Demon Lover Diary (1980)

A few months ago, we reviewed “Demon Lover”, the first work in the “career” of Donald Jackson, a man who went on to make “Roller Blade Seven” and then managed, if such a thing is even possible, to get even worse. But those gems are far in our future, if we can find copies of them, as we’re right back at the beginning.

We’re not just at the beginning of Jackson’s career, but that of Joel DeMott, who went on to make a documentary (“Seventeen”) that won the Grand Prize at the Sundance Festival in 1985 – a few articles claim multiple documentaries were made by DeMott and her partner Joel Kreines, but information on her is pretty thin on the ground.

So, it goes that Donald Jackson and his friend Jerry Younkins worked in a factory, and due to an industrial accident where Younkins lost several fingers, received enough money to fund their dream, making a movie. Jackson saw some of Kreines’ work in a film festival, befriended him and asked him to come to Adrian, Michigan to help him realise his vision. Kreines agreed, on the proviso DeMott could accompany him to shoot a documentary, and that their friend could come and do the sound.

But that’s a dry description of what happens. Kreines and DeMott are a week late getting from New York to Michigan, and blow this off as…well, they’re doing it for free? Jackson almost immediately reveals he’s not got much of a clue what he’s doing, including a sort of vague division of labour between himself and Younkins (one directs the actors, the other the crew), hiring their girlfriends in fairly major roles, putting up Kreines and DeMott at his mother’s house but telling them to not mention the subject matter or title of the movie he was making to her, and so on. It’s chaos from beginning to end, and the fact they managed to make a movie at all is sort of impressive.

It’s shot handheld on not-great equipment, and quite a few of the scenes are just underlit masses of hippie hair with voices coming from all corners. But what’s most interesting about it are the stories that are told – Jackson basically admits at one moment that the industrial accident was no accident; and one of the women hired to act delights the crew with a jaw-droppingly racist series of jokes. Jackson begs to use Kreines’ equipment to shoot the movie himself, even agreeing to pay him $1,000 (from his initial budget of $8,000) for the privilege. There’s the way both “directors” talk about how this is just their initial commercial movie, and they’ll go on to more interesting projects when this makes its money back. Oh, and I guess there’s a culmination of sorts of Ted Nugent’s house, I’m still not sure how they got to know him but they do, and they hang at his place and borrow some guns and explosives.

A crew member is shot, and taken away in an ambulance; the crew demand that Jackson sign a contract to stop with the chaos, or they all walk immediately. There’s a genuinely crazy ending where the documentarians worry that Jackson wants to kill them and believe him entirely capable of it, so run away, and the movie ends with them sat at a gas station, nervously checking each car that pulls up isn’t Jackson with some of Nugent’s guns.

What’s most interesting about this isn’t “Demon Lover” itself, as that’s terrible. It’s watching Donald Jackson, and knowing the future he’d have in movies that avoided having scripts because he didn’t like explaining himself to his cast and crew; it’s the documentarians themselves, DeMott with her voiceover and Kreines suffering from a lack of sleep and a lack of any sort of direction from any of the people around him. It’s the ridiculous boastfulness of Younkins, who’d never do anything else in the movie business. It’s the time when Jackson, who’d taken off work sick to make “Demon Lover”, does an interview with a local newspaper and then acts surprised that his work wants to fire him for obviously not being sick.

While it’s not all that great a documentary – it’s almost impossible to watch in places due to the terrible lighting and fuzzy picture – if you’re one of the foolish few who watched “Demon Lover”, then it’s a lot of fun to see the circumstances it was made in. It’s also good to know that, to the end of his life, Jackson hated “Demon Lover Diary”, seemingly unaware that his hatred spoke volumes.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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Invasion Of The Scream Queens (1992)

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Firstly – much love for Wild Eye Releasing. Those folks are doing some sterling work bringing ultra-low budget and completely forgotten works of horror cinema to a wider audience, and if you have any spare money I heartily recommend buying some of their stuff and having a good time. Well, a good time is not guaranteed, but you know. Get this film from here.

 

This also continues our Donald Farmer season. The great Farmer, after dropping the insane classic “Vampire Cop” on the world, decided to do a documentary featuring the women of the new world of low-budget and shot-on-video (SOV) horror. Well, “decided” might be too strong a word – it looks like he was offered interviews with a bunch of women in their homes, or waiting in the reception room of some movie company, and saw a buck to be made.

