Bobby Fischer Against the World


Bobby Fischer Against the World is a documentary that explores the life of chess Grandmaster Bobby Fischer. You might be thinking “urrrgghhh a chess documentary” but this is not a documentary about chess, it’s a documentary about one man’s journey to becoming the best chess player in the world but at the same time becoming so obsessed by the thing he loved most that he loses his grip on reality.

The film covers Fischer’s rise to chess fame and other aspects of his life, but the core of the film focuses on the 1972 match between USSR World Champion Boris Spassky which was hyped and broadcast as a Cold War battle. Bobby wasn’t just winning a chess title, he was out to give the Ruskie the finger and prove America’s greatness… kinda like the plot of Rocky IV. It really is a piece of theater to watch as Bobby turns up late, gets in a huff about noise and makes a huge rookie mistake, but Spassky also starts in with the drama as he thinks that there are devices in the room causing him to lose focus. In 1975 Fischer lost the title by default and faded into obscurity but it doesn’t end there! 17 years later Fischer became a fugitive and was exiled by the US government because he broke UN regulations and had a rematch with Spassky in Yugoslavia (there was an embargo on sporting/economic activities in Yugoslavia at that time).

If you thought the media was at their worst with Britney Spears, well they were fiends for Bobby Fischer. I was born in 1986, Chinese checkers was the chess of my youth, so it was unreal for me to see the media and the general public go completely ape over chess and a goofy looking guy who made it “sexy”. I mean the reaction and the attention that match generated was something more suited to a world title boxing match. Obviously this had a lot to do with the political climate but man I don’t think a chess game between Obama and Gordon Brown could create that much excitement and interest today. And to think all this attention was before Fischer started looking like Grizzly Adams and became more vocal about his antisemitism (despite the fact that he was Jewish!).

A well made documentary that tells an exceptionally bizarre and fascinating story. Regardless of whether you are a chess fan or not it’s really worth checking out as it deals with obsession, genius, human tragedy and captures an intriguing cultural/political climate. If you’re not into eccentric characters then the documentary might not hold your attention but it’s worth checking out to see how much of a cultural impact chess had at the time.


There’s also a whole heap of extras (25 minutes worth) to round out an already awesome release. The two most noteworthy being The Fight for Fischer’s Estate (7.04) which tells of the efforts of those who tried to claim his two-million dollar estate and Chess History (5.04) which explains the origins of chess and has some interviews with some pretty big names from the chess world. Taking on the Grand Master (1.39) sees Sunday Times Online Culture Editor takes on a Grand Master, basically a filler and there’s also an 8 minute documentary by some London Film School students called Kings in the Ring about chess boxers.

Bobby Fischer Against the World is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment. 

Divine Trash


Divine Trash takes an extensive look into the early career of John Waters. It features stills and clips out of his earliest and rarely seen films such as Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, Roman Candles, Eat Your Makeup, Mondo Trasho, Multiple Maniacs, The Diane Linkletter Story and Dorothy the Kansas City Pothead (a film that was never completed). Apart from these clips and stills, there’s lots of footage of Waters editing his films, talking of how he got the films distributed and the marketing techniques that were used. A large part of the film looks at the problems his films encountered during the making and release/showing of the films and features some funny interviews with Mary Avara the last film censor in America. Continue reading

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap


Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap is a documentary directed and presented by Ice-T about the art/craft of rap music.

Over the past year or so I’ve been warming to rap music which I absolutely hated as a teen. I never really thought about it being an art-form or a skill. It just sounded like a bunch of words being spewed out in a confrontational manner to me. This documentary really opened my eyes to the language of rap as an art form and how there’s more to it than money, MTV Cribs and fame. Someone says in the film how their grandmother just can’t comprehend rap at all and how it’s a language you really need to understand and I totally agree with them.

