Documentary Review: Scream, Queen!: My Nightmare On Elm Street (2019)

Release Date: April 5th, 2019 (Cleveland International Film Festival)
Directed by: Roman Chimienti, Tyler Jensen
Written by: Michael Beard, Clint Catalyst, Leo Herrera, Justin Lockwood
Music by: Alexander Taylor
Cast: Mark Patton, Robert Englund, Jack Sholder, David Chaskin, Robert Rusler, Marshall Bell, Kim Myers, Clu Gulager, JoAnn Willette, Linnea Quigley

The End Productions, 99 Minutes

Review:

I was pretty excited to check this out when I first saw the trailer pop up. I’m a big fan of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise and I was probably one of the few that actually liked the second movie, before everyone else figured out how “gay” it was.

Granted, I kind of saw the film’s gay subtext for myself and despite this documentary claiming that the gay innuendo was widely known when this came out, I don’t recall many people talking about it until the late ’90s or so. Then again, I was also a young kid and didn’t reach my teen years until the ’90s, so maybe my peers were a bit behind in picking up on the cues.

Anyway, I actually thought that this was just sort of meh. I wouldn’t call this documentary a disappointment but it just didn’t live up to the hype around it and to my own excitement after first hearing about it.

I guess the thing I liked most about it was that I finally got to see what became of Mark Patton, who sort of fell off the face of the Earth for a long time because of what he perceived as backlash from this picture and because he felt that it somewhat exposed him as being gay in a time when there was still a lot of misinformation and fear of AIDS, as well as a lot of homophobia in mainstream Hollywood.

Most importantly, this really goes into Patton’s personal life, showing the viewer what hardships he went through during and after this film. I don’t want to give too much away, as this is worth watching for those who also love the Elm Street movies.

It was also cool seeing the cast of the second Elm Street movie finally reunite after all these years. It’s obvious that Patton’s cast mates cared for him and had missed him during his self-imposed exile from the business.

Overall, this was a decent piece on the man and his life but I wish it would’ve gotten more into the movie itself and actually tried to show it more as a somewhat beloved film by a small minority of Elm Street fans. It was the most bizarre and weird of the Elm Street pictures and that’s without looking at the subliminal homophobia that was written into the script.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent horror movie documentaries.

Documentary Review: Rock-n-Roll Never Dies: The Story of the Rock-n-Roll Express (2015)

Release Date: 2015
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Ricky Morton, Robert Gibson, Jim Cornette, various

EllBow Productions, Highspots, 117 Minutes

Review:

Watching this documentary, it kind of dawned on my that I have seen the Rock-n-Roll Express wrestle live and in person over five consecutive decades. I saw them in the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s and the ’20s after recently seeing them at NWA Hard Times back in January before this COVID spectacle put the dead stop halt on Planet Earth.

While they’ve never been my all-time favorite tag team, they are certainly pretty high up on my list and have my respect for their contributions and longevity in the wrestling business. Hell, these guys can still go and they’ve proved that the two most recent times where I was able to see them.

So I was pretty stoked when I got this three disc set, which featured the documentary I’m now reviewing, as well as two other discs packed full of bonus material, interviews and matches.

As far as the documentary goes, it was a good, solid piece that covered these guys’ long and storied careers. It even goes back to the time before they were a team, showing how each man developed their style and how they eventually came together, forever changing the business and the tag team landscape.

So many other great teams have been inspired by the pairing of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson and their effect is still felt today, even with the younger generation of wrestlers we have now, who are two-to-three generations removed from the height of the Rock-n-Roll Express’ career.

The best part about this piece, is hearing the stories that Ricky and Robert got to share about their history, as well as their takes on the business then and now.

Old school wrestling fans, especially those who loved the greatest tag team era, should thoroughly enjoy this.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by EllBoy Productions and put out by Highspots.

Book Review: ‘Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Man’ by Len Denton, Joe Vithayathil

While I know who The Grappler is, I wasn’t too familiar with him due to him not having much time in areas where I would’ve been exposed to him as a kid. I saw him in Florida once but I’d only really get to know more about him based off of tapes I’d get from Mid-South in the ’90s when I was tape trading pretty heavily.

Over the years, other wrestlers have talked very favorably about him and I started to understand his legacy in regards to the bigger picture.

Since I’ve been reading through a lot of wrestling books, as of late, and because this one was free with Kindle Unlimited, I figured that I’d give it a read, as I love Mid-South wrestling, as well as many of the other territories that The Grappler traveled through during my favorite era in the business.

I’ve got to say, I was more than pleasantly surprised by this book.

Len Denton, The Grappler is one hell of a storyteller and he really gets into the details of some of the biggest and best moments of his career. He also goes through his mistakes and the lessons he learned from them along the way, especially those from earlier in his career.

He also covers the behind the scenes stuff without fully exposing the business and ruining the mystique that surrounds his intriguing era.

My favorite stories are the ones involving Roddy Piper, Ric Flair and his stuff about Bill Watts, the Junkyard Dog and his time in Mid-South.

