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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the 1980s, Saturday morning TV programming was riddled with
insanity. There was ALF TALES. LAZER TAG ACADEMY. And also something
called IT'S PUNKY BREWSTER, which was not PUNKY BREWSTER, but an
animated version of PUNKY BREWSTER starring the voice of Punky
Brewster. That show ran for two seasons.
GLOW: GORGEOUS LADIES OF WRESTLING was the long-running, live-action television program that featured chainsaw attacks, Borscht Belt comedy, and a wrestler named Vixxxen. It was kind of like WWF, but with a cast of women and camcorder production values. In other words, GLOW was way more entertaining and hilarious than anything else on Saturday morning TV, including RUDE DOG AND THE DWEEBS. Glitter! Spandex! Jackie Stallone! Completely over-the-top and possibly conceptualized by an alzheimer's patient, the show was everything a ten-year-old could ask for on Saturday morning. It's also everything a mid-thirties-year-old could ask for on any day of the week. Trust me.
Now, over twenty years after the cancellation of GLOW, the filmmakers behind ROCK-AFIRE EXPLOSION have given us GLOW: THE STORY OF THE GORGEOUS LADIES OF WRESTLING. It's exactly what you'd hope to hear about while watching a documentary on GLOW. The faux-glamor. The dirt. The bone-popping-out-of-someone's-arm. But then, about halfway through, it's understood that the wrestler once known as Mount Fiji is a real, actual person. Her name is Emily Dole. Because of her time with GLOW, Dole is bedridden.
The lives of the GLOW ladies aren't mired down in crack addiction, suicide, or other kinds of horribleness. Sadness is present, as it is with anyone who has blood pumping through their veins. But this is sadness as a means of personal growth. And seeing that unfold before our eyes -- that feels good. As much as I laughed at the ridiculous vintage GLOW footage that was thrown at my face every few minutes, I was surprised by how the real-life story behind GLOW made me feel. That dichotomy between the ironic and the sincere doesn't always work in 'talking heads' documentaries -- forced intentions are obvious from a mile away. Not here, though. This is a genuinely entertaining documentary that plays no tricks and keeps things sincere. And since this isn't a doc about Investment Bankers, but about THE GORGEOUS LADIES OF WRESTLING!!!!, I fully guarantee your enjoyment.
- Joseph A. Ziemba
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Directed by Brett Whitcomb, this documentary tells the story about G.L.O.W (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), a 1980's professional wrestling television promotion for women. GLOW was created by Matt Cimber and David B. McLane as a way to capitalize on the aftermath of Jackie Stallone's physical fitness gym for women only, Barbarella's. The syndicated GLOW TV show was produced for four seasons (19861990) from the Riviera Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. David and Jackie both promoted G.L.O.W for the entire running of the program, while Matt Cimber ran the show, behind the camera. The roster were made out of the Good Girls (AKA Babyfaces) and the Bad Girls (AKA Heels) who work story lines against each other in a campy matter. While, Mando Guerrero did a good job, training the girls. I have to say, as a wrestling fan, the wrestling is pretty horrible, but somewhat better than today standards of female wrestling. The biggest drawn was sex appeal, and the campy comedic approach to wrestling humor, it had in it's over the top, and somewhat controversial skits. While, the wrestlers in the documentary says it was mostly a kid friendly show, I have to differ it did had some family friendly themes, but some were very adult themes running throughout its seasons as well. Wrestlers would talk about sex or make sexual puns. Language was bit a harsh, as the F- word was somewhat aired at times and racial slurs were used. Don't get me on the whole Nazism gimmick. That was pretty awful. Then there were over the top skits about current affairs such as Iran-Contra crisis. The documentary chronicles how GLOW started, its success, its controversial movies, and how it end. It also highlight the careers of some of its talents by talking about their characters, their injuries, their storyline feuds, and how much they help influence future women wrestlers. Unlike Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (WWE) in that time, GLOW had actual seasons where some wrestlers were dropped, changed, or added before the new season began. Each season consisted of 26 episodes that were each rerun once to complete the year, with a total of 104 episodes produced. Plus unlike WWE, each of the GLOW performers had her own rap song personalized lyrics using the same backing track. It was shown on videotape prior to that wrestler's match. Similar to other wrestling promotions' use of wrestler-specific entrance themes, this gimmick may have been influenced by the Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle". It's cheesy, but catchy. There were some very interesting colorful wrestlers with outrageous over the top characters that they cover in this film, but they only mention their character name rather than real life names. Still, there were a lot of other wrestlers missing from this, but they mostly got most of the popular ones to appear in this documentary. I would had love to see Zelda the Brain (Marie Moore) on the documentary, but sadly she didn't appear here. Each interview was pretty interesting ranging from Russian spy, colonel Ninotchka (Lori Palmer) to the Heavy Metal Sisters (Arlene and Phyllis) who talks about their character success to real life success by Tina Ferrari (Lisa Moretti) who later made it big in WWE as Ivory. One of them, I didn't like, and waste a lot of scenes was narcissistic kinda slutty Hollywood (Jeanne Basone) who says her biggest claim to fame, was posing for Playboy. I don't know if she playing for the cameras, or that really her, but gees. Wow- what she has low standards. They waste a lot of film, about her that had little to do with GLOW. Then there is Susie Spirit (Lauri Thompson) whom biggest claim to fame is breaking her arm on television, which I think the documentary focus way too much on. Another big star was Matilda the Hun (Dee Boocher) who play a boisterous large East German biker woman who loves eating meat is the all-time bad girl in the show. You can tell that Dee Boocher love her job, playing it off on the camera. She had a really good funny story about how she came into the business. I think this film is just worth watching because of her in it. While, Matilda makes this documentary funny, the interview with Mountain Fuji (Emily Dole) gave this documentary, its heart with her heart-breaking story about her real life struggle with her health. She is the mother figure of the group that most of the cast, love. Without spoiling too much of the documentary, I felt something for her. The part where she meets all the cast at the reunion after 20 years was just amazing to watch and they all sing their rap. I have to say, bring your tissues for that scene. While, the brief documentary doesn't cover everything about GLOW, (run time is only 76 minutes) it did OK highlighting the experience from the vantage point of the girls involved. I'm glad, they didn't focus too much on their modern lives or the business side; instead focusing on sharing stories about the glory days was far more interesting. This movie was great as a first-hand nostalgia piece to anybody who doesn't know about GLOW. I thought this is a well-done film that gives audiences a fun glimpse into what it took to produce the show and how hard the talent worked to make it a success. In April 2012, GLOW did indeed returned to Las Vegas for a show that reunited former GLOW girls and also featured new GLOW girls. This documentary indeed did its job
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