 

There’s absolutely nothing interesting visually about this documentary at all, unless you count the sound drops and weird tracking problems that came from Farmer’s original VHS tape and Wild Eye’s transfer of said VHS. So I’d normally try and say something about the movie itself, but in this case I’m stumped. Pro wrestling fans will recognise a lot of the “shoot interview” trend in this, where a wrestler was filmed telling stories in a hotel room on the road somewhere for a couple of hours. No-one has ever said “this shoot interview was really well filmed”.

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A substantial number of women are interviewed, and what’s interesting I think is the mix of extreme honesty and typical Hollywood back-covering from them. Sadly, a lot of them had to rely on, for want of a better word, bottom-feeding scum like Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray for work, and those guys were far more interested in whether a woman would take her clothes off on camera than telling an interesting story (with one or two minor exceptions for both guys). So you get young women like Melissa Moore, Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens, and veterans like Mary Woronov and Martine Beswick, all trying to be as polite as possible about men who I’m sure they’d have crossed the street to avoid had they been in any other line of work. Stevens even manages, from the vantage of 2015, to be a little heartbreaking, as she talks about writing movies and getting into A-pictures…when we can see her IMDB page and the last 20 years is full of cheap horror garbage I’d never even heard of.

 

I think the politeness spoils it, slightly. For instance, making a movie in four days must have been a bizarre experience, and it’s brushed over as “well, I was new, and I’d do anything”. Tell us more! Give us dirt!

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There are no new ideas in the world, and so it is with this movie. Farmer must have seen “Scream Queen Hot Tub Party”, released the previous year, which was a Fred Olen Ray / Jim Wynorski joint effort and basically an hour of mostly naked women talking about the shitty movies they’d been in…although Farmer changes it up and also interviews people like David DeCoteau, who artfully skates round why he doesn’t use certain actresses any more (real answer: they had the temerity to join a Union, and his cheap garbage is most definitely non-Union).  DeCoteau, “interestingly” enough, is still trading on the “Scream Queen” name, casting Linnea Quigley, Bauer and Stevens together in 2014’s “3 Scream Queens”.

 

It’s an fascinating artefact from a fascinating time, and thanks to Wild Eye for putting it out there. But, all told, I’m glad Farmer went back to doing what he did best – making spectacularly cheap horror movies. While I have my soapbox, though, I’ll add a little bit about Wynorski and Olen Ray, as their shadows loom large over this sort of cinema. A lot of sites and magazines will call them “legends”, or make reference to their “gleefully un-PC” cinema, or will even pretend to like their movies. This is 100% bullshit, though. Not only did they make cheap crap with very few redeeming features, they exploited women, and if you think “well, the women could have refused to work for them” then I’m sorry that you don’t understand how the world and power relationships work. Anyway, after the era covered by this movie, Wynorski went on to basically make soft-core pornography (including “Witches of Breastwick” and “Cleavagefield”, and those movies are not as much fun as the titles suggest) and Olen Ray, along with also making soft-core horror, just with less entertaining titles, made super-cheap family movies (“Abner The Invisible Dog” is one), because his entire business model relies on fooling old people and children in video shops and Netflix queues.

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Look at this asshole

B-movies, cheap SOV horror or whatever you want to call it, can be sleazy fun without being so exploitative, but if you only had their work to go on, you’d never realise that. I’m far from a prude, but if being called a prude means I don’t have to pretend to like the person who made “Girl With The Sex-Ray Eyes” then I accept the title. Hell, I’ll be an equal opportunities prude, just look at the front cover of any David DeCoteau movie made in the last decade and tell me you don’t feel a little bad for the guys on the posters.

 

I realise I’ve spent over half this review talking about people who aren’t in it. Sorry ISCFC readers, but “Invasion Of The Scream Queens” comes recommended – just don’t expect much of the documentarian’s art.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Point and Shoot (2014)

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Directed by: Marshall Curry

There are times when ‘Point and Shoot’ feels like a call to arms, an appeal, to twenty-something men who live comfortable safe lives to discover their manhood. I certainly felt that pang for adventure after watching the documentary, it made an itch, which has been there in recent months, a bit itchier.

Mattthew VanDyke is currently over in Iraq fighting against ISIS. Not so long ago he was an average twenty something bloke twiddling his thumbs, day dreaming about adventure. Like so many young men he lacked the ability to take action and make that happen. But one day he took action, he completed a foreign affairs course, purchased a motorbike, and went to Spain, from there Gibraltar, where he gazed across at Africa. Then he biked across North Africa and the Middle East. He made friends along the way, including some from Libya.