So Ice-T sets out on a journey to focus on the “art of rap” – not the game. There’s nothing here that glamourizes guns, bitches or money which is good because I think it makes the documentary accessible to people who haven’t got an appreciation for rap or are put off by those things. It focuses on the culture of Hip-Hop as well, about the skill it takes to be an MC. He interviews a range of various artists from the 70s up until now which is great as you see a lot of different styles, attitudes and opinions.

There’s some really great interviews, to name drop a few – Melle Mel, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Afrika Bambaataa, Ice Cube, Chuck D., Snoop Dogg, Mos Def and loads more. Another thing that makes this such a great watch is that it’s not just a bunch of talking head shots. These are Ice’s friends and acquaintances and he’s really just shooting-the-shit with them all. He’s a candid interviewer and it’s really relaxed and quite often Ice and/or his subject just break out and freestyle. Some may find this a fault of the documentary but it’s not “The History of Rap”. He’s just talking to a lot of influential people who created and changed the landscape of Hip Hop and at that he nails it. My only (really stretching to find one) criticism is that it’s a very American-centric film. There’s no International acts featured but again, it’s an American Phenomenon and it doesn’t proclaim to be offering an in-depth serious documentary on the subject.

A must own for fans of rap and a must see for anyone who can’t stand it.

In the extras department there’s: a Commentary by Ice-T and another with Prouder Paul Toogood; a 10 minute ‘Making Of’ with Ice-T and Paul Toogood; ‘Historical Perspective on Hip Hop’ with Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson with a runtime of 5 minutes; Interviews with: Q-Tip, Kanye West, Ice Cube, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Freddie Foxx, Trigga Da Gambler, Smoothe Da Hustler, Too Short, Jim Jones, King Tee, CNN, Diabolic, Craig G, Busy Bee and Catastrophe and to round out the extras a trailer for the film. There’s a lot of great content here which makes the purchase even more worthwhile. The film runs for 106 minutes and the case states 266 which is obviously inclusive of the extras.

Available on R4 DVD from Beyond Home Entertainment.

Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa


By now most of us are aware of the sexual abuse happening within the Catholic church. It seems every second news story concerns yet another “Pedo Priest” scandal and subsequent cover-up by the church. Alex Gibney’s latest documentary traces this pattern back to some of the first victims to speak out against this unchecked abuse of power.

Silence in the House of God centers around Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest who taught at St. John School for the Deaf in Milwaukee from 1950-1974, and molested over 200 boys in the process. In the mid-60s four of these young men decide to speak up about his ongoing offenses against children. First, following in the activist spirit of the times by handing out flyers, then as the years passed, by eventually suing the church, all to no avail. As has been evidenced, the church looks after its own. Father Murphy is merely transferred to another parish (where he continues with his predilections) and after many years and numerous suits against it, the church simply declares bankruptcy. Continue reading

John Waters: This Filthy World

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This Filthy World is a documentation by Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) of John Waters’ (self labelled) ‘vaudeville’ act. The film runs for 86 minutes and consists of John Waters talking about his films, repertory group and obsessions. For hardcore Waters fans the DVD doesn’t really offer anything new as most of the material has been used in his books or in his movies. That isn’t to say that it wasn’t a good watch though. My ultimate sum up of the film is that it is a commentary of his films and philosophies, and if you have followed his career, read his books, watched every single one of his movies, then you know most of this stuff already. But hey, it’s not like it is a waste of money, it’s better than his last film, so if you are choosing between this or that…go with This Filthy World.

In places the film did seem to run on a little and the transition between topics felt a little hasty and rushed. Maybe if there had been a little bit of cinematic change throughout the show instead of focusing on John live on a stage decorated with black flowers and trashcans for 86 minutes, the show would not have seemed so rushed and boring in places. When I heard this was a documentary, I expected to see a variety of footage: live footage, driving around Baltimore, footage of John at work or at home, similar to the many features accompanying his films in the Very Crudely Yours: John Waters Collection. So even though John Water is very engaging, honest, sardonic and his usual limit pushing self, the act does become a bit dry, due to seeing nothing but him and a stage, and the odd shot of the audience. Continue reading

The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics

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“Rock and Roll is really about two things – it’s about ‘I don’t give a fuck’ and ‘fuck you!’” – Mojo Nixon.

