King For a Day: The Midas Touch (1997)

Dave checks out former Empire/Full Moon regular Peter Manoogian’s final collaboration with Charles Band.

Things had changed a little since Peter Manoogian last worked for Charlie Band.

A graduate of New York University’s School of the Arts where he studied filmmaking under his father, Professor Haig Manoogian, and a former student-turned-teacher by the name of Martin Scorsese [1], Manoogian came to Hollywood and began his career working as an assistant director for Roger Corman before falling into the Band fold as first AD on Parasite (1982). The director’s chair beckoned a few years later, with the likes of Eliminators (1986), Enemy Territory (1987), and Demonic Toys (1992) providing Manoogian with a sample of both the Empire and Paramount-backed eras of Band’s production line. The post-’95 Kushner-Locke age at Full Moon was a whole new trip, though, as Manoogian explained to author Dave Jay in It Came from the Video Aisle!:

“I ran into Charlie at the American Film Market in ’95 and he asked if I’d direct one of his Romanian pictures. The movie was administered by a head of production at Kushner-Locke, but they didn’t do anything! They never came to Romania. They’d just call me up, ask how it was going, and if I complained they’d give me some platitudes. The hardest part was trying to make Bucharest look like an American city. They do have American cars there, but they’re hard to find. Also, we had Romanian actors cast as Americans so, y’know, try that one on!” [2]

The film in question was THE MIDAS TOUCH, a fun family adventure that introduces us to Billy Bright (Trever O’Brien – brother of The Last Boy Scout’s (1993) Austin): an orphan who’s looked after by his sick grandmother (Danna Hansen), and who’s prone to being strong-armed into doing other kids’ homework. Caught trespassing in the home of a creepy witch lady (Shannon Welles), she takes pity on the boy and offers to grant him a wish. However, upon wishing for the titular talent, Billy’s request backfires and he’s left with a twenty-four carat granny…

Unlike Prehysteria! (1993), Dragonworld (1994), and the other iconic family fare spawned during Full Moon’s Moonbeam period, the kiddie epics of Band’s Kushner-Locke tenure are defined by a more cookie cutter template. Still, there are sparks of auteur-led creativity present, be it on David Schmoeller’s The Secret Kingdom (1998) or Jeff Burr’s Phantom Town (1999). Manoogian’s The Midas Touch is no exception. It’s a lively romp that takes advantage of the Bucharest backdrop, and the fine camaraderie of its young cast.

The centrepiece is the script. The narrative spine of Billy’s relationship with his ailing grandmother tugs at the heartstrings, and it’s a stark contrast to the generic tropes of its contemporaries – but considering the pedigree of the screenwriter it comes as no surprise. Chicago-born Peter Fedorenko is one of the top rewrite men in the film business, responsible for dozens of uncredited drafts and polishes. However, the machinations of Charles Band still rankle the prolific penman.

“It took about a week, and I did it strictly for a payday,” says Fedorenko. “I know it made nice money for Paramount, but I didn’t see a dime of it. I’ve made a few bucks from foreign residuals, but that’s about it. I wrote another one for Band soon after that about Merlin the Magician. He stole it from me outright and called it Johnny Mysto: Boy Wizard (1997), giving the screenplay credit to Neal Marshall Stevens – another thief.”

As if to rub salt into Fedorenko’s wounds, The Midas Touch hit U.S. video stores on 30th December 1997: the exact same day as Johnny Mysto. If there’s any solace to be had for the writer, it’s that The Midas Touch is the better film. Moreover, in terms of its director, The Midas Touch is a commendable conclusion to Manoogian’s fifteen-year dalliance with Band.

USA/Romania ● 1997 ● Family, Comedy ● 82mins

Trever O’Brien, Ashley Tesoro, Joey Simmrin, David Jeremiah ● Dir. Peter Manoogian ● Wri. Peter Fedorenko, Keith Estrada

[1] Haig Manoogian founded and headed the film department at New York University. Scorsese was a graduate of his.
[2] It Came From the Video Aisle!: Inside Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment Studio by Dave Jay, William Wilson, Torsten Dewi, Matty Budrewicz & Dave Wain, 2017, Schiffer Publishing.

3 thoughts on “King For a Day: The Midas Touch (1997)

  1. Left that in just for you Ryan, as I know you’re always keen to shower us with praise for covering the movies that no one else writes about.


  2. Good review in any case, although I saw this film as a kid. Strangely, I didn’t really care for it, but I suppose I may give it a second chance.


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