VanDyke miraculously completed his journey, which included stints working as a war correspondent alongside American forces in Iraq, and a chastening trip into Afghanistan. When he returned home he planned to settle down with his long term girlfriend and lead a steady life. Then the Arab Spring happened. Revolution was in the air, most notably in Libya, as the people, including the friends he made, decided to rise up against Muammar Gaddafi.

Feeling he needed to help his friends VanDyke left his family and went back to Libya, not as a filmmaker, but as a revolutionary.

What makes this story all the more unbelievable is that VanDyke suffers badly from OCD. His obsessive tendencies frequently delayed his travelling. He’d stop his bike, thinking he’d caused an accident, and drive back a couple of miles just for a peace of mind. He’d freak out when sugar got spilt on his guns and ammunition.

VanDyke’s time in Libya during the revolution is the most interesting part of the documentary. Particularly how the war is captured in the social media age. At times it seems like boys playing soldiers. The rebel army is a ramshackle band of brothers. What it does show is that most of the time modern warfare is uneventful. There’s a lot of hanging around, a lot of confusion and boredom; and I think this documentary shows that.

As for Matthew VanDyke himself, he’s a complex character and not a particularly likeable one at times, particularly how he treats his family, and goes against the advice of a senior journalist who at one stage tells him to go home. I’ve tried to avoid going into too much detail around this as I don’t want to reveal spoilers which would affect your enjoyment of the documentary, should you seek it out, but often it is the case that the most unlikeable personalities are the best documentary subjects.

‘Point and Shoot’ is a fine documentary about a flawed man who seeks adventure. When he finds adventure, he wants more and more.

– RJW

7/10

Point and Shoot on IMDB

Emmanuelle: A Hard Look (2000)

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One of the rare movie documentaries that’s way more interesting than the movies it’s covering, this sort-of-polemic from occasional genius filmmaker Alex Cox was made in 2000 to “celebrate” the first network showing of “Emmanuelle”, the softcore porn film that launched a surprisingly durable franchise – check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuelle#Filmography for proof; basically, just spend a few dollars for official licensing, whack the word on your awful softcore movie and voila!

There’s interviews with star Sylvia Kristel, director Just Jaeckin, plus a few of the other stars of the various sequels, but it’s obvious from the off that Cox isn’t remotely interested in how the film was made, or the personalities of the various people on the set (Kristel, for example, was a massive alcoholic for many years which made her virtually impossible to work with, but this is never mentioned). He’s interested in why it was successful, what made people go to see it, and from that to discuss some much broader questions about modern cinema. Two “vox pops” sections where he goes onto the streets of Liverpool to ask random passers-by about “Emmanuelle” and then later about their favourite places to have sex, help illustrate his thesis, for want of a better word.

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The surprising thing about “Emmanuelle” was how many women went to see it, often in groups – a behaviour that’s being repeated today with “50 Shades Of Grey”, if my sister’s Facebook feed is anything to go by. Not just for the relatively new-at-the-time far Eastern travelogue aspect of things, either – because softcore and hardcore showed female pleasure in the same way (by concentrating on the face and its expressions), softcore was clearly more appealing to a larger proportion of women. Central to Cox’s argument is an interview with the academic Linda Ruth Williams, who talks about how women respond to porn and even some of its more problematic aspects, such as the incredible prevalence of rape scenes in “Emmanuelle” and the films which followed it. James Ferman, former head of the BBFC, has some extremely smart things to say about it too.

So, a documentary ostensibly about some rotten (but famous) old softcore film is actually almost an excuse for Cox to interview a brilliant feminist academic and to come to a genuinely fascinating conclusion. An interview with Dennis Hopper about the time he hit on Kristel leads into a mention of Cox’s amazing spaghetti Western tribute “Straight To Hell”, and Cox talking about fantasy. Why is fantasy violence, such as that shown at great length in the average Western, absolutely fine with mainstream viewing audiences, yet fantasy sex is to be either looked down on or censored? Is it due to the largely male audience for one, and the female audience for the other? Or just a puritanical clampdown on pleasure, like banning marijuana? His comparison of “Emmanuelle 4” (his favourite of the series, it would seem) to sculpture “The Three Muses”, calling one art for the lower classes and the other porn for the upper classes, is a clever way of wrapping things up, even if it’s overstating the case a little.

