Sunday, April 29, 2007

We saw Dom Irrera last night and I laughed so hard at times that no sound came out of my mouth! Although at time stunningly profane, Irrera was a scream.

Veteran comedian and actor Dom Irrera is looking forward to performing in Western Massachusetts again.

"I have friends in Springfield," Irrera told Reminder Publications in a telephone interview.

His busy performing schedule just hasn't allowed a local booking for quite some time. Irrera will be at the Comedy Connection at the Hu Ke Lau on April 28.

The Philadelphia native began his career in 1980 performing stand-up comedy, acting and improvisational comedy. His big breaks came in 1986 when he appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," and in 1987 when he was part of the line-up for an HBO Rodney Dangerfield comedy special.

Since then, Irrera has been nominated six times for an American Comedy Award and won two Cable ACE awards. Besides a string of comedy specials, Irrera's comedy series on sports, "Offsides," was seen for four seasons on Comedy Central and he has appeared in numerous guest spots on television sitcoms.

Irrera is well known for his Italian ethnic humor, which comes naturally as he grew up in a three-generational Italian household.

"I always felt I was going to be a comedian," he said,

His favorite comic has been Woody Allen. Irrera has long admired Allen's writing style, although it hasn't influenced his own comedy that much.

He noted that no one has ever come up to him after a performance and said, "Man did you rip off Woody Allen with that goomba act of yours."

Ethnic humor has both its advantages and disadvantages, he said. If you stick to ethnic humor, you tend to maintain a core fan base, he explained.

A comic can broaden his or her base by performing less ethnically oriented material, Irrera said. He recalled meeting the son of the late comic and actor Red Buttons after a performance who told him his father wanted to talk with him. Irrera called him and Buttons said, "Don't paint yourself into a corner with that goomba act. Don't be an Italian comedian, be a comedian who happens to be Italian."

Irrera took the advice to heart, but he still does some Italian humor.

"It does leave a lot of the audience out, especially the Persians," he added.

Irrera has built up a side career as a voice artist for animation. He is currently recording the voice of Duke the Dog for the up-coming series based on the animated feature "Barnyard."

He has also performed voices on "Hey Arnold," "Hercules," and "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist."

He and his fellow cast members are given a script to perform, but are allowed to improvise, which is a lot of fun for Irrera.

Irrera has also appeared in a number of movies, the best known might be his funny bit as a chauffer in "The Big Lebowski." Irrera said he is a big fan of the Coen brothers who wrote and directed the shaggy dog tale starring Jeff bridges and had no idea they had attended one of his performances.

A script came in the mail with a notation the Coens wanted him to play the role and Irrera was amazed to see they had used lines from his stand-up performance for the character.

He had no idea the film would achieve cult status and admitted the first time he saw it he didn't care for it. By the second viewing, though, he was a fan.

Irrera has had plenty of television experience on sitcoms, but he's in no rush to try to get his own.

"Beware of what you wish for," he said. "It's [sitcom work] a drag compared to stand-up."

Irrera isn't a snob. He readily admitted that he would accept a starring sitcom role if offered. "I'm not willing to go around pitching and pitching [a show]."

After more than 25 years in the business, Irrera stills enjoys the "immediate gratification" one gets from performing stand-up comedy.
© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Here's part two of the Kong article.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Something for the big monster fans

Here is the first of three posts of an article from a 1933 Popular Science story on how the sound effects were created for "King Kong." If you read it carefully, you'll notice that not all of the way it depicts the making of the film is exactly true.

Remember when comic books used to be "funny books?" No, well that's because if you're not a middle-age geezer like me, you probably never heard anyone emphasize the concept that at one point comic books were allowed to be humorous.

The field wasn't just about superheroics as it is today. There were some great books such as Sheldon Mayer's "Sugar and Spice" to the Donald Donald comics by Carl Barks. Some people still hold the John Stanley "Little Lulu" books quite dearly. And of course "Mad" stands as perhaps the greatest humor comic of them all.

Well, there's another great comic comic and the third issue is now out, "Runaway Comic" by Mark Martin. Now some of you who read this blog might just know Mark as a conservative guy who likes to poke me with a sharp stick every now and then.

He's more than that, but just to be clear he is NOT the race car driver.

I view Mark as one of the most talented cartoonists working today, but also one of the most under-appreciated. There are few people who can match his combination of a multi-layered art style with his quirk observations and recyclings of pop culture.

