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Home Movie

Home Movie
Home Vision Entertainment
2001 / Color / 1:37 flat full frame / 65 min. / Street Date August 19, 2003 / 29.95
Starring Linda Beech, Francis Mooney, Diana Peden, Ed Peden, Darlene Satrinano, Ben Skora, Bill Tregle, Bob Walker
Cinematography Hubert Taczanowski
Film Editor Jun Diaz
Produced by Jeff Charney, Dominic Ferro, Barbara Laffey, Susane Preissler, John Shirley, Richard Siegel, Stuart Wolff
Directed by Chris Smith

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This odd docu actually sprung from material shot for a series of commercials: to illustrate a variety of amusing American 'homes', documentarian Chris Smith went to 5 wacko homesites across the continent and in Hawaii, and let the homeowners explain themselves. In some cases, they still have some explaining to do.

For sixty-five minutes, we alternate between 5 "unusual homeowners."

A Louisiana alligator wrestler lives on a houseboat in a bayou, and we're more interested in his laid-back philosophizing than the actual house itself. He catches his own dinner in his seafood traps, and talks about messin' with those troublesome old gators in his charming cajun accent.

A manic inventor who dabbles in spiritualism on the side has converted his house into one big automated gimmick, with doors that open and close like irises, a corridor out of 2001, and all kinds of bizarre things that happen when little buttons are pushed. Nothing's normal. To get a bar of soap, a hole in the wall opens up and a mannequin's hand emerges to dump the soap on the counter. In the garage he has a six-foot robot that rolls around, talks (by way of a radio mic) and dances with people that stand on his toes. The inventor also has his stuffed terrier on the floor, and claims to have communicated with his deceased son.

An eccentric older woman on the bad side of some serious cosmetic surgery lives in a rustic treehouse in a remote area of Kauai accessible only by Land Rover when the creek's not too high. She's definitely nature-oriented, and calls to the river in Hawaiian to ask permission to cross. She also was fluent in Japanese, a talent that got the attention of a Tokyo producer in 1958 who brought her to Japan to play 'the Gaijin lady' in a popular televison show. She shows us stills from the show, when she was pretty enough to be a model. How she got that fabulous hunk of land in the middle of the Hawaiian rain forest is an unanswered question.

A photographer who creates cat-oriented products and his equally cat-obsessed wife customized their house as a kitty cat heaven. Us cat-neutral types will think they're nuts, but cat lovers will adore the elevated freeway system and hidden cat nooks running through the house, and the cat-themed desecrations - I mean, decorations that adorn every surface, lamp, and wall space. The happy homeowners agree that all this 'customizing' wouldn't be appropriate if they ever wanted to sell, and they're darn right.

Finally we have a Kansas couple who live in an old Atlas underground missile silo site, the kind that raised a rocket from a horizontal position before firing. The command center is now their house, and a 120-foot tunnel like something out of The Day After connects it with the old silo, which serves as the husband's shop. But it's okay, as the husband has built an above-ground annex so they can get some sunlight and find out what the weather is like. He plays Karma-calming music on some cool wooden flutes to alter the site's mood from 60s war to millenial peace, man.

The docu raises some questions, but our curiosity is mostly satisfied, and if we're lucky enough to own a home, to perhaps appreciate its ordinary-ness an iota more ... any of these people look more capable of doing plumbing than I am.

Home Movie was edited by Jun Diaz, the talented cutter who did the jaw-dropping The Kid Stays in the Picture.

HVe's DVD of the eccentric documentary Home Movie is a very handsome disc of a well-shot show. It's got monaural sound, but is given a lively mix.

There are a number of interesting extras. The cat owners volunteer a selection of cat pictures, and the Earth lady from Hawaii shows us stills proving her participation in the Japanese TV show. We see a commercial promoting Louisiana tourism with the alligator wrestler's gator actor, and a dry documentary about Kanas missile bases that nevertheless has lots of arresting rocket footage. Chris Smith's original Homestore commercials are here too - they're not bad. Finally, a longer piece by Monsanto for their House of the Future installation at Disneyland, is a detailed ode to the joys of better living through plastic. It's faded and scratched, but people who have missed the House of the Future ever since it disappeared from the Anaheim park will want to see this.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Home Movie rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Wild Bill's gator commercial clip, Monsanto's House of the Future promo, History of Kansas missile bases, Cat photo gallery, Linda Beech publicity stills, commercials, Liner notes by Mark Borchardt
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 27, 2003

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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