Before I continue with today’s blog entry, I wanted to post this link to a Monday matinee that was posted just a few weeks ago. The link will take you to the entry for Saturday Night Fever, where I talked about the Bee Gees contribution to the soundtrack album. Sadly, Robin Gibb passed away yesterday at the age of 62. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this time.
Now, onto today’s blog entry. And this entry also features a tale that is filled with tragedy and lament over what could have been.
When I say the name Judith Barsi, does the name ring a bell? I imagine for a good portion of you, you probably have never heard the name before in your life. Yet, she had quite a few credits to her name in her very short career. She starred in several commercials, had guest appearances in television shows such as “Growing Pains”, “St. Elsewhere”, “Cheers”, and “Punky Brewster”, and voiced the character of Ducky in the movie “The Land Before Time”.
At first glance, Judith Barsi appeared as a happy and adorable little girl who came to life in front of the camera. But Barsi’s homelife was anything but idyllic, and by the time anyone realized how serious her situation was, it was too late.
When Judith Barsi began acting at the age of five, her mother, Maria, groomed her to become an actress. Standing at a little under four feet tall by the time she was ten years old, her mother even went so far as to have Judith endure hormone injections at UCLA in an attempt to help her grow taller. Now, you’d think that this was bad enough, but it gets much worse.
While Maria Barsi was determined to make Judith a star, Judith’s father, Jozsef Barsi seemed to be more of a destructive influence on her. His first marriage ended messily amidst allegations of domestic abuse, and family members of Jozsef stated that he had always suffered from low self-esteem, and often took out his anger on those closest to him.
Truth be told, both of Judith’s parents were in less than ideal family situations themselves. While Jozsef had to deal with the fact that he was conceived illegitimately and was teased by others because of it, Judith’s mother also suffered from psychological and physical abuse brought on by her own father. Both of Judith’s parents were born in Hungary, but they didn’t actually meet each other until they met at a restaurant in Los Angeles, after both immigrated to the United States at different times. They fell in love, got married, and had Judith in 1978.
But when Judith’s career began to take off in the United States following her being discovered at a skating rink, Jozsef grew more and more paranoid, and soon he became dangerous and unpredictable. He threatened to kill himself and his family, and even held a knife to Judith’s throat just before she left to film a movie. The final straw came when after displaying some alarming behaviour on a film set, Barsi broke down in front of her agent, and the truth came out about the abuse that was going on at the Barsi household.
Initially, there was going to be an investigation into the Barsi household by Child Protective Services, but in a stunning move, Maria Barsi dismissed the case worker, stating that she had begun divorce proceedings and that she and Judith were to move to a new home. But, somehow, Maria didn’t go through with that plan. She told friends that she was afraid of losing the family home and the belongings within it.
If only she had known what would eventually happen on July 25, 1988, Maria and Judith might still be alive today.
That night, Jozsef shot and killed Judith and Maria inside the Barsi family home, setting the crime scene ablaze. Shortly after, he took his own life in the garage.
Judith Barsi was just ten years old when she died.
To say that her death was a huge tragedy is an understatement. I am absolutely sickened to death over reading about this case because I feel that the very people who were supposed to protect her ended up hurting her the most. It’s easy to blame Jozsef for the tragedy. He set it all in motion, and he was obviously emotionally disturbed. He needed serious help, and because he didn’t get it, his daughter ended up losing her life. But Maria isn’t entirely blameless here. She owed it to Judith to get her away from the abuse, and she didn’t do it.
As I said, the death of Judith Barsi is a tragedy, and it breaks my heart that her ten years on this Earth were filled with fear and abuse.
Strangely enough, Judith’s last credited role was in a movie that was released over a year after her death. It was an animated film classic directed by Don Bluth, and Barsi played the role of Anne-Marie, a little orphan girl who was desperate to find a place where she belonged.
Of course, the movie that I’m speaking about is the Monday Matinee feature for today, the 1989 film “All Dogs Go To Heaven”. Besides Barsi, the film also starred Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Charles Nelson Reilly, and also in his final film appearance, Vic Tayback. Although this film didn’t do so well at the box office as compared to other Bluth films as “The Secret of N.I.M.H.” and “An American Tail”, the movie later went on to have great success on home video, becoming one of the most rented and sold video cassettes of 1990.
