Take a big fat oak barrel, pack in Ray Bradbury and Charles Bukowski, slice and dice a few big young scorpions with all six juicy segments of their tails, add some boiled spinach and watery buckwheat, pickle all with half Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey and half Southern Comfort, piss, and spit some chawing tobacco into the mix, then seal it up good. Let the barrel sit for a few years, forgotten, in a beat up Pontiac pickup truck parked in the last row of the last aisle in the last drive-in down a long dusty road. When you finally open it up you'll find an author like Joe R. Lansdale. Just stand back a bit when you do 'cause he might be cussin' up an awful lot and swinging low. --ZC Book Review for The Best of Joe R. Lansdale.
The best way to present Joe R. Lansdale, in a documentary about him, is to focus on him talking about himself, his influences, his surroundings, his unique situation of liberal-thinking living in a conservative-thinking locale, and Hap and Leonard, of course. Hansi Oppenheimer manages to do just that while bringing in Bruce Campbell, Joe Hill, Mick Garris, Amber Benson, Don Coscarelli, Christopher Golden, Jeani Rector, his family, and many others, to talk about Lansdale and his influences. From his love for reading that started with comic books to his love for history, you need not ask for a more complete portrait of the writer.
The visual style of the documentary is homey retro, which fits right in with Lansdale's style of talking and writing. Snippets of popping corn, a reel to reel projector (I still have my 8mm one), and images of drive-ins, along with Kasey Lansdale's music scoring, all work to provide a cozy, nostalgic feeling.
His breadth of knowledge, relaxed Nacogdoches living, and the front porch informality of the man comes through without a hitch. He provides an extensive background on Hap and Leonard. He also gives a demonstration of his unique martial art style and makes the rounds of East Texas as he relates local history, viewpoints, and experiences.
A stop at a Gladewater theater brought memories of grabbing a hamburger at the Ritz Drugstore nearby, then stocking up on a nickel popcorn bag and Coca-cola to catch the kiddie matinee and serials. This one reminiscence will bring back memories for many of those of a ripe old age who remember hours similarly spent. His discovery of the alternate stairway for black patrons was a moment that stuck with him and added to his realization of that other reality growing up along with him.
There is so much packed into this documentary that I am sure you will watch it and come away with a lot of I-didn't-know-thats about Joe R. Lansdale. You can't do better than that.