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All Hail the Popcorn King (documentary: review)

August 19, 2020 | By | Reply More

All Hail the Popcorn King is a study of the surrealist writer Joe R. Lansdale, author of 50 novels and 500 short stories. He has a coterie of twisted but loyal fans as twisted as Joe. This makes for a fun film.

I rate this 55-minute documentary a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

It is hard to tell which is the most insane, Joe R. Lansdale, the stories he writes, or the effort to disentangle the two. Each seems to crawl spiderlike along the border between surrealism and reality. Like his fiction, Lansdale’s novels and stories do not fit into a world defined by others. The result comes tumbling out of Lansdale’s typewriter with a frenetic style like Monty Python, but with a harper, darker edge. The film covers Lansdale from his pre-school days when he was reading and writing and his age was deep in the single digits.

This film is a fun biographic study of Lansdale entitled All Hail the Popcorn King. It clocks in at 55 minutes, just a bit too short to be feature-length and is just a bit too long not to be dangerous. Don Coscarelli, who wrote and directed BUBBA HO-TEP is among the fanatic Lansdale followers, and is also interviewed in All Hail the Popcorn King.

BUBBA HO-TEP takes place in the present day in an East Texas nursing home. It imprisons Elvis Presley (played by Bruce Campbell) and John F. Kennedy (played by Ossie Davis). Both are alive, contrary to popular opinion, but getting darn tired of the life of dismal routine. So the two patients set out for reasons never explained to try to capture the mummy, a walking deadly Pharaoh, who is wrapped in bandages and thousands of years old.

Lansdale’s story may have a great feel of location but also intentionally uses its time to play with the readers’ sense of passing time. Joe was born in Nacogdoches. He got his start in writing by eating his mother’s popcorn made with rancid lard. It gave him bad dreams that he used as a source of fantasy for his writing career, so that, such as it is, is literally built on his dreams. Director Hansi Oppenheimer uses an art motif borrowed from a rundown drive-in.

As director, Oppenheimer shares some secrets of Lansdale’s writing style. Every page of Lansdale is drenched in Texas atmosphere that feels authentic.

This film is a paean to deep counter-culture.

Overall I rate All Hail the Popcorn King a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

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Category: Fantasy, Films, MEDIA

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