Anabel and her boyfriend Boris playing a game.
Billions for Boris takes us to the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan Island, New York City in 1984. There we meet teenagers Anabel Andrews (Mary Tanner Bailey) and her boyfriend Boris Harris (Artie Rose as Scott Tiler). Boris lives with his mother (Lee Grant) who is a writer struggling to succeed, and neglectful of their home and finances. Their relationship is somewhat strained because the house is a mess, the plumbing needs fixing, and bills are unpaid. Boris must use a walkie-talkie to communicate with Anabel; he tells her that his mom won’t let him use the telephone, but the real reason is that the phone has been shut off, due to an unpaid balance. Anabel lives with her parents (Brian Evers, Sally Stark) and her younger brother Benjamin, who she nicknamed “Ape-Face”. Ben is a mechanical genius, and in an early scene, asks Anabel if he can take apart her hair dryer. She demurs but Boris tells Ben that he can have an old black and white tv at home that doesn’t work. Anabel also has a best friend Virginia (Marisa Johnston) that she likes to go shopping with, and in several scenes, you see the two of them out and about the city having a good time.
Anabel’s younger brother Ben nicked-named “Ape-face” wants to take apart her hair dryer.
The plot begins in earnest a few days later. Ben has succeeded in not only repairing the television set, but for some reason it broadcasts television programs a day before they are supposed to air. As a result Ben knows about things like who won the Knicks game or what the weather will be like one day in advance. He keeps one of the tubes off the set because his mother doesn’t want him to watch tv in his room when she is home, but when it is inserted he is able to predict the future by watching sports and news shows on the old set. Anabel soon calls in Boris to show him what has happened and Boris immediately realizes its financial potential. To his way of thinking this television set is the answer to all of his problems. He tries to get Ben to trade him the set for things like a new color television, but Ben isn’t buying. There is a sequence of several short scenes at school or at Anabel’s apartment where a frustrated Boris keeps upping his offer. Finally Ben agrees to make the deal for a remote controlled space toy, because he can hide it under the covers so his mom won’t know he is playing a game. The next day the deal is made, and the three watch the news together, learning about future sports scores and a fire that will happen at a lingerie factory the next afternoon. Boris starts planning on how to capitalize on the sports information, while Anabel is concerned about the factory. “Will we be able to warn them?” she asks.
“Ape-face” is a mechanical genius.
Boris’ plan to capitalize on the advance knowledge starts by playing the horse races. Ineligible to place bets due to his age, Boris comes up with lame looking disguises that somehow pass the man in the betting window’s scrutiny, and starts to make some real money. His mother is away on an extended business trip, and he uses his winnings to do things like remodel their apartment, fix the plumbing, and get their financial house in order. Anabel decides to use the knowledge to prevent bad accidents and crimes. She and her friend Virginia walk over to the lingerie factory to warn them about the impending explosion, which happens right after they arrive. Luckily no employees are there except the watchman. After the authorities arrive and it is determined that Anabel wasn’t responsible, even though she was seen throwing something at the factory window, a reporter named Bart (Tim Kazurinsky) hooks up with her to find out more about the story. Soon they are working together to prevent other crimes, like a liquor store robbery. But their actions have unintended consequences. A couple of thieves become aware that Boris is getting all this money at the track and want in on the action. And Anabel’s relationship with the reporter causes problems with Boris and her friend Virginia when the two of them go on a date to the movies when Anabel is out with Bart. Things like this continue until some additional bad experiences make all of them realize the dangers of what they have been doing. The balance of the story is how things work out in their lives.
Boris desperately wants the TV that “Ape-face” built.
Billions for Boris is based on the Freaky Friday books by Mary Rogers that all have fanciful elements, like Anabel and her mother switching bodies. This film, based on the second book, also called ESP TV, does change the story line by adding a lot of outside elements. The plot elements are often illogical; for instance, there never is an attempt to explain why the tv was able to broadcast the future. Where does 10-year-old Ben get the tubes (remember them?) and parts to repair that old broken tv? And what are the consequences for interfering with the future? Despite its plot deficiencies, the characters are what make this film worth watching. As viewers, we get a look into life in Manhattan back in 1984 as seen through its teenaged leads, and the performances do not disappoint. Mary Tanner is charming in her lead role of Anabel, Artie Rose/Scott Tiler as Boris wants to be successful but doesn’t always have the ability to think things through, despite his good intentions. This film is the very first film with Seth Green, who has gone on to have a long career, one of the few kid actors who continued to grow with the acting profession as he grew in age. His performance as the genius kid “Ape-Face” has a natural charm and simplicity that is cleverly combined with the typical conniving of a ten-year-old boy. Lee Grant, as Boris’ mom Sascha, only has a few scenes, but gives us some depth in her portrayal of an aspiring writer devoted to her craft and forgetful at times of the practical things in life, yet at the same time can function as a good mother even though Boris doesn’t always realize it. Overall, Billions for Boris is an enjoyable film for anyone who enjoys teen comedies with fantasy elements.
Anabel and her friend Virginia out and about in New York City.
Ben “Ape-face” Andrews with the television set he rebuilt.
All of the young characters in Billions for Boris wear Converse shoes, and three of them wear high top chucks. Anabel Andrews wears pink high tops, her friend Virginia wears light blue high tops, and Ben “Ape-face” Andrews wears black high top chucks (Seth Green’s first film role). This film has a very 1980s look to it, and chucks were as popular back then as they are now. There are a lot of shots of Anabel, Ben, and Virginia hitting the streets of New York City in their chucks. Two good close ups are when Ape-face is trying to deliver the television set to Boris’ apartment and when Anabel and Boris are watching the Kentucky Derby together.
Boris and Anabel watching the results of the Kentucky Derby.
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