that a little person appears in a fantasy or comedy film, filmmakers seemingly cannot resist the opportunity to have them taking pratfalls or tumbling over their own feet. Under the Rainbow plays for this like it is on crack a substantial part of the film involves the little people falling down stairs, running through elevators, swinging on chandeliers or ducking between the legs of or stepping over full-sized people. In fact, the film ends up pandering to a caricature that is insulting all the little people in the film seem to have no more of a mental age of children that have been left to run riot in a playground without adult supervision.
Everything in the film is an absurd comic caricature. We even get comic Nazis, including a scene where a dwarf SS officer manages to accidentally whang a totally unconvincing Adolf Hitler look-alike in the nuts. Worse though, the film descends to racial caricature a busload of Japanese turn-up all outfitted in white suits and Coke bottle glasses and clicking cameras wherever they turn. In the lame twist ending, everything is revealed to be a dream of the fame and fortune that dwarf Cork Hubbert hopes to find in Hollywood as he lies unconscious after a fall, where we realise that all the characters he encountered at the hotel correspond to the people at the Kansas mission where he lives.
Even the slapstick inanities of the show manage to dwarf the starring presence of Chevy Chase who remains uncustomarily subdued throughout, only rising to make a few of his smug, ultra-annoyingly quips upon a handful of occasions, which should at least be considered one mark in the films favour. Carrie Fisher at least had the excuse that she was in the midst of a drug addiction problem at the time. (For all the Celebrity Sleuth watchers out there, Under the Rainbow does have the prurient interest of seeing a young Carrie wandering around in her underwear for several minutes of screen time). Fisher later claimed that Under the Rainbow was the worst thing she had ever appeared in.
Director Steve Rash had previously debuted with the well regarded The Buddy Holly Story (1978). Subsequently, Rash went onto commit various other crimes against cinema, most notably in making a star out of Pauly Shore in Son-in-Law (1993). More recently he has been directing various direct-to-video American Pie and Bring It On sequels.