There are certain things that exist in the pop culture universe that I feel like I know everything about but have never watched/read/listened to or seen. Star Wars was a big one (I watched it recently), and now I can add Evel Knievel to that list. I knew he did motorbike stunts, I knew he was patriotic, wore red, white and blue and was number one, but after watching this documentary I have no idea how I know any of this (apart from this episode of The Simpsons), because I knew nothing about him and have never seen any of his stunts before. Being Knievel is the perfect film for those who know next to nothing about the man, those who loved him as children and for this generation of young extreme sports lovers whose heroes were greatly inspired by Knievel.
Born Robert Craig Knievel in a small mining town of Butte Montana, Evel showed signs from an early age of pushing boundaries and being immune to pain. Raised without a father figure amidst a rough town of miners and prostitutes he turned to petty crime and was a successful insurance salesman before coming a stuntman. His story is not what I expected. I thought he would have had some sort of training and more preparation and testing before his stunts but there’s essentially none of that and he pays with his body. From jumping over numerous buses, fires, attempting to jump a canyon, and having a midget do miniature versions of his stunts he was great at creating spectacle. Throw in the Hell’s Angels turning up and starting fights and being used as security at his canyon jump, there’s some really cool and entertaining stuff here.
The documentary presents various accounts of Evel’s upbringing and life from friends, family and modern extreme sports dudes and celebrities. The best thing about the documentary is that it shows and tells the good and the bad. Evel was a very flawed and volatile person and it’s all backed up with good research and a wealth of archive footage. Interviewees include his sons Kelly and Robbie, ex-wife Linda Bork-Knievel; there’s also interviews with promoter Shelly Saltman (whom Evel assaulted with bat), Jim Lynch, Matt Tonning, Tom Kelly, Skip Van Leeuwen, Tony Hawk, Doug Wilson, Matt Hoffman, George Hamilton and loads more.
I’m a huge fan of documentaries and don’t believe you need to be a fan of the person or even the subject matter (fashion/sports/whatever) to enjoy them. Being Knievel can simply be viewed as the story of a man who struggled with fame and fortune and its relatable on that level. If you love bikes and stunts and the man then it’s going to be even greater. It’s also a cool look at American society of the time, there’s lots of awesome footage of Hells Angels and people going crazy at his events.
A must see if you’re a fan of the man or American pop culture.
Sports fans will also appreciate the inclusion of many big names in extreme sports. Knievel was a huge influence to everyone from Johnny Knoxville to BMX-er Matt Hoffman, skateboarder Tony Hawk and motorsports stars such as Travis Pastrana and Robbie Maddison.
- Deleted scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- Madman Propaganda
Pretty much just filler extra materials here. The only one of real interest is three minutes of deleted scenes which are interviews with folk such as: Jim Lynch, Matt Tonning, Robbie and Kelly Knievel, Ray Gunn, Linda Bork-Knievel, Bill Rundle and a few more, the scenes are mostly about Knievel being a bit of a jerk who was pretty hard on his kids.