The cult classic Drop Dead Fred, which starred the late, great Rik Mayall, was first released 25 years ago today on 19th April 1991.
The film introduced Mayall’s antics to American audiences, showcasing his insane comedic talent and acting skills to an audience that wasn’t so familiar with his presence (unlike British audiences).
Rik Mayall starred as the titular character; a mischievous, anarchic imaginary friend of a young girl called Elizabeth (Phoebe Cates). As a child, Drop Dead Fred acted as a coping mechanism for Elizabeth from her overbearing mother, Polly (Marsha Mason). When Elizabeth grows up, Drop Dead Fred returns during an emotional crisis to help her and to cheer her up in his own unique way. The film also stars the likes of Carrie Fisher, Ron Eldard, Tim Matheson and Bridget Fonda.
The film itself garnered a mixed reaction; mainly due to the confusion as to whether or not it was intended to be a lighthearted children’s film – as promoted – or catered more towards an adult audience due to certain themes. Such themes included elements of mental illness, black comedy, emotional abuse and profanity.
Drop Dead Fred wasn’t met too kindly with critics, with many confused as to who the target audience was actually meant to be. But, with a lot of kids – and adults – in the 90s, Drop Dead Fred became a cult classic and a touchstone of childhood innocence meeting the perils of growing up.
The film also serves as a reminder of how larger than life Rik Mayall was. Not only as a comedian and actor, but as a person. British audiences were already accustomed to his antics from The Young Ones, Blackadder, The New Statesman and Bottom (Bottom first aired in the same year that the film was released), but seeing Mayall in a titular role such as this is amazing. Especially when you think that this was probably the first instance that American audiences as a whole were introduced to the beloved British comedian.
Remind yourselves of Mayall’s immpecable ability to make everyone cry laughing in the video below.