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But Alex Cox is a brilliant filmmaker, and this is a fascinating documentary. You might not learn a ton about the “Emmanuelle” film series but you’ll learn something interesting about film.

Rating: thumbs up

Still The Enemy Within (2014)

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The Miners Strike of 1984-1985 changed Britain for the worse. Purely to defeat the organised working class, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announced pit closures, being perfectly willing to get rid of an entire industry, judging quite rightly that none of them voted for the Conservatives anyway. The miners, who were pushed and pushed further, finally went on strike when a modern, recently Government-upgraded pit was earmarked for closure – there could have been no other justification for it. And, for a year, the miners fought the Government.

It’s a long story, with moments of joy and laughter, as the miners begin to understand their strength and the power that comes from organising and moving collectively; and lots of moments of misery, as the State uses every tool in its arsenal to beat and humiliate the miners. As one of the strikers says, “imagine taking your wages every month, putting them in a cupboard and not touching them for a year. See how you get on” and we see the soup kitchens that were organised to feed the miners and their families, among many other things.

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Obviously, the miners lost in the end, so it’s a deeply sad story. The rest of the organised working class (and, to their eternal shame, the Labour Party) did too little to support them – money was good, but what they needed was other workers to come out on strike, to open up new fronts and force the government to stop destroying their industry and the thousands of villages and towns that relied on mines and miners for their livelihoods. There are happy moments, such as when Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners made their trip to the tiny South Wales town they’d chosen to support (the story told, with such laughter and tears, in “Pride”); and the ways the miners got round the police blockades stopping them from picketing outside some pits.

The film consists mainly of the story of the strike told by former miners and their supporters. The amazingly named Norman Strike; Paul Symonds, who movingly talks about the death of his friend on the picket line; Joyce Sheppard, who went from “ordinary” housewife to inspiring political activist; among others. Full disclosure: I have chaired meetings featuring several of the people involved in this film, so it’s to be expected I may be slightly biased. But bias is the only real way to respond to this film. If you’re not biased on the side of the miners, then you’ve not opened your eyes in the last 30 years.

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As the ending of the film shows, the legacy of the defeat of the miners strike is felt everywhere in the Britain of today. Privatisation has ended “jobs for life”, given billions of pounds to already wealthy investors, while leaving the actual people who make everything on the scrapheap. Once-proud areas are now little better than ghost towns, families where no-one’s worked for generations are increasingly common, and the gap between rich and poor continues to grow ever wider. Does anyone think, even now, that the Tories did the right thing? Has anyone said “well, the unions needed to be taught a lesson” and not been proved to be either directly profiting from that lesson, or an idiot?

But it’s not just a story of how the State beat one group of workers. It’s hope. The interviewees would do it all again, only with better tactics this time, because they were right! Seeing the stars of the documentary marching on anti-austerity demonstrations in 2014, saying “the future is still up for grabs” demonstrates how we should all be. Fighting the system is bloody difficult but the alternative is way worse, not just for us but for our kids and generations to come. Watch this documentary, be inspired and fight!

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Rating: thumbs up

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)

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If you spent any time in a video shop in the 80s and 90s, you’ll have definitely encountered a lot of films made by Cannon. Probably most famous for the 80s output of “the Two Chucks” (Bronson and Norris), the work of Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus entertained a generation and baffled many a Hollywood bigwig with their unusual business style. A very small sample – “Lifeforce” (the film starring a nude lady and Patrick Stewart); “The Last American Virgin”; “American Ninja”; “Cobra”; “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”; “Barfly”; “Alien From LA”; “Bloodsport”; “Kickboxer”; “Captain America”; and “American Cyborg: Steel Warrior”, among many many others. Chances are a few of those names will raise a smile from our readers.

Golan and Globus are two Israeli cousins who got their start in their home country and were primarily known at the time for the “Lemon Popsicle” series of movies, the spiritual predecessors of “Porky’s” and its ilk. Not high art, but they made a stack of money and gave Golan and Globus the clout to buy small studio Cannon and start making American movies for a worldwide audience.

