Latter-day Saint Video Vault celebrates decades of uplifting, funny, weird, and sometimes cringe-worthy Mormon-related videos, most of which are now found on YouTube. Join Jared Jones every other Friday as he breaks down one of these classics.
This Sunday many people around the world will be observing Father’s Day. What better way to celebrate than taking a look at a film featuring a father behaving badly—1980’s The Trophy Case.
The Trophy Case was produced by Brigham Young University and features the first church film performance by Shawn Stevens as disillusioned son Randy Jensen–the star quarterback, who despite having everything, feels like he has nothing.
We open on a car pulling down a snowy road underscored with ominous music. Randy lights a joint and coughs after his first drag. He passes is it to his friend who is also drinking. They complain they are out of beer and the pull into the lot of a convenience store. They overshoot the curb and nearly run into the store. The friends go in and start causing problems. They knock over some displays and then steal beer. They run out of the store and yell at Randy to start the car. He does, throws it into gear and immediately backs into a police cruiser.
Cut to a police station. Randy’s father is trying to persuade the police lieutenant that Randy isn’t a bad guy. He’s got a lot going for him—he’s just a little rowdy sometimes. We also see other families trying to reason with various officers. Mr. Jensen continues to try and talk his way out of it saying he’s a pillar of the community. The lieutenant is unmoved and said Mr. Jensen will be notified by the juvenile court when Randy is expected to appear.
We then see a tense ride home. Randy and his father keep looking at each other. Neither knows what to say. They arrive home and Randy starts looking for something to eat. His father says to get out of the kitchen so they can talk. Mr. Jensen urges Randy to take a seat in the opulently appointed 70s era living room. Randy walks away placing the large pool table between them.
They begin arguing. Mr. Jensen wonders what’s going on with Randy He has everything he could want. He was doing great with football but just stopped trying halfway through the season and started hanging out with some “creeps.” Randy tries to defend his friends but his dad is on a roll. Mr. Jensen says there are two types of people winners who have guts and losers who have nothing.
“What kind do you think you are?” Mr. Jensen says.
“Have it your way. I’m a looser!” Randy shouts.
“You said it!” Mr. Jensen retorts.
They both appear shocked by the turn in the conversation. Both realize it wasn’t the way they wanted it to go. Randy retreats to a chair in front of a large trophy case as Mr. Jensen tries to reconcile. Mr. Jensen turns to the trophy case and instead of really apologizing he goes back to his original complaint. He wonders why he stopped trying after the game against Martinsville. Randy says it started long before that. Mr. Jensen thinks it was the time he wasted helping out at Mr. Caswell’s stables.
Randy asks his father if he really remembers the Martinsville game. Mr. Jensen said “Of course, you were fantastic!”
“But we lost the game,” Randy says. Mr. Jensen tries to pick apart the reasons for the loss but Randy won’t hear any of it and accuses Mr. Jensen of a selective memory. He reminds his father that after he gave everything he had and still lost Mr. Jensen “let him have it” for two hours after they got home. Randy says he was too small and Mr. Jensen said he was smaller than Randy and did more. He accuses Randy of being selfish.
Randy walks over to the trophy case and asks his dad where his trophies are.
“You want trophies? Here. They’re yours. I won every single one of them for you. I never wanted them. Maybe if I won enough …But I’ll never win enough, will I Dad?”
Randy storms out, tired of trying to win his father’s approval. He jumps in to the car and drives and drives. We see him walking out of a store with a brown paper bag. You think he is going to drink with his creep friends, but he pulls into the stable where he was “wasting his time.” He sits down against some hay bales, pulls over some horse blankets and falls asleep.
Mr. Caswell finds Randy in the morning. Randy is hesitant to go into all the details but explains some of the argument. He just wants a job. He wants the chance to pay back the damage he caused. He longs to help care for a particular horse named Caballo. “Caballo” is Spanish for horse. Mr. Caswell named the horse “Horse.” But I digress. Mr. Caswell tells him to go ahead and get some chores done for now and they would talk about the rest later. He retrieves an apple from his brown paper sack and gives it to Caballo. He didn’t get alcohol at the store after all. It was snacks for Caballo.
As he talks to the horse Mr. Caswell’s granddaughter invites him up for breakfast. They get to talking and she criticizes his “creep” friends and he again bristles. She doesn’t understand why he hangs around with them because he “[has] everything! A rich family, a car, talent.”
