Aug 24, 2016

The Boy Who Fought Mutants: Lee H. Montgomery

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1985, my mother called every week, usually early Saturday morning, and asked "What stars have you met?"  But she wasn't familiar with most of the actors of my generation, so "Michael J. Fox" got a polite murmur, "Robin Williams" a vague "Oh yeah, I've heard of him," and "Lee H. Montgomery" a blank "Who's that?"

But Lee had more than enough claims to fame (and he was a lot friendlier than Robin Williams).

He played the boy who taught his pet rat to kill in Ben (1972).  If you separate it from the premise, the theme song, sung by Michael Jackson, is a touching evocation of same-sex love:

Ben, the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for.
With a friend to call my own, I'll never be alone,
And you, my friend, will see, you've got a friend in me.

In The Savage is Loose (1974), an entry in the "sexually dangerous kid" genre that Mark Lester  and Scott Jacoby specialized in, David (Lee) is shipwrecked on a desert island, along with his Dad (George C. Scott) and Mom.  David eventually morphs into the bodybuilding hunk John David Carson (left), and tries to kill his Dad so he can mate with Mom.  About the same plot as What the Peeper Saw, but with more nudity.

In Burnt Offerings (1976), a married couple (Oliver Reed, Karen Black) moves into a California mansion with their son David (Lee) and elderly Aunt Elizabeth (film legend Bette Davis).  As the house starts asserting  itself, it tries to drown David, and then drops a pillar on him.

Was there a fad for threatening half-naked kids in the 1970s?  It also happened in The Possession of Joel Delaney  and The Omen.

By the way, the hunky Oliver Reed hangs out in a swimsuit.

When Lee hit adolescence, his chunkiness melted away, and he did the standard tv movies and guest spots on Chips, Family Ties, Fame, Hotel, and Dallas.

By this time, Lee had a tight, firm, hirsute physique, and he knew what to do about it.  In Night Shadows (1984), also released as Mutant, he displays his chest at all times, even the most inconvenient (while renting a room, at the doctor's office five minutes after the doctor says "You can put your shirt back on").  Incidentally, there's also a strong homoerotic subtext as Mike (Lee) cries for his dead "brother" Josh (Wings Hauser).

Many of Lee's teenage and young adult performances feature displays of his chest and abs, and strong buddy-bonds: Prime Risk (1985) and The Midnight Hour (1985), the episode "Man to Man" of Highway to Heaven (1986), and one of the more controversial of the Schoolbreak Specials, "Hear Me Cry" (1984), about two high school boys who make a mutual suicide pact.

His characters are often uninterested in women, though a girl is usually thrown in, almost as an afterthought, to provide a heterosexist fade-out kiss.

In 1986, Lee retired from acting to concentrate on his music.

I met him at a party in 1987, and assumed he was gay, but I don't really have any evidence one way or the other.  The story is on Tales of West Hollywood.