They were never really any good, though, and that’s the important thing to bear in mind when watching this. “Lemon Popsicle” was bloody awful, and by and large their output was trashy B-movies, most of them too boring to even bother reviewing on here. They’d occasionally stumble onto a hit (Enter The Ninja), accidentally make something good, or rush-release something to capitalise on a trend (Breakin’), but by and large their output was trashy, boob-filled exploitation cinema (The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, Lady Chatterley’s Lover). Throughout this film, you’ll have the conflict of largely hating the movies Cannon put out, but also hating the people who are seemingly delighted they failed.

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The huge majority of the film is talking heads, of people who worked for or with them. One gets the distinct impression former employees are enjoying this chance to stick the boot in, so everything about Cannon and the Golan/Globus team gets ripped to pieces – the way they did business, their penny-pinching ways, the way they treated actresses, the trash they turned out, and so on. Some of the criticism is no doubt true, but the fact that these people were happy enough to work for them when they were rolling in money is an issue which is, of course, never mentioned. There’s one particularly strange bit towards the end, where to show the collapse of Golan’s principles, they play a clip of him saying “what would I do with a $30 million movie? I’d feel like I was cheating people” in a split screen with the cost of their three most expensive movies – the only problem being, they cost $17, $22 and $24 million. A lot, no doubt, but it doesn’t prove their point and made me wonder what the filmmakers were trying to say.

Occasionally despite themselves, the filmmakers drop in a little mention of them being good people. They were solely interested in making movies, and didn’t have expense accounts or any of that, and despite the documentary being surprised by this, it sounds a refreshing and fine way of doing things. “Runaway Train” is given a great deal of praise while saying Golan and Globus had nothing to do with it; and their work with people like Franco Zeffirelli, John Cassavetes and Jean-Luc Godard, when Hollywood wasn’t interested in any of them, is mentioned too.

One of the talking heads was exceptionally unpleasant to Cannon, though, and he was Frank Yablans, the head of MGM studios from 1983-1985. MGM wanted cheap product to fill their cinemas, so entered into a distribution deal with Cannon which didn’t last very long. He called their product garbage, over and over again, but no-one felt like asking him “it’s not like they were churning out masterpieces before the deal, what were you expecting?” And MGM under his leadership produced “gems” like “Gymkata”, “Ice Pirates”, “Shanghai Surprise” and “Solarbabies”, so I’ve got no idea why we’re expected to take his word on movie quality remotely seriously.

Frank Yablans was fired by MGM when it was discovered that he was defrauding them, signing deals that gave him a huge bonus, not his studio, and spent the rest of his career (he died in 2014) producing “faith-based films”, Christian movies being the last refuge of the liar and charlatan. He was a rotten human being and the movie presenting his view as unchallenged truth does it a sizeable disservice.

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Cannon’s collapse is inevitable and quick, in a sea of debt, when it happens, and no-one seemed terribly upset by it. It was a pretty wild ride, producing as many as 43 films in a year (the average major studio never did more than 15), and we all ought to remember the fun B-movies and exciting trash that they made, not how impossibly difficult the two of them must have been to work for. There’s a reason no-one makes documentaries about a 10-year stretch in the life of a major movie studio, because it would be boring as hell – no scenes of the two studio bosses dreaming up ideas for movies off the top of their heads, or selling posters for movies that hadn’t even been started yet.

WHAT THE DOCUMENTARY DIDN’T TELL YOU
1. Cannon won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best foreign language movie in 1986, during their “decline”.

2. Roger Ebert was extremely kind to them, saying that no-one took as many chances on fringe or risky choices as Cannon did – a long way from the uber-shlock-meisters the film wanted to portray them as.

3. The huge breakup of the two cousins that provided the ending to the movie lasted a grand total of three years, as Golan and Globus were working together again by 1993 for 21st Century Films; Golan was still directing and producing movies as late as 2008 and Globus is still producing them.

It’s films like this that make me realise I have no moral objection whatsoever to people pirating movies. The movie business is made up of cheats and liars and criminals and people who would do or say literally anything if it made them a buck; this movie, with its bottom-feeding scum looking down their noses at Cannon, a company that actually got stuck in and DID something, is a perfect illustration. We’re not supposed to break the law (in a very minor way) yet these people break every employment law under the sun, cut corners, treat women like dirt, cheat their business partners, twist copyright, and threaten people with guns.