A documentary about comic books might seem a little odd but these weren’t your everyday comic books, these were rock ‘n’ roll comic books, these were unauthorized, these were guaranteed to piss people off and like Mojo said, they didn’t give a fuck!

Todd Loren, the genius behind the comics, didn’t give a fuck either, upsetting musicians, artists, fellow publishers, all while making a buck, exploiting others and creating a niche for himself and his company, Revolutionary Comics. A comic nerd/music nerd who got his start holding comic conventions, Loren soon moved onto to mail order selling “collectables” – t-shirts, badges, programs, bootleg items before combining his two loves, rock and roll and comics and hitting the jackpot straight away with a Guns ‘n’ Roses comic that was given a huge boost when Axl Rose mouthed off about lawsuits, sending all the collector nerds into a frenzy. Continue reading

Snake Underworld With Henry Rollins

Rollins-Snake-UnderworldHenry Rollins is such a prolific guy that when I heard that he did a TV special about snakes it didn’t strike me as odd. I quite often stumble upon things he has done that I knew nothing about so for all I know he could have his own cooking show.

In the opening scene Rollins informs us that he’s “into hard rock music, big ideas and snakes”. He proudly states that he has three snake tattoos and says he is an “enthusiastic student of the serpentine science”.

First up Henry makes a trip over to Slayer guitarist Kerry King’s house. Turns out Kerry is a keen snake collector, breeder and seller. He has over 300 snakes, all non-venomous as one bite would ruin his guitar playing career. Over the course of the episode Henry visits different types of snake lovers, those who collect venomous and non-venomous snakes and those who breed, transport and acquire illegal snakes.

When I saw the cover I wondered about the word ‘Underworld’, I mean is there a snake underworld? Well yes there is and Henry exposes it. He meets up with illegal snake owners and a man who injects himself with Black Mamba venom. Tim injects himself with the venom once a month to let his system build up antibodies to fight the venom. He shoots up venom in front of Henry and the medical team on standby is stunned by how his body reacts to a deadly dose of venom. Henry also shines some light on reptile cartels which are the second largest black market next to the drug trade.

I’m not sure all Rollins fans will be wanting to run out and buy a copy of this but his enthusiasm and knowledge makes it really enjoyable. He’s like a little kid in a candy shop, for example: when a snake handler brings out a snake he virtually takes it off her and walks around with it whilst giving a lengthy lecture on its attributes. It’s worth a rental at least if you consider yourself a Rollins fan. For snake fans I am sure you’ll get a kick out of it.


In the ways of extras there’s a bonus episode “Land of the Anaconda” which runs for 55 minutes and some trailers.

Snake Underworld With Henry Rollins is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

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In 1987 two friends, Eddie and Mitch, relocated from their hometown in Wisconsin to San Francisco, looking to leave behind their small town beginnings and move onto something bigger and better. The first (and cheapest) place they found was a ramshackle apartment building in the Lower Haight district, so they quickly moved in.

It wasn’t until a few days later that they discovered their neighbours were two raging alcoholics who loudly hurled verbal abuse at each other into the wee hours of the morning. These neighbours were Peter Haskett, a flamboyant homosexual and Raymond Huffman, a violent homophobe. When these epic slinging matches began to sound out of control, Eddie made the decision to surreptitiously record the arguments in case the need for evidence may ever arise. But soon the boys realised that this was just the reality these two men lived: getting drunker and drunker until well into the evening when they would begin to goad each other into the inebriated trading of (often witty and hilarious) insults, one of Peter’s favourites being “Shut up li’l man!”.

