All Hail The Popcorn King (2020)




A review by Adam Lovett

Director: Hansi Oppenheimer

Starring: Joe R.Lansdale, Bruce Campbell, James Purefoy, Joe Hill, Don Coscarelli, Mick Garris, Amber Benson

ALL HAIL THE POPCORN KING is a no bullshit documentary about a no bullshit man. Made by a fan for fans.

Prolific pulp Author and screenwriter Joe R. Lansdale has written over 50 novels and 500 short stories in the western, horror, mystery and science fiction genres. He’s penned comics and written for TV and film including BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and MASTERS OF HORROR. Has had his work adapted memorably to the screen with the likes of BUBBA HO-TEP, COLD IN JULY and the TV series HAP & LEONARD. Is an internationally renowned martial artist in the hall of fame whose invented his own martial science called Shen Chuan. In short the man is a legend.

Yet somehow he is still largely unknown outside of a small group of aficionados…and one gets the impression he wouldn’t have it any other way. After all Lansdale has refused the seductive siren call that is the glitz and fame of Hollywood to instead reside in the small Texas town of Nacogdoches.

Watching the film it’s not long before you realize how deliberate this choice is as Lansdale proudly shares tales of his home state. Local historical figures like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie who passed through on their way to a little place called the Alamo clearly made an impact. It’s obvious that the locations and experiences of his life shaped his artistic sensibilities as much as learning to read with comics and having his life changed forever through Edgar Rice Burroughs before 10 years old.

Told largely by the man himself, the filmmakers seemingly had unfettered access into his home and head. It’s a privilege to listen, his face appropriately projected onto a Drive-In movie screen as he breaks down some of his most recognized and revered characters and works.

In addition to the man himself we also hear from collaborators, family and colleagues, some on camera while others are recorded on the phone. Often in a documentary like this when everyone universally agrees on the subject’s positive attributes and talents it feels disingenuous. That’s not the case here.

When you look at the sheer volume of Lansdale’s output it’s impressive how much is crammed into an hour long documentary. You walk away feeling like you know Lansdale personally and where his unique style is drawn. While still knowing there is so much more that could be told. Wisely the film ends with an assortment of the guests name dropping their favourites and what led them to become fans effectively adding scope for new comers. Aptly the final word is left to a family member humanizing this down to earth figure in a way that removes any need for mytholizing. After all Lansdale’s writing does that more than adequately.

Watch the trailer for ALL HAIL THE POPCORN KING

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