Although Mark has announced this is going to be the last issue of "Runaway," you should head over to and order all three.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I wrote this over a week ago and the terrible event at Virginia Tech pushed the national discussion of what is right and wrong in speech these days off of the media radar. The issues, of course, haven't been resolved.

What I've learned over the years – in some very bitter lessons – is that context is everything. One person can something specific in a conversation, but if another person responds in kind, it's wrong. Accusations and charges can be made about language without the context consideration.

Political context is similar. If I use critical speech in response to something nasty a righty has said, then it's unacceptable "hate" speech from me. That's what I've been told. I'm supposed to lay back and take the criticism because I deserve it as a "liberal."

Imus had no context to buffer his remarks, though. His feeble attempts at shock humor showed an inherent meaness.

The issue of "correct" speech does need to be explored, but it won't until the next time a situation such as this one arises. American society and the media have little stomach to really address this kind of thing.

It's been fascinating to see just how the talk radio industry actually the media in general has reacted to the Don Imus flap.

For those of you who have missed the incident from almost two weeks ago, the granddaddy of shock radio, Don Imus, referred to the Rutgers University womens basketball team by a term that insulted both their gender and race.

Some people have said it's just Imus doing what people expect of him: a crude comment from a once talented broadcaster who has evolved into a spent, nasty man.

What made this remark worse than the three million words of wisdom Imus has dispensed in the past is that it was aimed not at an elected official or celebrity, but at a group of young women who had taken their underdog team to the NCAA Final Four.

The conventional wisdom is that it's okay to attack people who court publicity, but not a group such as this team who were simply doing something they were supposed to do.

What has made the furor so interesting is its multiple tracks of discussion. Some talk show hosts have wondered if this is marking the beginning of a new form of censorship. Others have said that remarks made by right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Bill O'Reilly should also be considered grounds for their removal from their programs. Issues of politics, censorship and commercial considerations have all come into the discussions.

What Imus said was supposedly in the context of humor, something that is being obscured by some people. Imus is known for his acid wit, so can that be considered "hate speech?" Are Savage's remarks attacking gays and Muslims different than Imus' attempts at humor? That's an interesting question to ponder where is the line drawn?

And who should draw that line? Should Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton both men with checkered pasts of their own be designated as the judges of correct speech? I hope not.

What isn't being spoken about is what is correct speech and what isn't, especially in the context of comedy. The late comedian Lenny Bruce, who served jail time for using profanity, would be gob-smacked to see what is generally accepted today.

Profanity is easier to define and control perhaps than the issues of race, gender and sex.

Carlos Mencia on Comedy Central has a weekly series largely built on exploiting racial stereotypes and relations. If a white or African-American comic used the word "beaner" in his or her act, they might be considered as having stepped over an acceptable line.

Are "blonde" jokes funny to blondes? Is it all right to laugh if a person of Polish heritage tells a Polish joke and you're not Polish? Are there Southerners who object to the images put forward by Larry the Cable Guy? If you see Mantan Moreland in an old horror movie say, "Feet, do your duty!" is it funny or an embarrassment?

I don't know. Do you?

Let's face it, most of have us have either made a remark deemed inappropriate or heard something that was simply wrong. And we all know that how someone says something, to whom and in what context colors that joke or comment.

If you're offended how do you change things? I like to think it's through discussion.

I hoping this national dialogue doesn't get sidetracked by politics or taken over by self-appointed holier-than-thous. People should start talking about what is acceptable speech.

By the way, in my opinion, I'm glad that Imus was fired for his remarks. It wasn't humor and it hurt innocent people.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, April 14, 2007

First half of Porky teaches civics...from the October 1939 issue of Click "The National Pictorial Monthly."

Friday, April 13, 2007

The first part of this post is what I wrote in my newspaper column that appeared just before the governor's appearance. I was able to get an exclusive sit-down with him at the event and that story follows.

What intersts me is the fact that Patrick was a popular candidate who handily beat his opponent, yet the Boston press has chosen to emphasize his public relations gaffes, rather than what he is actually doing.

The local daily has taken a highly critical position against Patrick as well with little apparent motive.

An open letter to Governor Patrick:

I just received an e-mail stating that you are going to appear in Springield on April 11 for a regional "town hall" style meeting. It will be conducted from 6 to 8 p.m. at Scibelli Hall on the campus of Springfield Technical Community College.