Before long the boys had boxes of tapes filled with uproarious “audio vérité” which they began to make copies of for friends, encouraging them to spread it around. And before they knew it the tapes had made their way into the tape trading underground and sspiraledinto a pop culture phenomenon spawning plays, comic books, a film and even a puppet show. Shut Up Little Man! details this journey via interviews with Eddie and Mitch as well as anecdotes from personalities such as Dan Clowes, Henry Rosenthal, Ivan Brunetti, Mike Mitchell and Bob Mothersbaugh.

Before I saw this film I’d come across the Shut Up Little Man! tapes in various guises, whether it be via samples in music (John Zorn’s Cobra to be specific) or in Bananafish magazine. I knew the back-story and was curious to see how well it would translate into a feature length documentary… well, I’m happy to say that director Matthew Bate has nailed it. Bate takes the “found sound” concept and applies it to the film medium flawlessly – in between the talking heads we are treated to collage-style cut ‘n’ pastings of 1950s adverts with Ray’s homophobic rants edited over the audio, colourful cassette tape art, reenactments, animation, and numerous audio samples.

Aside from exploring the cult value these tapes have to so many people, the documentary also covers a 3-way battle for the film rights, the inevitable “exploitation or art?” question, and the hunt for Pete and Ray’s occasional tenant/spectator Tony.

All things considered, Matthew Bate has produced a highly enjoyable document that portrays humanity at its lowest point, both tragic and comedic.

An excellent release from Madman that includes 45 minutes of worthwhile extras.


  • Dramatic Recreations: Extended and New Cuts
  • “Return to the Pepto” – Eddie and Mitch revisit Steiner Street apartment
  • Art of Exploitation? Eddie and Mitch respond
  • “Eddie and Mitch On Set”
  • “Goodnight Sweet Princes”
  • Extended Interview with Dan Clowes
  • Extended Interview with Ivan Brunetti
  • Bob Taicher Interview
  • Detroit shock jocks Drew and Mike @WRIF Radio interview
  • “Peter and Raymond Confusion” – DOUG LEVY Music Video
  • Orson Welles – Frozen Peas Extended Animation Cut

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure is available on DVD from Madman Entertainment.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within


Released under the ‘Arthouse Film’ series which focuses on “important artists from a variety of fields both contemporary and classic”, Madman bring us number 038 in the series – the 2010 documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within.

The film mixes archive footage, photographs, narration by Peter Weller and interviews from Burroughs’ closest friends, fans and ex-lovers. Some of the more notable people interviewed are: John Waters, Peter Weller, Patti Smith, Gus Van Sant, Genesis P-Orridge, Iggy Pop, Jello Biafra, Grant Hart, Thurston Moore and many more.

The documentary is not a chronological look at his life, it offers a brief overview of his upbringing before getting to the good stuff. The film touches on issues such as the censorship case around Naked Lunch but mostly focuses on the cultural impact his works have had and the profound influence he has been on other artists. It focuses on the drugs, sex, his love of weapons, Mexico and the shooting of his wife Joan Volmer and the loss of his son Billy. It also documents the people who littered their works and bands with references to Burroughs, everyone from Iggy Pop to Jello Biafra.

A Man Within doesn’t really linger on the killing of Joan or the death of his son, it briefly touches on these tragedies in his life, nothing more. If you’ve read his books and devoured anything you can about the guy you’re not going to get a whole lot of new information but what makes this worthwhile are the stories about him. I never really got much insight into him as an old man and with plenty of home footage and stories from his last boyfriend you get to see a side of him – a vulnerable and lonely side – that you may not get anywhere else.

Although it exposes his more ‘tender side’ if you will, there’s some excellent and somewhat bizarre footage featured from his later years. It’s wonderful watching him stumble around his house with guns and knives whilst drinking, I am amazed that he never killed anyone else. There’s also footage of him creating shotgun art: a method where he would put a spray-paint can in front of a canvas and shoot it. He often wears army jackets and although he appears frail and tired he looks like a bad ass with the army jacket and guns.

