• Review: Nuts! (2016)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Mon Jul 18 17:42:54 2016
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: NUTS! is a whimsical documentary, mostly animated,
    telling the story of John R. Brinkley, who illegally
    claimed to be a medical doctor and who achieved a great
    following based on the false claim that he could cure male
    sexual impotency by an operation that grafted goat testicle
    matter onto the patient testicles. To help publicize his
    work he founded a radio station that became on of the most
    popular stations in the country. Penny Lane, director of
    OUR NIXON, directs a script by Thom Stylinski. The story
    is told with panache, often funny and more often is just
    strange. This is a true story too weird to make up.
    Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    John Romulus Brinkley was a quack doctor (or self-proclaimed
    doctor) whose technique was to transplant goat testicles into men
    as a cure for male impotency. He first performed the operation at
    the request of a patient complaining of lack of function. When it
    appeared to be successful he adopted the procedure as his own and
    more and more men requested it. He started practicing the
    operation in 1917 in the nearly dead town of Milford, Kansas, but
    with the popularity of the operation he opened clinics and
    hospitals in multiple states. Famous celebrities are listed as
    having the goat gland operation. Buster Keaton, Huey Long, William
    Jennings Bryon, and Rudolph Valentino were rumored to be patients
    and advocates. As one satisfied customer testifies, "I used to
    have a floppy dong, but it ain't floppy no more."

    To advertise his medical services--if that is the right word--he
    became pioneer of radio and the station he founded became a popular
    favorite across the US. Eventually he had the world's most
    powerful broadcasting station. Brinkley's story is incredible but
    true, a nearly forgotten chapter of United States history. The
    story drifts from the medical aspects to the radio entertainment
    Brinkley sponsored to legal challenges to the Brinkley empire, and
    Brinkley's run for governor of Kansas at a time when the system
    really seems to have been rigged against him.

    Under the direction of Penny Lane, NUTS! drifts from color to
    monochrome. It largely uses animation with hand-drawn art.
    Interviews are done in color with testimony by experts like Pope
    Brock, author of CHARLATAN. Frequently the visuals are of
    contemporary news stories covering the career of Brinkley. Also
    there are Brinkley home movies and newsreel and other archive
    footage. The script is broken into chapters with exaggerated
    dramatic titles like "THE COBRA STRIKES" and "INTO THE FIELDS OF
    ELYSIUM." The narrator of the film seems as amused as the audience

    Oddly, early in the film the narrative makes the operation seem to
    be apparently successful. Toward the end the tone has changed and
    it sounds instead that the success rate is what we would have
    suspected, very roughly nil. Any successes Brinkley appeared to
    have were probably due to a placebo effect. One of the failings of
    the film is to regard his medical procedures as neither very
    helpful nor very harmful. In fact, people were harmed by not
    getting the medical treatment they really needed.

    One interviewee says, "I'd call him a psychopath, but I'm not
    medically qualified to do so." Somehow medical qualification seems
    to be an unimportant matter here. This high-spirited documentary
    is never less than fun to watch and frequently quite astonishing.
    This is one of the more entertaining documentaries of the year. I
    rate NUTS! a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper

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