Thursday, November 10, 2016

NUTS! (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Nuts!” Is a Deliberately Nutty Doc
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I’ve always had a reluctant admiration for charlatans and hucksters. I enjoyed the motor-mouth spiels of Crazy Eddy selling cheap TVs and Vince, the ShamWow guy. And I remember that Will Kellogg created corn flakes as a heath food, while Coca-Cola was originally promoted as nerve tonic.

No surprise that I enjoyed “Nuts!” -- a documentary about the controversial medical doctor and radio mogul, John R. Brinkley. He was a Kansas druggist-turned-physician who claimed he could cure male impotence by implanting goat testicles into the scrotums of his patients.


Did it work? Not really. But what did you expect from a man with dubious academic credentials?

Back in the ‘20s Brinkley invented the infomercial, using “satisfied customer” testimonials to hawk his health cures over his country-music radio station KFKB. Critics said the call letters stood for “Kansas Folk Know Better.”

When the radio station was closed down by the Federal Radio Commission (now the FCC), Brinkley merely started up a “million-watt-regulation-skirting border-blaster” station in Mexico and continued filling Kansas airwaves with dubious messages. Such as hair products containing lead.

His so-called cures were blamed for many deaths.

When screenwriter Thom Stylinski and director Penny Lane decided to make a documentary based on the book “The Life of A Man” by Clement Wood, they were more interested in people’s gullibility than Brinkley’s factual biography

As Stylinski explains, “It’s because people want to believe that something as magical and as weird as this could be true. So I was … interested in investigating that aspect.”

“Nuts!” is showing next Monday night as the latest entry in the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers at the Tropic Cinema. And Thom Stylinski will be on hand to introduce the film.

“Nuts!” is a fascinating film, using a combination of animation, interviews with historians, news clips, and archival footage to tell the wacky story. As narrated by associate producer Gene Tognicci, we find we can’t trust John R. Brinkley -- or the unreliable narration.

Penny Lane says, “We can all get fooled.”

On the film’s website, you will find an outline so you can determine where “Nuts!” stayed true to the facts, altered the chronology of events, or “simply made things up out of whole cloth.”

Or you can simply ask Thom Stylinski during the Tropic’s Q&A.

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