Not since the invention of the caffeine-free cola has there been such joy in Mormondom. "Johnny Lingo" is now out on DVD.
Of course, so is "Cipher in the Snow." And "The Phone Call." And a half-dozen other classic LDS films.
I know. I could hardly contain the excitement myself.
If you're like me and you attended release-time seminary -- particularly back in the 1970s, during the heyday of these films -- chances are you viewed each of these shows hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times. Beginning in the late 1960s, Brigham Young University produced a string of short films that made an entire generation of Latter-day teenagers laugh, cry and wonder what in the world they were smoking down there at BYU.
Sporting titles like "John Baker's Last Race" and "The Emmett Smith Story," these films were uplifting, upbeat stories -- often about someone seriously sick and/or dying -- that left the girls in the class all misty-eyed and the boys, at least the two or three who weren't sluffing that day, wondering if maybe THEY didn't have a softball-sized tumor growing inside of THEIR brains.
Covenant Communications of American Fork recently released two collections of these films under the title "LDS Film Classics on DVD." One disc includes "Johnny Lingo," "The Mailbox," "Uncle Ben" and "Christmas Snows, Christmas Winds." The other consists of "Cipher in the Snow," "The Gift," "The Emmett Smith Story," "John Baker's Last Race" and "The Phone Call." Each retails for $19.95, and golly, have they ever been popular.
Covenant released the two discs on March 1, hoping to sell 4,000 copies this year. They've already sold 8,000.
"We've sold more in one month than we thought we would in an entire year," said company publicist Nicole Martin. "Obviously, we've far exceeded our goal."
Giovanni Tata is director of BYU Creative Works, the campus-based resource responsible for putting out all of these movies. He says they've been offering these shows in VHS format off and on for the last 30 years, and, in what is undoubtedly the second-best-kept secret in the church -- No. 1: The granite vaults in Little Cottonwood Canyon house the largest collection of confiscated CTR nipple rings on the planet -- most of them are still available on video.
Of course, the mother of all LDS films from this era was the 25-minute blockbuster "Johnny Lingo." It's the story of Johnny Lingo, a South Seas island bachelor on the prowl for a bride. He purchases Mahanna, the homeliest thing in a skirt this side of Glasgow, with a small herd of cattle. After their wedding, the couple leaves the island in a canoe for an extended honeymoon, and, when they come back six months later, Mahanna-you-ugly has suddenly transformed into a member of the Tahitian Bikini Team.
The obvious moral of the "eight-cow wife" story is one of self-worth and inner beauty. Of course, a bunch of us guys in Brother Hedquist's seminary class always just figured that the "honeymoon" consisted of Johnny taking Mahanna to the mainland to give a plastic surgeon a whack at her.
And now, after 30 years, "Johnny Lingo" fever is sweeping the country. There's a rock band out of Vegas called Johnny Lingo Live. The recent film "The R.M." features a Johnny Lingo Party (think: "rave with lava-lavas and Kool-Aid"). And coming later this spring is a major motion picture, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo."
Giovanni Tata says his office is in negotiations with the film's producers to possibly bundle BYU's "Johnny Lingo" with the new "Legend" movie when it eventually comes out on DVD.
I'd gladly pay a dozen cows for that one.
Hmmm, a society that condones using cows as currency to purchase women like so much property? Perhaps our next troop deployment needs to be somewhere in the South Pacific.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO IS COMING!
THIS INFORMATION IS CHANGING AND BEING UPDATED ON A DAILY BASIS -- PLEASE CHECK BACK OFTEN AS WE WILL ADD INFORMATION TO THE SITE AS WE GET IT.
The moment you've all been waiting for has finally arrived. On August 29, 2003, (Labor Day Weekend) The Legend of Johnny Lingo will finally begin its nationwide tour. There will be a special "Opening Night Premier" in Salt Lake City the night before (August 28) hosted by a recognized charity in the area. Four other metropolitan areas are also slated to open on the Labor Day Weekend - they are Atlanta, Dallas / Ft. Worth, Phoenix / Mesa and Las Vegas.
August 28 Special premier in Salt Lake City
August 29 Labor Day Weekend opening in:
SCHEDULED FOR FALL RELEASE
- "Suddenly Unexpected" (special screenings in Houston theaters)
- "The Work and the Story," Aug. 29 (limited digital-video screenings)
- "The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey," Sept. 12
- "Day of Defense," Oct. 10
- "Best Two Years," Oct. 10
- "Pride and Prejudice," fall 2003
SCHEDULED FOR WINTER 2004:
- "The Home Teachers," Jan. 9
- "Saints and Soldiers," early 2004
- "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," Aug. 29