Just as the film’s title suggests, the film depicts a situation in which an afterlife for pets exists. In the case of Charlie B. Barkin (Reynolds), a mongrel who works for Carface Carruthers (Tayback), a gangster business partner working at a casino fashioned out of an oil tanker in late 1930s-era New Orleans. With the two dogs fashioning an elaborate con which nets them huge riches, it seems as though both Charlie and Carface are destined for a life of great wealth.
Too bad Carface refuses to play fair. After deciding that he’s keeping all the earnings for himself, he arranges for Charlie to be taken to the pound. Charlie ends up being rescued from the pound by his friend, Itchy Itchiford (DeLuise), but his freedom is short-lived, as Carface and his sidekick, Killer, end up killing Charlie.
Now, here’s where our story goes into a bit of a free fall. Despite the fact that Charlie lived his life in a less than angelic way, he finds that he has gone up to Heaven after all.
After all, all dogs go to heaven.
But Charlie’s determined to get back to the land of the living at any cost. And he succeeds in doing this by swiping his “life watch”, and winding it back up again. This action turns time backward, and Charlie ends up being brought back to Earth. Of course, no action comes without its consequences, and in Charlie’s case, the tradeoff was huge. As long as the watch kept ticking, Charlie could not die. He lived the life of immortality. But if the watch ever stopped, Charlie would once again die...and this time, he would NOT be going to heaven. Instead, he’d be taking a direct trip to someplace...warmer.
So, with that warning fresh on his mind, Charlie returns to life on Earth where he reunites with Itchy, and comes up with a plan to open up a rival business that would shut down Carface’s operation for good as a method of revenge.
Of course, Carface has a bit of an advantage in his quest to keep his business afloat...a secret weapon in the form of the little girl with the name Anne-Marie (Barsi).
It turns out that Anne-Marie has a very powerful gift. She has the ability to communicate with animals, a gift that Carface uses to his advantage by having Anne-Marie help him bet on races. Charlie decides to woo away the young girl from Carface with the promise that he will find her a home and a loving family if she goes with him.
Alas, Charlie soon goes back to his old ways once more, and ends up treating Anne-Marie the same way that Carface did...using her gift to make money through various animal competition. But clever Anne-Marie soon realizes what is going on, and calls Charlie out on his scheme, a move that makes Charlie feel terrible. But Charlie still convinces the girl to stay with him, reminding her that he treated her with more kindness than Carface was even capable of.
Sometime during the film, Anne-Marie ends up finding a wallet that Charlie had stolen from a married couple as a start-up fund for his new business. She and Charlie get into an argument, and Anne-Marie decides to take the wallet back to its rightful owners. Charlie soon discovers that the couple has invited Anne-Marie in for breakfast, and that the couple was so charmed by the girl that they talked about adopting the girl as their own. Charlie then does one of the most selfish things that he could have done. He pretends to be sick to gain sympathy from Anne-Marie, and succeeds in making the girl leave the home of the nice couple.
And almost immediately, Charlie and Anne-Marie face one dangerous situation after another. They almost get caught by Carface, they end up falling through a warehouse floor, and almost get eaten by an alligator! But through it all, Charlie and Anne-Marie grow closer as a result, and it seems as though things might work out after all.
That is, until Anne-Marie overhears Charlie telling Itchy that he doesn’t care about her, and she runs away. Anne-Marie gets kidnapped by Carface, and soon, Charlie and Itchy find themselves racing against time to locate Anne-Marie and save her from Carface’s clutches. But when the endgame confrontation forces Charlie to make an impossible choice...which choice will he make?
Of course, I’m not going to tell you how the movie ends. You’ll just have to watch it for yourselves.
However, it was nice to see the clip of Anne-Marie finally finding happiness with a family who really had her best interests at heart. Mind you, Charlie’s insecurity about the situation temporarily ruined everything, but before that happened, Anne-Marie was overjoyed and for the first time in a long time, she felt like a little girl again.
It’s a sadly bittersweet moment that the character of Anne-Marie found happiness and peace, when the actress who played Anne-Marie had none of those things. The only thing that we can hope for is that if there really is an afterlife in this world, that Judith Barsi has finally gotten the peace that she longed for during her tumultuous decade of living.