From cover-to-cover, this is packed full of a lot of great stories and life lessons. Frankly, it’s one of the best wrestling biographies that I’ve ever picked up. Even if you aren’t familiar with the guy or his work, maybe you should be.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling biographies, especially those featuring stars from the end of the territory era.

Book Review: ‘Under the Black Hat: My Life in the WWE and Beyond’ by Jim Ross, Paul O’Brien

This book is really a continuation of Jim Ross’ first autobiography, Slobberknocker. This one picks up right where that one left off and it talks about Ross’ career from the early ’00s and onward, leading up to his recent job as the lead commentator for the new company, All Elite Wrestling.

The stories here are fantastic and Jim has a great memory, as he recalls the details and dialogues he had with all the great characters that were a part of his life in the wrestling business.

I especially like hearing his take on the angles where Vince McMahon used J.R. as a character in storylines and how that all played out behind the scenes, as he worked with Steve Austin, the Undertaker, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole.

The book also really gives you J.R.’s perspective on his relationship with Vince McMahon, his leaving the company, multiple times, and how things went when he was negotiating with Dixie Carter of TNA, as well as his time working for New Japan.

If you have read the first book and loved it as much as I did, this is definitely something you need to pick up. Jim Ross comes off as honest, sincere and doesn’t really hold back. The guy is a legend in his industry and deservedly so.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: JR’s previous book Slobberknocker, as well as other wrestling biographies and books about the business side of things.

Documentary Review: I Never Quit: The Magnum T.A. Story (2016)

Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Magnum T.A., Bill Apter, Dave Meltzer, Jim Ross, Ricky Morton, Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff, George South, Jimmy Valiant, various

Highspots, Ellbow Productions, 92 Minutes

Review:

When I was a kid, just really getting into wrestling, Magnum T.A. was a pretty big f’n deal. I loved the guy regardless of my allegiance to the heels. I think a lot of that had to due with his association with Dusty Rhodes, one of the few babyfaces I gave a pass to, but Magnum was still a great talent and commanded attention when he spoke and when he fought in the ring.

This guy was a supernova of charisma and talent but sadly, a car crash ended his career before he even reached his peak.

I remember when I first heard about this tragedy and even though I was a little kid, it was a punch to the gut.

In later years, as I learned more about what other wrestlers thought about how great this guy would have been, it became a much sadder story, as the wrestling industry could’ve really used Magnum during one of its lowest eras, the early ’90s.

It was really nice seeing this documentary though, as I learned that the man has weathered the storm about as well as one could. He’s got a pretty positive and good outlook on life and the business he was once a huge part of. Frankly, he’s still involved in different ways and he makes appearances to this day.

But I really liked hearing his story from his own words, as well as the words of his closest peers and his mother. Ultimately, this made me appreciate Magnum T.A. more than I had before.

If you remember the guy or just have a love of old school wrestling, this is definitely worth looking at.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries put out by Highspots and Ellbow Productions.

Documentary Review: Bruiser Brody: Wrestling’s Last Rebel (2017)

Release Date: 2017
Cast: Bruiser Brody (archive footage), Gerald Brisco, Bill Apter, Bob Armstrong, Kevin Sullivan, Jim Ross, Dave Meltzer, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy Hart, J.J. Dillon, Bill DeMott, Stan Hansen, Tony Atlas, various

Highpsots, 110 Minutes

Review:

I loaded up on a bunch of documentaries from Highspots due to not having much else to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve run some great sales on their site, so it’s allowed me to grab a lot of the films and collections that I’ve wanted to own for quite awhile.

Being that I love Bruiser Brody, at least the stuff I’ve seen over the years since my tape trading days, I was stoked to see a beefy documentary about the guy. There is a great Dark Side of the Ring episode about his death but this here, is pretty much his full story, as it talks about his early life, his family and his career as a whole.

Like all the Highspots documentaries that I’ve seen, this features a ton of talking head interviews with Brody’s friends and colleagues. Many of these were taken from various shoot interviews over the years but they are well edited and form a good, energetic narrative.

There are also segments and narration by his widow, which add a lot of context to who the man was outside of the ring while also shedding more light on his tragic end.

For fans of old school wrestling, especially of the territories at their height, this is a cool film to dive into. Brody was primarily an indie wrestler that worked just about everywhere, touching a lot of people be they co-workers or fans.

This also comes as a three disc set with two other discs chock full of bonus material and some matches.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by Highspots.

Documentary Review: Championship Wrestling From Florida: The Story of Wrestling In the Sunshine State (2019)

Release Date: June, 2019
Cast: most courtesy of archive footage: Dusty Rhodes, Mike Graham, Gerald Brisco, Austin Idol, Kevin Sullivan, Gary Hart, Steve Keirn, Brian Blair, Bob Armstrong, Terry Funk, Ron Bass, Ricky Steamboat, JJ Dillon, Superstar Billy Graham, Black Bart, various

Highspots, 95 Minutes

Review:

Growing up in Florida and not too far from Tampa and Miami, I actually went to see Championship Wrestling From Florida shows fairly often. Since my dad knew some people within the promotion, I got to experience what it was like backstage as a kid. That being said, I always had a soft spot for this wrestling organization from almost day one.