“Do you really want to know what I’ve got? Nothing. My dad owns me. I win a ball game it’s his win, I commit a crime it’s his crime. Every cent he spends on me is a payment on his billiard table.”
When Mr. Caswell leaves the stable he heads over to Randy’s house to speak to Mr. Jensen. He reasons with Mr. Jensen and asks him to see it from Randy’s point of view. Mr. Jensen confides that he was beaten by his father when he didn’t tow the line. Mr. Caswell suggests Mr. Jensen share that with Randy—he just wants them to talk to each other. To have each of them bend just a little so they can meet in the middle. Mr. Jensen agrees.
Back at the stable Randy is talking to the granddaughter (continuing the tradition of unnamed female characters in church films—I guess she should be named Nieta if we follow the Caballo naming convention) and admits he made a mistake. He hurt his dad in a way that was probably the most personal way he could. He begins to relate a story of how he first tried to ride Caballo. He tried to make the horse do what he wanted it to do by sharply pulling on the reins without actually taking into account the animal and its personality or abilities. He just kept pushing the horse where he wanted it to go and lost time with the horse as a result.
Mr. Jensen appears and overhears some of the conversation. Mr. Caswell stops him from interrupting too soon. Mr. Jensen appears thoughtful—as if the story really got through to him. The granddaughter says you have to go home some time and Randy said he didn’t know how. Mr. Jensen reveals himself. “What if I could help you want to come home?” he says. He offers to discuss a solution but then jumps right ahead with his plan to buy Randy a horse. The best horse money could buy. I bet it would be named Dinero. Mr. Jensen falls into his normal pattern of overriding Randy at every turn. Randy wants a job so he can take care of himself. Mr. Jensen fails to see the need when he can provide everything Randy needs. He chides him like a grade schooler—he needs to start behaving! Randy turns the horse and gallops away. The granddaughter follows Randy while Mr. Caswell just shakes his head at Mr. Jensen.
Randy takes Caballo across a snowy pasture as Mr. Jensen circles the pasture on the bordering road. He continues to catch glimpses of Randy riding through the snow—like a valiant, pungent reindeer king. Seeing Randy on the horse instead of on the football field seems to allow Mr. Jensen to view him through new eyes. The camera cuts back and forth from Randy’s face to Mr. Jensen’s over and over and we hear a sad song.
“If I could dream we’d find the words we need to say
And we would rush away the shadows of this lonely winter day
But now the silence wakes me from the dream
to feel the emptiness of loving words you never said to me.
But oh I could fly with your love I reach the sky
If only you could see
Your love is all I need.”
The music swells. Randy and Caballo ride away as the screen fades to black.
This story of father attempting to live through son has been told before and can serve as a check on how we interact with children—it’s still a solid cautionary tale. Even though the message aged well, I could have done without the privilege-soaked discussion between Mr. Jensen and the black police lieutenant. It was hard to watch. Although I’m sure many parents would try to help their kids out of trouble Mr. Jensen’s methods do not play well in today’s social climate.
We are left not knowing if Randy and Mr. Jensen reconcile. We see in Mr. Jensen’s eyes that he could be changing, but the distant looks don’t really give us a lot of hope for change. So much could have been avoided had they just spoken to each other honestly. Easier said than done. Mr. Jensen’s desire to provide for his son is not unreasonable. Randy’s desire to pursue his own dreams and repair his own mistakes is reasonable. The story, however, comes down heavy on the father and leaves the son as the rebel hero.
There you have it, a reasonable story about father son communication. I just hope my kids don’t give me a “World’s Greatest Dad” trophy this weekend. I would definitely look at it differently after watching this.
Thoughts, Musings & Trivia
- Robert Clarke played Mr. Jensen and Gorge Barrows played Mr. Caswell. Both are rather prolific “B” movie actors from the 50s and 60s.
- Although he appeared in many westerns, one of Clarke’s most known films is the cult sci-fi classic The Hideous Sun Demon.
- George Barrows later became known for appearances on The Wonderful World of Disney. He became famous doing most of his work in a gorilla suit and helmet as Ro-Man the Monster in Robot Monster. He even appeared in an episode of the iconic Batman television series in 1966.
- Shawn Stevens plays Randy. He joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after spending time in Kanab, Utah working on a horror film. He later toured the western United States as Jimmy in Saturday’s Warrior. He also played the narrator in Our Heavenly Father’s Plan.