Unlike a lot of Hunter Thompson documentaries which have started to become cash-ins this movie is lovingly crafted. The music is done by Sonic Youth and Patti Smith and is very creative in itself. There’s some really neat chapter-introducing animation sequences of Burroughs’ head made out of coat-hanger wire, these figures are often gun or sword-cane toting and are a nice change from cartoon animation segments.

An impressive first feature from director Yony Leyser who devoted five years of his life to the film. A must see for any Burroughs fan, an even bigger must see for those who know little about him.


There’s loads of extras (83 mins worth to be exact) which makes this DVD even more appealing. There’s three deleted scenes of Burroughs’ art, 17 minutes of home movies where Burroughs hangs out with famous people. A 3 minute Super 8 clip shot by Husker Du’s Grant Hart of Burroughs creating shotgun art, a 3 minute Super 8 clip Narrated by Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth visiting Burroughs. 15 minutes from the Naked Lunch 50th Anniversary, “Rub Out the Word” music video, a Patty Smith reading, a 12 minute Q&A with the director, a 24 minute short film by the director and finally the theatrical trailer and a selection of Madman trailers for other titles in their Arthouse Film series.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Beautiful Darling


I’m not a massive fan of Andy Warhol as an artist but am intrigued and fascinated with the people he surrounded himself with. Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn and Mary Woronov are some of my favorites but my absolute favourites are the gorgeous Joe Dallesandro (he’s got a documentary too called Little Joe) and Candy Darling. I’ve been desperately trying to find a second hand copy of her out of print book My Face for the World to See: The Diaries of Candy Darling, so when I heard about this documentary I was really psyched to see it and hoped to find out more about her early life.

Candy Darling was born James L. Slattery on November 24th 1944 and grew up in a household with a violent alcoholic father. As a child James was obsessed with Hollywood movies, glamour and starlets such as Kim Novak. As a teen he started to wear makeup and dresses and in an anonymous interview with an old childhood friend she tells of seeing James on the train in a dress and how she no longer accepted him as a person or friend. James wanted to be a movie-star from the get go and although Candy Darling did achieve some fame – more notorious than rich and famous – she achieved this goal, although it seems that life was still a struggle and she wasn’t living as glamorous a life as she wanted.

The documentary benefits greatly from Candy’s friend Jeremiah Newton who produced the film. After her death he conducted audio interviews with those who new including Tenessee Williams and her mother. Jeremiah also received most of Candy’s belongings from her mother and has kept her legacy going with these artifacts. His photos, archive footage and interviews offer some really great insights and information about Candy.

The film uses archive footage, interviews, photos, audio transcripts of interviews and there’s also narration from Chloe Sevigny reading excerpts out of Candy’s diary. There’s a tonne of interesting interviewees including: Jeremiah Newton, Fran Lebowitz, John Waters, Paul Morrissey, Holly Woodlawn, Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead, Penny Arcade, Julie Newmar, Jayne County and loads more.

There’s some wonderful archive footage of Candy rehearsing, hanging out at the Chelsea with Dennis Hopper and acting out scenes from Picnic (1955). There’s also some clips of her rehearsing and performing in Broadway shows. I enjoyed seeing pictures of her as a young boy and of her not being so well manicured with her five o’clock shadow showing underneath thick layers of foundation.

An absolute must have for Candy Darling fans. This documentary shows her life warts and all, its intimate, critical yet tender and most importantly (to me) documents a time when “freaks really were freaks”. Candy and the New York drag-queens and trans-genders were not a part of some fad, they risked being arrested and being beaten up on the streets every day. If you’re not a fan of Candy Darling then it’s still worth checking out for the incredible time-period the documentary covers. Well worth the purchase price.

There’s not much in the way of extras, there’s only a theatrical trailer and inside there’s a mini poster with the chapter index on the reverse of it. The content of the documentary is well worth the price so don’t let this aspect put you off buying it.

Beautiful Darling is available on R1 DVD from Corinth Films.