This is good news, because you know that some folks out here are saying about you: you have already forgotten Western Massachusetts.

I know that a governor's first 100 days in office is supposed to be a honeymoon. The Legislature should be in courtship mode, trying to get to know you and form a good working relationship.

The press should also be wearing kid gloves. Everyone who reports politics knows the importance of an honest, open relationship. Holding off on using the 10-pound sledgehammer is probably a good move.

The public is, of course, hopeful that you will come into your office with guns a blazing, taking aim at fulfilling the promises you made during the campaign. Everyone wants their issue dealt with first, though, and the unrealisitic anticipation is you will be able to cure the ills created over years in a matter of days.

These are expressions of conventional wisdom. Here's another conventional wisdom: candidates will tell Western Massachusetts voters that they will not forget them, but as soon as they are elected we become an after-thought.

Now there are some media outlets I won't name (but we can call them "The Republican") which seem determined to foster this last rule. A recent front-page article noted your perceived lack of attention to us as well as an unsigned editorial.

I'm sort of a direct guy governor. I like you. I voted for you. You've got one hell of a life story and career and I still think you were the right choice for the state.

I'm more than willing to give you time to make things happen.

You've got to get certain things under control, though. The public relations gaffes give morons such as Howie Carr fodder to bash you. You're suffering a death of a thousand paper cuts. Please understand that people elected you as a reformer and they don't want to hear about business as usual abuses.

So, if you're willing to take some advice from a working class guy from Springfield, these are a few things I think you need to do if you want to counter the "he's forgotten us" line being spun by some folks:

Open up the Western Massachusetts Governor's Office. Appoint a good person with many local ties and connections who can help you service your constituents.

Tell us your agenda for Western Massachusetts and what we need to do to help you get it done. Letters to state reps and senators? Petitions?

Got a message for us? You have to campaign. Use the local media. Develop relations with us.

Focus on what our mayors are saying and hone in on a few things with which people can identify. For instance, the formula for Additional Assistance, the local aid so many communities need, has to be revised so it is fair to all of the municipalities in the Commonwealth.

Listen I know you probably already have dinner plans, but I would be happy to show you some Western Massachusetts hospitality. What's you choice? Italian? Cajun? Asian? Barbeque? Just let me know.

Here's the follow-up story.

SPRINGFIELD – Before a backdrop of 50 Springfield Technical Community College students, Governor Deval Patrick told a standing-room only audience at Scibelli Hall on April 11 that not only did he want to hear their concerns, but also he called for their support to seek answers for problems.

In an effort to speak directly with his supporters and re-energize his base, the governor told the audience what he said he tells his staff: “Bring any problem you like, but bring a solution, too.”

In an exclusive interview with Reminder Publications prior to his meeting, Patrick remarked on media accounts of the reactions the state budget he has proposed has garnered from members of the Legislature and how to build a relationship with the House and Senate.

“The [budget] process has really just begun,” he said.

Describing his budget as “thoughtful and balanced,” Patrick said the House’s budget came out that day and it embraces some of his ideas, and scales back other aspects of his budget. He added the House’s version does not address the financial structural issues his budget includes and predicted that if the Legislature ignores those structural concerns, they will still be an issue next year.

The Senate will be releasing their version next month and Patrick said at that point the negotiations would begin.
“We are going to fight for the doubling of spending for early daycare programs and a 46 percent increase in all-day kindergarten programs, Patrick said of two of his line items.

“COPS” is another program Patrick wants funded as that will give the state the flexibility to work with individual police chiefs on “tailored solutions” for their communities. He said, for example, some chiefs might call for more community policing efforts, while others want more officers on the streets. After-school and summer camp programs for at-risk youth are also tools available to prevent crime under this program.

“There’s no doubt there are things every new governor has to learn about working with the Legislature, but there are things this legislature has to learn about working with me,” Patrick said.

He said he wants “the latitude to govern,” which he does not think diminishes the role of the legislature. He explained that consolidating many line items give him greater flexibility to govern.

He used an example illustrating this flexibility. Recently Thomas Menino, the mayor of Boston, asked for help in combating guns and gang violence. Patrick said his administration was able to identify $5.4 million to fund summer jobs for at-risk youth and $2.2 million of that will go to Boston.