Knowing what I’ve known for years, it’s great to see that someone finally made a documentary about this, as it was a top territory, made superstars and was actually a bit ahead of its time in how it developed and presented its talent.

While this isn’t a WWE documentary, it is well produced so my hat goes off to Highspots and frankly, I’m glad I have a slew of other documentaries to watch from them now.

This dives pretty deep into the history of the promotion, as well as professional wrestling in the State of Florida. It also goes into the tragedy surrounding the Graham Family, who ran the business. But ultimately, it sheds a lot of light on how those behind this organization were trailblazers in a very different era of the professional wrestling business.

The documentary is mostly told through the words of the people who were there in talking head interviews. Some of these were newer interviews but a lot of the footage was taken from older shoot interviews, as some of the people featured, aren’t with us anymore.

I loved the hell out of this and I’m sure I will revisit it again in the future.

Also, if you buy the two-disc set on Highspots, you also get a bonus DVD with two and a half hours of matches and footage from Championship Wrestling From Florida.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries put out by Highspots and Ellbow Productions.

Documentary Review: Harley Race: The Greatest Wrestler On God’s Green Earth (2014)

Release Date: 2014
Cast: Harley Race, Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette, various

Ellbow Productions, Highspots, 112 Minutes

Review:

I’m not 100 percent sure on whether or not this came out in 2014 but that’s the earliest date I saw attached to a trailer with pre-order info. Also, it’s hard to get all the credit details, as this doesn’t even have an IMDb page or really anything more than just the title and running time.

Anyway, I got this, along with three other wrestling documentary/compilation box sets from Highspots. The shipping was lightning fast, which was great considering all the COVID-19 shenanigans. So while I’m mostly self-quarantining, Highspots’ quick turnaround was able to ensure that I wouldn’t be bored, at least for one weekend.

As for the documentary, itself, it was a pretty engaging piece. But look, I’ve always loved the hell out of Harley Race ever since I met him as a kid and saw him in the ring, growing up in NWA country. So I might be somewhat biased but he’s an interesting guy that had a tremendous career in the professional wrestling business.

This documentary is also special in that a lot of it just features Harley talking about his life and career. Other greats also chime in like Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette and many more but the absolute highlight of this is hearing Harley talk about Harley in his own words.

This also covers a lot of ground but as I said, this guy had a legendary career that spanned decades and multiple federations.

I also found this refreshing in that it didn’t play like a big budget WWE style documentary with quick, careful edits and a sort of agenda behind it. This actually plays more like a Ken Burns style documentary in that it is slow but it’s also really informative and builds up a sort of romantic affinity for the wrestling business during the intriguing territory era.

Plus, this comes with a second disc full of matches and other moments.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on wrestling legends.

Book Review: ‘4 Ever: A Look Behind the Curtain’ by Arn Anderson

Since Arn Anderson is one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time, I’ve always wanted to pick up this book and read it. Sure, it’s over twenty years old but it did come out just after he retired and it covers his in-ring career.

Arn is a great storyteller and he doesn’t really hold back here. My only complaint is that this feels like it should be a much larger book.

While it covers the big moments in Arn’s life and career up until 1997 or so, there are a lot of angles and feuds I would’ve liked to read about that were left out.

He gets into his relationship with Ric Flair and the formation of the Four Horsemen. He also goes into some detail about his time in the WWF and his return to WCW but there are so many stories that could’ve been told and added into this too thin book.

Still, for fans of the man, this is certainly worth reading. Luckily, he gets into much more detail about his career on his podcast, which I’d suggest that people listen to. It’s one of the better ones out there on the insides of the wrestling business.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling biographies, as well as books about the territory days.

TV Review: Dark Side of the Ring (2019- )

Original Run: April 10th, 2019 – current
Created by: Evan Husney, Jason Eisener
Directed by: Jason Eisener
Cast: Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, Jim Cornette, Vince Russo, Jim Ross, various

Vice Media, Crave, 6 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think about this series when I first heard about it. Wrestling documentaries are a dime a dozen and most of them are produced with an agenda in mind.

However, after watching the first season, I really thought that this was the best series of documentaries on the darker side of the wrestling business. Every episode felt well researched, well presented and very fair.

Interviews with the participants may be contradictory in some aspects but they are presented in a way that allows the audience to come to their own conclusion without any sort of agenda seeping in from the filmmakers or producers.

That being said, I was really impressed by this series and I went into it thinking that it’d just be more of the same and a little too “sensationalist cable TV”, if you know what I mean.

Hats off to the guys behind this series, Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, as they’ve created seriously compelling television in an era where compelling television rarely exists.

All of the first season episodes pulled me in and didn’t let go. Even the episodes I thought might be redundant like the ones surrounding the Von Erich family and Gino Hernandez gave me a fresh perspective on both of those stories, even though WWE did a pretty good documentary that covered those tales, a decade and a half ago.

Top to bottom, this series is great and I’m really excited at delving into season two, which features episodes on the Chris Benoit and Owen Hart tragedies. It’ll be interesting to see how these guys handle those episodes but after season one, I’m pretty confident that they’ll do those stories justice.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries but this show is hard to top.