In this cult doc from 1985, director Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated) weaves a fascinating study of the curious role of a sex surrogate in the then-new discipline of sexual therapy. ... See full summary »
Warren Robert Jason,
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Documentary about writer and performance artist Bob Flanagan who died at 43 of cystic fibrosis. His life was indicated by pain from the beginning and he started to develop sadomasochistic ... See full summary »
An interesting failure, Kirby Dick documents five people (he claims six, but the material on Chang is clearly archive footage from another film with easy-to-deconstruct narration). This film is excessively short and feels incomplete because of its superficiality. The narration seems to condemn freak shows while Robert Melvin and his family both appear to endorse them as a place where unusual people were accepted and even celebrated. Sandy Allen, the world's tallest woman, has been a big proponent of bringing back freak shows, but she is not interviewed. Melvin's interview does not hint that he felt exploited, and Dick certainly does not insinuate that Mickey Hays playing an alien in _The Aurora Encounter_ was exploitative, and indeed, reunited Hays with Jack Elam, who have a rapport much like Gil Gerard and Ernie Reyes, Jr. did at the time.
The opening, complete with footage from _The Elephant Man_, is awkwardly handled, with the narrator introducing person after person and going into details about the sex life of each, including admittedly unconfirmed data about extra sex organs. Perhaps the best handled part is the portion on Sam Early, whom Dick seems to respect most for his total avoidance of show business, though conversely, Loyce (pronounced like "Lois") Bernal's story seems like he didn't have enough time to deal with properly. Her stomach stapling is mentioned, but he clearly did not have the time for the followup he begs. Mickey Hays's grandmother sounds like she's reading idiot cards with built in afterthoughts for a religious station.
A glaring research error appears in the statement that Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, had neurofibromatosis, which Robert Melvin also has. Even in 1985, that diagnosis had gone by the wayside in favor of the diagnosis of Proteus Syndrome, as Merrick's bones were affected by his disorder, which does not occur in neurofibromatosis.
All in all, there is interesting information here, but the way it is presented is teasingly superficial, heavy-handed, and sometimes saccharinely maudlin. 5/10.
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