The battle against cancer and those who battle it
In sitting down to write this review, I tried to decide how I would approach it, since there's not much more to the film than the story, which I wouldn't want to give away. But some general overview information wouldn't hurt.
In the '40s and '50s, Harry Hoxsey claimed to have the cure for cancer, a tonic that would attack cancer in a non-toxic way, using all-natural herbs. But because these herbs could be grown by anyone, they stood as a threat to the medical industry that makes billions of dollars from battling cancer. The American Medical Association wasn't about to let someone steal its cash cow, and did everything it could to shut Hoxsey down. As he had no medical license, that was easy to do, but Hoxsey wouldn't go down without a fight.
The film doesn't break any new ground for documentaries, as the presentation is very dry, focusing mainly on testimonies from patients at Hoxsey's clinic in Mexico, arguments from his opponents and scenes from old anti-Hoxsey propaganda films. Narrated by Max Gail, an actor who lost his wife to cancer, the film has the feel of a film-strip they might show in school. I can't say that it's entertaining, the way documentaries made today are, but it does a good job of organizing the information in a way that makes it easy to digest, with the exception of the repetition at the end of the film. Documentaries have come a long way.
While the topic of cancer medicine may not seem like ths stuff of high drama, there's more to take in here than medicine. Conspiracy, character assassination and the struggle for life are central to Hoxsey's story. There are also some disturbing visuals, like a cancerous open wound being treated with Hoxsey's herbs. The presentation may be a bit boring, but the topics certainly aren't.
The audio is documentary standard, presented as a Dolby Stereo track, but it's a flat delivery, focused front and center. One wouldn't expect much of a movie like this, and those expectations are matched here. The mix is clean, though, without any distortion in the dialogue.
The film's creator takes the spotlight in the other big extra, as Dr. Larry Dossey, an expert in alternative medicine, interviews director Kenny Ausubel. Shot in February 2005, Ausubel spends 24 minutes tackling the big questions about the film's focus, talking about how Hoxsey got the runaround from the medical community, the work that went into Hoxsey, and how he became interested in making the movie. The chat is rather subdued, as neither participant is very dynamic, but the featurette is very informative regarding the film's history.
Also included are some links to related Web sites.
The Bottom Line