Menino also needed financing that would allow a class of police officers to move forward. Patrick said he could find a small portion of what was needed, but not the full amount. If the Legislature would allow the governor the authority to transfer funds from a $25 million emergency fund, he could solve the entire problem.

When asked about the opposition from the local tourism industry for Patrick’s support of a local option for municipalities to impose additional meal and hotel taxes, Patrick said his support comes from the pressure to relieve the property tax burden in the state.

Patrick has several initiatives in his budget to help communities lower their property taxes. Individual taxpayers could qualify for an increased tax credit program and cities and towns could reduce costs in health insurance and pensions by joining the state’s programs.

The governor said his support is to allow each community to decide if they want to put “another penny or two on that hamburger, on that room tax” He said that even if municipalities went to the maximum allowed by the legislation the state would still be lower than many other cities around the country with which the state competes for tourist dollars.

Patrick said he wasn’t supporting the measure lightly and that it was part of his effort to partner with communities.
“I’m asking a lot from them,” he said. I’m asking for better planning regionally and across the Commonwealth. I’m asking them to join us in streamlining the permitting process, as that is part of our economic initiative. And I want to be able to provide things in return that can help communities strengthen themselves.”

When asked about the media coverage of his first 100 days in office, he said, “We’ve been at this for 97 days. There is a long list of tangible accomplishments that are about implementing the vision that I campaigned on. I’m just getting started. I’m not worried about all that [negative media reports].”

He said he couldn’t take the time to analyze why the media has emphasized certain stories, but he has learned of the “intrusiveness of the job.” He said it takes twice as long to go through a grocery checkout line and that he has to be aware that people might mis-interpret a facial expression. He said his children have been warning him for years that his look when he concentrates on what someone is saying could be mis-interpreted as a frown.

He said he had a recent lengthy conversation with President Bill Clinton who told him how important it was to concentrate on long-term goals. Patrick said his job was to focus on doing his job.

Patrick used the first half hour of his town meeting to talk about some of the specific accomplishments of his first three months in office. He said he has reduced the permitting time for many businesses from two to three years to six months and two months for insurance products. He has appointed a “sales team” that is reviewing a list of 382 businesses determining what each needs to stay in the state or how they can be brought to the state. Patrick asserted this effort, when it is completed, could result in as many as 100,000 new jobs by the end of his term.

The governor said he has also signed the regional green house gas agreement, he said he can auction off the credits earned by the state through this agreement to create a funding pool that will advance the development of energy-saving technologies.

He has worked with the Legislature to create a small business loan fund and a $1.47 bond bill to finance needed infrastructure improvements on the state’s roads and bridges.

Patrick also has reversed former Governor Mitt Romney’s stand on stem cell research.

He said he was “governing for the long term,” and that vision was not enough to govern. He needs power and influence to move along his agenda. That power is not from 20-year relationships with legislators but from the voters who support him.
“I didn’t expect you to return to repose [after the election],” Patrick said.

“You want property tax relief?” he asked. “Come and get them. Make your voices heard. They’re on the table.”
“Every day you have to act like the State House is your house,” he added.

Patrick heard issues ranging from the controversial logging in Agawam’s Robinson State Park to working to preserve the Commonwealth’s dairy farms.
A re-occurring theme was the establishment of a governor’s office in Western Massachusetts. Romney had eliminated the office that had been established by governors before him.

Patrick, who owns a vacation home in Richmond, joked he’d like to have the office in Pittsfield, as it would be 15 minutes from his house. He conceded that Springfield would be a better location.

Funding is what is holding up the Springfield office, and Patrick said the office would be a reality if “the budget process works out as we hoped.”

Patrick said the Finance Control Board will be extended by one year to July 2008, but the composition of the board might change as will its role. The governor envisions the board to help implement the economic development plans Patrick’s administration is working on for Springfield.

In other answers to questions, Patrick voiced his support for a bill that would eliminate a 92-year-old tax exemption telephone companies have enjoyed on poles and lines. Other states have eliminated similar exemptions without an increase in telephone rates and communities would be the beneficiaries of the new tax. Springfield, for example, would receive $2.7 million.

In a show of cooperation, Patrick said he and the leadership of the Legislature have agreed to form a commission to simplify the state’s tax code. Massachusetts, Patrick said, is ranked 40th in the national for its total tax burden, despite the nickname “Taxachusetts,” but has an overly complicated tax code.

