The documentary follows Gene Scott, famous televangelist involved with constant fights against FCC, who tried to shut down his TV show during the 1970's and 1980's, and even argues with his...
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The documentary follows Gene Scott, famous televangelist involved with constant fights against FCC, who tried to shut down his TV show during the 1970's and 1980's, and even argues with his viewers, complaining about their lack of support by not sending enough money to keep going with the show. Werner Herzog presents the man, his thoughts and also includes some of his uncharacteristic programs.Written by
This is a surprisingly short and clumsy attempt at revealing the jaded, isolated and estranged life of the late Dr. Gene Scott, who was a career pastor and televangelist before he turned over his position to his then wife, Melissa Scott. I remember in youth as early as the 5th grade, flipping through the TV channels and coming across this distinguished and White haired guy wearing a three-piece suit, sitting and pontificating in some fancy chair. Initially, this was something where most people would just switch the channel in a blink of an eye. But after a while we noticed that this guy was on TV nearly 24 hours a day it seemed. You turned on the Tube only to find this stodgy old grunt talking straight into the camera. Sometimes you would find him on more than just one channel. Dr. Scott became a somewhat figure of intrigue in Southern California media for those who bothered to notice. Known for his histrionic tirades and cantankerous rants, Dr. Scott ensued a notorious reputation in the media as a blustering tyrant who was fleecing all the unsuspecting followers. Subsequently his program, through all of its changes, lasted until his death. Werner Herzog's documentary is very low-budget and looks tawdry to the quality of documentary filmmaking today. The film's biggest weakness is treating us to five musical numbers of his program's quartet, The Statesman, a group of middle aged men wearing bad hairpieces, polyester suits who sing as if they were singing at an amateur talent contest. Subjecting us to one ear-wrenching song once would have been plenty, but this takes up at least one-third of the film to which it renders itself pointless. As the Call-in numbers for pledges flash on the screen we go back and forth to the choir and Dr. Scott. But we don't really get to see much of Dr. Scott's complete persona while performing. We don't get to see him teach the Bible or make moral references to such. All we see are his explosive tirades, hollering at guests and condemning them for not sending him enough money for God. Whoa! Televangelists are never this blatant or bold in their attempts to fleece their followers. But Scott makes no bones about it. Although his character is entertaining, I wonder if this guy was for real or if he was a conscience charlatan. Nevertheless, he was crazy and unstable. There are two poignant scenes in the film where Herzog interviews Dr. Scott up close one on one. As Scott speaks, he is more calm, articulate and intelligent than he reveals on his program. After all, he has a Phd from Stanford University! Who would have known? During these brief and intimate discussions, we see Scott as a jaded, lonely and broken figure of a man. The strength and perspicacity he expresses in his program speeches is merely a façade for his inner vulnerability and uncertainty. He expresses his woes about his life, career, his battles with the FCC and how he is being used by the congregation as a tool to further their scheme. He hasn't any assets, money or possessions of his own, so he says. Listening from across the room we see a young, beautiful and scantily clad woman reclining on a couch for a few seconds, who we assume is his lover or girlfriend. I'm not sure what Herzog was trying to accomplish from this. Knowing that Herzog himself is an atheist, I am tempted to believe this was his agnostic expression of exposing the hypocrisy and con artist elements of TV Evangelism. But I'm not so sure if this was partly his intention or if he wanted to give an intimate portrait of a troubled man who expresses his anger and control by manipulating and browbeating viewers. The guess is up to us. In retrospect, this whole piece of celluloid looks dated and tawdry from the fashion, hairstyles and crude photography. It's too late, the cat's out of the bag, and televangelism has been marred by shameless hucksters as Dr. Gene Scott, but you may gain a more intriguing and sentimental viewpoint about the man and his "Festival of Faith" after seeing this.
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