“Marjoe” (1972, Cinedigm) In this Oscar-winning documentary, child preacher turned rock and roll styled evangelist Marjoe Gortner takes his final tour of Pentacostal revival meetings across the United States, accompanied by an undercover documentary crew intent on revealing the big money changing behind the hellfire sermons. Decades of scandals involving evangelical preachers has blunted the impact of this documentary from Sarah Kernochan and Howard Smith – unfortunately, it’s no longer shocking to learn that preachers are on the take – but Gortner, who left the fold after the film’s release to become an actor, remains a compelling, textbook portrait of a crisis of faith. An electrifying presence at the pulpit, he’s keenly aware of the wholesale fleecing of his audience, but also too drawn to the spotlight to fully extricate himself. Docurama’s DVD also includes Kernochan’s Oscar-winning short “Thoth” (2002), about the street performer S.K. Thoth, a unique and haunting presence at BART and New York train stations.
(2015, FilmRise) Glossy, uneven biopic about ‘50s teen idol Hunter, who enjoyed a high-profile, if short-lived screen career as the all-American boyfriend while also struggling to keep his identity as a gay man out of the spotlight. Those looking for midnight confessions won’t find it here (Hunter saved that for his 2006 autobiography); the actor, still handsome in his mid-‘80s, appears to have taken his past turmoil in stride, and unspools his career and personal arcs – from unhappy and confused child and box-office star to dinner theater regular before his revival, after a fashion, in John Waters’ “Polyester” – with a focus on the positive side of past events. The approach is appealing, if not particularly engaging, leaving the wealth of archival images and footage to maintain interest; comments by co-stars and admirers like Waters, Clint Eastwood, Robert Wagner and George Takei underscore that Hunter’s affable personality was the key to his survival. The Blu-ray includes extended interview segments.
(2016, Kino Lorber) Festival favorite about Stefan Pokorny, who creates elaborate miniatures and three-dimensional terrain for Dungeons and Dragons gamers. His boundless enthusiasm for gaming, which gave him both a career and an escape path from a miserable childhood, is palpable, and there are moments when he and director Josh Bishop convey the pleasure and community that can be found in gaming. Where the film stumbles is in showcasing Pokorny’s life outside of his work, which appears chaotic (scenes of Pokorny drinking to excess, stressing out his employees and being chastised by peers for his behavior). Bishop is hesitant to dig deeper when presented with these elements; what remains is a lopsided valentine to a complicated creative figure that doesn’t want to acknowledge the rapidly fraying edges around his heart. Extras include deleted interviews with figures in Pokorny’s orbit, including TSR/D&D principals Gary and Ernie Gygax, and trailers.
(2015, Sony Home Entertainment) The title pretty much tells you what to expect from this documentary, which compiles TV interviews with Zappa from the early Mothers through “200 Motels” and “Jazz from Hell” to his final classical efforts. Zappa weighs in on any number of topics, from his own music (“Eccentric, yes. Genius, maybe”) and drugs (didn’t like them) to censorship (I think you know the answer) and politics (he calls himself conservative on a particularly hostile clip from “Crossfire”), all delivered in his trademark mix of smarts, snark and self-awareness. If those qualities made you dislike Zappa, Thorsten Schütte’s film probably won’t change your mind: he is at turns cranky and dismissive and overbearing, though, it should be noted, never at anyone that didn’t really deserve it. If you’re a Zappa devotee, you’ll appreciate the chance to soak in a wealth of Zappa’s wit – biting but also self-deprecating – and his passion for the honesty of art and freedom of expression. Schütte salts the project with live performances and a few unique clips, like a teenaged Zappa playing a bicycle on “The Steve Allen Show” or serving as mystery guest on “What’s My Line?” (Soupy Sales susses him out).