After speaking for about an hour-and-a-half, Patrick said he would stay as long as necessary to answer questions as there were still people lined up to speak.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I spent five years in talk radio as the house liberal during the Reagan years ( I got the best hate mail!). I love the medium so that's why I was drawn to watching the documentary on Al Franken like a moth to a flame. He was simply a lousy broadcaster who had little concept of what a successful talk show should be.

Although I loathe Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage for being the hatemongers that they are, I have to give them credit for understanding how broadcasting works, unlike Franken.

I saw Franken in person at the Talkers Magazine annual conference on the medium and he came across as a smug horse's ass. I may agree with some of his politics but I think he is incapable of swaying people to think about issues. Instead he preaches to the choir and that does little good in trying to create a dialogue.

Three very different films are reviewed in this edition of the DVD column.

Al Franken: God Spoke

Like most people I first saw Al Franken on "Saturday Night Live" where he practiced a form of egocentric comedy. One of his shticks was to perform a monologue where he inserted his name in random places.

I always thought he was a fairly amusing guy and it was interesting to see him evolve into a political commentator and eventually a radio talk show host.

This documentary traced that evolution showing Franken on book tours prior to his hiring as a radio show host for Air America. Along the way we're treated to some very amusing firefights between him and many conservatives including Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter.

The film ended with Franken moving his radio show to Minnesota, where he was raised, in order to establish residency for a run for the Senate.

The two directors of this film got some great footage I particularly liked when Franken got into a "Newsweek" party for Republicans but they did the viewers a disservice of not identifying people. Unless you knew them already, you would not have known the other members of "the cast."

What was also glossed over were the many trials and tribulations of Franken's time on Air America. What the footage indicated, but does not elaborate on, was Franken's inexperience with radio and the fact that Air America chose to push his show rather than those of seasoned broadcasters such as Randi Rhodes and Rachel Maddow.

Franken's show, which did not take callers, was ultimately as egocentric as Rush Limbaugh's program, Franken's target in many markets.

The result is a film that played like those "Saturday Night Live" routines in which Franken repeated his name constantly. It's all about Al Franken, even though Franken's story isn't just about him.

For more information, log onto

The Kingmaker

For many years, I've been an Asian movie junkie. Hong Kong movies are my meat and potatoes, but I've certainly open to films from other countries as well. Recently they have been a slight influx of martial arts films for Thailand, but this movie marks a new kind of genre: part martial arts, mostly historical drama, part romance and a little bit of a music video.

The result is a film that recalls the Indian "Bollywood" films that include a wide variety of genres storylines into a production. The Bollywood films can be audaciously entertaining, but this film sort of lurches from scene to scene not knowing exactly what it is.

Supposedly drawn from a true story, Gary Stretch plays De Gama, a Portuguese sailor sold into slavery by Arab traders in 16th century Thailand. A beautiful Portuguese woman, whose father has been hired by the Thai king to build fort, rescues him. Naturally, they fall in love.

De Gama fights in the Thai king's army and does so well he is promoted to be one of the king's bodyguards. When the jealous queen poisons the king, De Gama and his fellow bodyguard are set up to take the blame.

The look of the film is quite impressive, but the acting is wooden and the plot is convoluted. While technically, this film is more than competent, the acting and story drag it down into the depths.

For more information, log onto

Attack of the Gryphon

The rule of thumb is the SciFi Channel is capable of producing some very good series but the network's made for television movies generally are awful.

This one is no exception. A sword and sorcery story, "Attack of the Gryphon" is brought to earth by cardboard characters, predictable situations, and a very hammy performance by Larry Drake as the evil wizard and, worse of all, a terribly animated gryphon.

The trouble with computer animation these days is that too many people think the computer will do all the work for them. One actually had to master the art of animation first and clearly the folks behind the monster haven't.

A rule of monster movies is that a good monster can redeem a tired plot. Nothing redeems this little film.

For more information, log onto

©2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, April 09, 2007

Okay, I'm posting twice. I’ve never done that before but it's been a week and there are some things I'd like to share.

Governor Patrick will be in Springfield on April 11 at Springfield Technical Community College for a two-hour town meeting filled with Q&A time starting at 6 p.m. in Scibelli Hall. I hope there will be a good turnout that will include people who are not sold yet on his brand of leadership or the substance of his first 100 days in office.