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As interesting as the story is, I got a bit bored of the snark from all the tired old white men who’d have never dared open their mouths if Cannon had still been going; or if the doc had been about one of the still-existing major studios. Every documentary I see about the movie business makes me like the movie business less and less.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

PS. Perhaps the most interesting information was that Nu Image, our friends since the early 90s and now the big-budget boys behind the Expendables movies, was started by two former Cannon executives, who learned at the knee of Golan and Globus (only Nu Image has a better business model). “Hollywood is now making Cannon movies” is the smartest thing anyone says in the entire 100 minutes.

That Guy…Who Was In That Thing (2012)

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Xander Berkeley. Zeljko Ivanek. Timothy Omundson. Bruce Davison. Wade Williams. If you know any of these names, then you’re virtually guaranteed to have a great time with this documentary – and even if you don’t, you will have 16 different shocks of recognition as those guys and the rest of the cast tell you exactly what it’s like to be a working character actor in Hollywood.

“That Guy” is a phenomenon in many homes, where you sit and watch a show or a movie and the best friend, or that week’s villain, or the lawyer, is played by one of those guys you’ve seen in a ton of other things…only you don’t remember his name, and thus this film’s title.

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It’s broken down, roughly, into several sections – so you’ll get them talking about how they get recognised on the street (often with a faintly puzzled air); their families (most come from non-acting backgrounds); about how much they hate auditions and that whole process; then onto the actual process of making a show; what to do with all the downtime you have; how you deal with your friends having success; the worst jobs you’ve ever had; the financial insecurity of being a character actor; and, weirdly, how nearly all of them have been in “Star Trek”, often on multiple occasions.

They’re all pretty smart, so you’ll get a lot of interesting thoughts from people who’ve been inside the belly of the beast. Omundson, on studying something else to fall back on: “If I have something to fall back on, I’ll fall back on it”, plus Wade Williams has a master’s degree in teaching acting so he’s very wise to every aspect of the process. My favourite story of them all was JC McKenzie talking about a film he’d done several years previously, and how he’d been treated very badly by a former TV star turned super-diva. At that point, I paused the movie and went to IMDB, and my best bet would be Katie Holmes for the identity of his unnamed villain. That and trying to figure out what the book was that Robert Joy had like 15 identical copies of behind his head adds a whole other layer of detective work!

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By the end of this, you’ll have heard at least three stories you want to immediately go out and tell someone, you’ll have laughed a fair few times and you’ll definitely have a new-found respect for That Guy guys. A really interesting documentary about 16 interesting people.

Rating: thumbs up

Men With Beards (2013)

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I knew when I laughed three times in the first five minutes, that I’d enjoy the hell out of this film. That I’ve had a big beard myself for almost ten years is neither here nor there (although if you’re like my grandmother-in-law, who apparently hated them, this might not be the film for you).

The people interviewed in “Men With Beards” are just normal men from the locality of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, talking about their lives. They just seem like good people, happy they could get some excellent face-hair growth and happy to share their stories; plus, there’s archive footage of the history of beards, old shaving adverts, weird old clips edited for laughs, some fairly serious discussion about self-expression, plus a build up to the World Beard & Moustache Championships.

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In a way, it’s weirdly fetishistic. Bear with me! Much like adult entertainment where the people involved are just bodies, and you often don’t see the faces, there are a lot of shots in this film where all you see is the beard. Basically, if you have a thing for beards and don’t want any of that boring eyes or bodies nonsense, then this could be the film for you.

For me, the discussion about eating was the truest. Although I try my hardest to keep my beard clean, I’ll occasionally find a toast crumb or something in there; so to hear the woes of my similarly hirsute brethren was brilliant. And I got annoyed at the guys with dark hair, because my beard’s going grey at the chin.

The documentarians picked some really really good subjects for this. The people are smart, self-deprecating, and it’s just fun to spend some time with them – perhaps it helps that they’re stereotypically polite, friendly Canadians? Ah, who knows? Their attitude to being shouted at on the street is just great, too.

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We have apparently reached what’s known as “Peak Beard” in society, where so many men have them that it’s completely normalised, or over-normalised. Even though I’m a long-term beard-haver, and I’m delighted that they’re out there and there’s stuff like “lumbersexuals”, in a sense, a documentary about beards in 2013 is like a documentary about what it’s like to own a TV in 1958, in that so many people have one that the experience isn’t particularly unique or noteworthy.

But that’s not what this film is about! It’s a celebration, and an interesting and informative 80 minutes spent in the company of a group of decent people. Not the most essential documentary of all time, that’s for sure, but a heck of a lot of fun.

Rating: thumbs up