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DVD Review: Beyond The Mat

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Studio: Imagine


Distributer: Universal









Let me tell you a little story: I was eighteen, and I had just moved to LA from England on my lonesome. See, I was trying to break into acting, and before my visa ran out and the INS came knocking, I was doing pretty good. But that’s not the story I want to tell.





I'd read stories all over the web about this Wrestling With Shadows-esque documentary on wrestling, one that had more backstage footage than you can shake a stick at, and that told the stories of three of the all time greats, Mick Foley, Terry Funk and Jake Roberts. Meltzer and Scherer were drooling all over it, and I knew that I had to see this flick.





However, the film was far from on general release; in fact, it was only running for five days on a single screen in an obscure theatre in Century City (in order for it to qualify for some award nomination). Now, Century City was quite a way from me and, being the unemployed wannabe-immigrant that I was, I had no car, and none of my buddies could take me. But the film was on a very limited release, and no-one knew what would become of it after that. And dammit, there was no way in hell I was going to miss my shot at seeing this movie.





So I caught a cab to Century City. I watched the flick. I got another cab back home. I looked in my wallet: the ticket cost me seven bucks. The cab ride was SEVENTY bucks. And it was worth every penny…













Barry Blaustein, Hollywood screenwriter (the man behind some of Eddie Murphy’s finest moments) had done some good work for Frasier-headed Ron Howard and his company, so as a reward, old Richie...er, Ronnie, gave him a hundred grand with which to make a movie of his choosing. A lifelong (smart) wrestling fan, Blaustein there was only one project he was going to spend that money on.





I sincerely doubt that any of you reading this particular site have no knowledge of this film. Suffice it to say, it tells three important stories that every wrestling fan should know: 1) Mick Foley is killing himself with his hardcore antics, and his family aren’t impressed especially when they get to watch it from ringside. 2) Terry Funk is killing himself with his hardcore antics, and his family aren’t…hey, there’s a theme going on here. Actually, Funk’s story is more about the fact that he’s sixty years old and doing moonsaults off ladders, his body is completely knackered and he simply CANNOT STOP WRESTLING. 3) Jake Roberts used to be famous and good. Now he wrestles for crack and simply CANNOT STOP DOING DRUGS. But if you listen to his story, you might understand why...maybe.













I’m still amazed at the number of wrestling fans I speak to whether or not they spell “mark” with an “s” who haven’t seen this film. I read somewhere that when guys go to OVW, there are two compulsory study aids: A copy of Lou Thesz's Hooker, and this movie.





Let’s get this straight this is a documentary. Wrestling With Shadows captured the unbelievable events of Montreal, and thus works as a far more dramatic cinematic experience by the power of its story. BTM, while telling incredible stories of its own, is not the revelation that WWS was, and for that reason, many people disregard it simply because “it wasn’t as good as the Montreal flick.” Sure, it may not be as infinitely revisitable, but it you’ll damn well learn a few things from this movie no matter how smart you (think) you are.





Mick and Terry’s tales are heart-warming and heart-wrenching at once, while Jake’s story is just - listening to some of the stuff about Jake’s cursed family is enough to mess up anyone's bedtime.





These fascinating insights are comfortably padded with plenty of backstage footage from a number of WWF and indy events, a tour of Titan Towers, and some shorter focusing on some of wrestling’s more colourful individuals, from Vince McMahon to New Jack to Chyna to Spike Dudley.





For the wrestling fan, it’s a wet dream. For non- fans who get roped in to watch the flick, there are enough life stories and tear-jerking moments to appease the grumpiest grandparents and the most cynical girlfriends.





Oh, and if you’re sick of people ragging you for watching “that fake wrestling shit”, show them this flick they WILL thank you for it.




Movie Rating: ****




Not quite Flair-Steamboat, but damn, it's pretty close.












When I slapped this baby into my player, I was a little pissed at the pedestrian, non-animated menu. AFter a little clicking though, I was very pleasantly surprised with the extras on offer:




- Audio commentary by Barry Blaustein and Terry Funk


- Audio commentary by Barry Blaustein


- Two short, scene-specific commentaries by Mick Foley


- Theatrical Trailer


- Cast & Crew profiles


- Easter Egg of Jake Roberts buying a pint of Schnapps and a six pack (maybe)





Okay, let’s get the garbage out of the way first. The profiles are pretty lame and you won't learn anything about anyone except Blaustein himself. The trailer is fun to watch a couple times like most trailers...and like most, you won’t go back to after that.




The commentaries are the real gold on this disc. As you can imagine on any documentary, there are a bunch of stories that don’t get told and information that doesn’t get covered. Bear in mind that Blaustein was tailing wrestlers with a camera for about four years (in addition to the year he followed them without a camera), and we all know how much happens in wrestling over that time.




The commentary with Terry Funk is worth fifteen bucks alone. It’s basically a candid conversation between two wrestling fans, one of whom happens to be a living legend, that is prompted occasionally by what’s happening on screen. Terry tells some amazing stories about Vince McMahon, Japan, the state of the business, and his numerous retirements. Any post-Attitude wrestling fans that just can’t see what all the fuss is about this guy should really sit down and pay attention.





The Blaustein solo commentary is also worth the price of admission, telling stories more directly related to what’s actually happening on-screen (as opposed to Terry spending most of his time reminiscing). He recounts experiences he went through during filming, from the difficulty in getting co-operation from WCW or the WWF, getting attacked by the wrestlers, time he spent with various guys that didn’t make the cut (singing Afa, anyone?) and ultimately the difficulty in getting the film released thanks to Vince and his lawyers. Great stuff here.





The two short Foley commentaries are interesting, but then Mick reading the ingredients on the back of a can of soup would be entertaining. It’s especially funny to hear his comments on his own backyard wrestling adventures (“this is my backyard wrestling; cheesy legdrop, nobody gets hurt.” Then it cuts to him jumping off the roof of his buddy’s house), as well as his reaction to The Rock destroying his head with eleven chairshots at the Rumble and then not bothering to check he was okay afterwards.




As for the Jake Easter Egg... well, if you can find it, you're a better man than me. Blaustein constantly makes reference to a "button at the end of the DVD" that takes you to a clip of Jake doing his thing (buying vast quantities of alchohol and shitting in some nachos), but damned if anyone's found it yet. I doubt it personally, but if you find it, for God's sake tell the rest of us.




Extras Rating: *****





This would be akin to a twenty-minute Benoit-HBK match. Three falls. With ladders. And Stacy and Torrie going down on each other between rounds.













No special effects, crappy sound and fairly mediocre video mean it isn’t the one to show off your new home cinema setup. But it is a great way to spend the remainder of Monday night after RAW has once again done its best to kill your love of wrestling. Draw the curtains, kill the lights, grab a loaf of bread and enjoy.




Overall: ****






More fun than Stacy Kiebler in a sleeping bag.








Jay Spree




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