I'm very tired of people who sit back and either complain without taking some sort of action to make conditions better and people who ignore their local politics in order to be a pundit on the national stuff. I don't care if you agree with Patrick or not, but being involved and being informed is far superior than ripping off a juicy blog post based on third or fourth hand information and believe you're "connected."

Hope to see you there.
I had the pleasure recently of interviewing Stanley Nelson, the director of the new documentary about Jonestown that was recently aired on PBS and released on DVD. When doing research prior to the interview I found a site that bitterly criticized the film and nelson's approach. The author of the blog believed Nelson was a trying to whitewash Jim Jones and not portray him as the deeply disturbed man he obviously was.

This film tries to strike a balance between the natural freak show aspects of the story and trying to humanize the Jonestown experience. I think he did a fairly good job, although I do have certain criticisms.

People remember that the 1978 deaths at Jonestown in Guyana in South America as the largest mass suicide in recorded history. Filmmaker Stanley Nelson wanted audiences to remember more than just the hideous end for over 900 people he wanted to explore what brought them to an isolated section of the South American jungle.

Nelson's new documentary, "Jonestown, the Life and Death of Peoples Temple," will make its television and DVD debut on April 9. It will be seen on PBS station as an episode of "American Experience."

Charismatic preacher Jim Jones and his social experiment have been the subjects of films before. A wildly exploitive drive-in movie "Guyana: Crime of the Century" was released in 1979, while a more sober television production, "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones," won an Emmy in 1980 when it was broadcast.

Nelson spent almost three years working on the film that weaves interviews with 25 people, two of which actually escaped from Jonestown, with archival footage and sound.

Nelson said he remembered hearing about Jones and the Peoples Temple on the radio in the 1970s. He said that members of the San Francisco-based church were living out socially progressive ideals.

"It sounded so sane," Nelson recalled to Reminder Publications in a telephone interview.

That perception changed when the 1978 mass suicide and the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan was reported. Nelson said the story of "the crazy man" stopped with his death and the deaths of many of his followers.

In his research Nelson found that Jones was "a very complicated man. It was hard to make it simple."

Nelson went back to Jones' Indiana hometown and said that Jones "was never normal. He was a strange guy who hid [his true feelings]."

As an adult Jones became a controversial preacher who broke down racial barriers and fought for social change. He and his wife adopted African-American and Asian children, making them one of the first multi-racial families in his home state.

He formed a successful commune in California and then decided to bring his ministry to a large city, San Francisco, where he became a political force.

Although Nelson said that "on the surface, [the church] was very, very attractive" to many people, there were problems revolving around Jones' sexual practices and faked healings, among other issues.

With his church under greater scrutiny, eventually Jones decided that he and his congregation could only practice their brand of religion and socialism outside of the United States. Jones acquired property in Guyana and built a small town there.

Nelson believes there was no one trigger to Jones' deteriorating mental state that led to the move to Guyana and the abuses that culminated in the suicide. He thinks Jones' problems started with childhood and grew more severe.

"With more and more power, things got worse," Nelson said. "In Guyana, he was totally isolated. He built a little kingdom."

Nelson said that people who have seen the film have been affected by it.

"It's such a dark story. People joined [the Peoples Temple] with all of the best intentions and were led astray."

"There's no happy ending to it," he said. "It's a cautionary tale."


There's an old saying in show business that a performer should always leave an audience wanting more. I'm not sure if that's the best approach in documentary filmmaking, but at the end of "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple" I did want more.

Nelson's film goes a very long way in humanizing the people who joined Peoples Temple. Through numerous interviews, it becomes clear the congregation was not made up of people who could be simply be written off as mindless members of a cult. Instead these were people who were swept up in the idealism of the 1960s and early '70s and saw this church as a true vehicle of change.

The film is also effective in showing how Jim Jones, undoubtedly plagued with mental health issues for most of his life, slowly went from being a preacher with ideas to a paranoid who said he was the reincarnation of Jesus and Buddha.

The filmmakers interviewed Jim Jones, Jr., who was away from Jonestown the day of the suicide, and I wanted them to ask him what kind of man his father was, how did his mother figure into the Peoples Temple and how his life has been for him in the years since the suicide.

They didn't broach those subjects and the film is weaker because of it.

The film doesn't try to whitewash Jones nor does it vilify him. It is a very sad, melancholic production because we know the ending of it. And Nelson is right in saying it is a cautionary tale. In turbulent times, another Jones might be around the corner.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs