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Survival of the Snake
The Jake Roberts documentary is a truly compelling watch. Beginning with his shocking childhood, Jake tells of his troubled start in life which spawned his well documented drug problems during his pro wrestling career. The documentary leads onto his triumphs and his tragedies but carries an undertone of a man seeking redemption. Someone with a good heart, shrouded by demons.
Without going into too much fine detail on Jake's story, The DVD captures the tragedy he has endured but also highlights the undisputed talent he had - on the microphone and in the ring. There are many references to Jakes understanding of 'wrestling psychology' regarding that of baby-faces, heels(good and bad guys)and in-ring story telling (the workings of a match). Examples appear in the forms of classic promos, matches and coverage of timeless feuds with the Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude, Ricky Steamboat etc.
As far as the way the DVD has been put together I feel certain things could have been included and elaborated on and certain things were needlessly re-visited. Jake's stint in ECW got very little coverage, as well as much of his earlier career which was just used as build up to his joining the WWF (It is a WWE DVD after all). The other thing that was irritating was the number of officials, announcers and wrestlers re-wording the same comment that 'Jake was his own worst enemy'. The fact is Jake admits that all his problems were his own doing and he is brutally honest about his personal issues, which is refreshing and admirable, was enough. We didn't need everyone else to back this up over a number of segments.
I found the sections regarding the snake itself and the 'Beyond the Mat' documentary particularly interesting. Jake feels he was tricked with 'BTM' and states his parts were heavily edited to portray him as the 'loser character' the anti-wrestling documentary wanted. He claims that Terry Funk was the so-called friends who knowingly got him involved with it. The snake section is comical with Macho Man getting a chunk bitten out of him and Ted Dibiase, who comes over really well, telling stories of the snake running free in hotels and the locker room.
DVD extras include some solid matches (Steamboat and Rude encounters especially) and further comments from Jake (the LOD and King Kong Bundy ones are worth a listen). WWE has, again, packed a lot in for a double-disc DVD you can now pick up at a reasonable price.
Overall, I'd say 'Pick Your poison' is certainly worth a watch. Jake is truly a master of words and almost sounds like an evil preacher at times. He is honest in his regret of his self-abuse and some of the bad decisions he's made but he is in search of salvation and hopefully he's now found that. His finishing quote is not a spoiler but maybe the best way to summarise Jake's story...
"I'm not happy about where I've been but I'm excited about where I'm going"
WWE: McMahon (2006)
McMahon: The Insane Genius
I sat back last night and watched the 2 hours plus documentary on the illustrious career of Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Now as a wrestling fan I loved the breakdown of his story and the reasoning behind some of his infamous decisions, but this documentary will appeal to almost anyone. Watching a 60 year-old multi-billionaire battle and bleed in the ring on numerous occasions when in reality he should be sat in a pool, on a yacht or playing golf somewhere. Watching him push himself to the limit, make outlandish remarks and consistently answer his critics is enough to keep you entertained but more seriously there is a point in the DVD that you start to think "Man, this guy really is insane".
McMahon changed wrestling forever. He completely revolutionised the industry and has took it further than anyone could ever imagine. He has built careers, created superstars and branched out into other forms of media and entertainment. There is no doubting McMahon is a business genius. Then you hear his 'storyline' ideas for the WWE, you hear how he fires people, how he struggles to decipher between himself and his character - 'Mr McMahon'. There is constant balance of what you could only call good and evil. The cover represents this best with the two faces, split down the centre.
The extras consist of some brutal matches and further more stories about Vince and his employees. On the whole the DVD package is well worth a watch and you'll come away from it feeling slightly shocked yet satisfied that even the richest, shrewdest, well dressed business man may be searching for his sanity just like the rest of us.
Faith & The Carnivale
HBO's Carnivale was and is an amazing television series. Beautifully presented, well written, well cast and undeniably unique. Carnivale allows us to escape to a not so distant time and an existing place, yet it's the circumstance that brings it all to life in wonderfully supernatural fashion.
Predominantly following the stories of two men - One of great faith and honour and one with little faith or belief in anything, the carnival is the catalyst in the inevitable meeting of these two souls and it is the series that maps this journey. Yet it is not until deep into the series that we come to realise the importance of these men and the consequences of their abilities and eventual meeting.
Stellar performances from Clancy Brown(Justin), Nick Stahl(Ben), Clea Duvall(Sofie) and co. bring to life unusual yet brilliant characters in the forms of priests, healers, psychics, snake charmers etc. Who all play significant roles in what is almost a chess battle of good and evil, yet as the viewer we are left to determine who the kings and queens are and strangely - who is good and who is evil?
As far as comparisons go, the moment Michael J.Anderson(Samson) appears on screen he is instantly recognisable from his role as 'The man from another place' in Lynch and Frost's 'Twin Peaks'. Although each show shares paranormal elements the stories are very far apart with Peaks taking a much more comedic approach. Each show has an enchanting, memorable quality but sadly the most similar aspect between the two - They were both cancelled prematurely!
So that brings us to faith. Faith that the powers that be will one day offer us some resolve in what was arguably one of the most fascinating TV series in recent years. Faith in the millions of other like myself who loved the show, to go out and purchase the box sets, sign the petitions and make it known that Dan Knaufs Carnivale is a great story that deserves to be told - in full!
If you haven't seen this show then I implore you to do so. The story itself is compelling, the characters are original and it's a very bright and colourful show to watch. By sticking with Carnivale you are rewarded with twists, turns and revelations and by the 'current' finale you are left begging and pleading for more. If we never see beyond season 2 then so be it, But I hope this show, in due time, get's the recognition and praise it truly deserves. Thankyou to the creators. I still have faith in a return!