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Supermensch: The Legend of Shep
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/7/2014
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/3/2014
What's the key ingredient to making a good documentary? Unbeknownst to most people (and many filmmakers), the answer to that question is editing. The proper alignment of the tale is the secret to an impressive documentary. Just second to that is the subject. The movie must be about something which intrigues the viewer. How many times have you read the description of a documentary and thought, "That doesn't sound the least bit interesting?" But, occasionally a documentary comes along which takes us by surprise. On the surface, it sounds boring or stale, but given the chance, it's actually fascinating. That's the case with Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.
Fresh out of college in the late 1960s, Shep Gordon moved from New York to California to become a probation officer. When that didn't work out (after one day on the job), he moved into a motel in Los Angeles, where he quickly met Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. At Hendrix suggestion, Gordon became a music manager and took on a client by the name of Alice Cooper. With a lot of work and some odd deals, Gordon helped to make Cooper into an international star. From there, he took on many different musical acts, and then expanded into producing movies, and helping to create the celebrity chef phenomenon. While Gordon was achieving success in business, he was very lonely in his personal life, having been through many ups and downs in relationships. Tiring of the Hollywood lifestyle, Gordon moved to Maui, but continued to grown his entertainment empire and increase his circle of famous friends.
I often struggle with the task of attempting to explain why a movie is good or bad. I won't be having that problem with Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, as the explanation is rather simple. As we've discussed in the past, we live in an age where we are bombarded by entertainment and celebrity news. It's available at our fingertips 24-hours a day on-line and along with the E! channel, "entertainment news" shows appear regularly throughout the cable spectrum. Given that, a movie with some name-dropping old guy shouldn't be that big of a deal. And yet, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is entrancing due to the odd nature of Gordon's story, the famous names involved, and perhaps most importantly, Gordon's demeanor.
The brief synopsis above is true (according to the movie) -- Gordon had no intention of becoming a manager, but due to a change meeting with some of the biggest names in 60's music, he did. (My wife often speaks of how important luck can be in a career. This apparently proves her theory.) From there, Gordon continued to meet more and more famous people and have an effect on their lives. A point which the movie drives home is that Gordon worked hard for his clients, but he also strived to do the right thing by them. He also proved to be very creative when it came to getting exposure for his artists. In many ways, Gordon makes achieving fame look very easy. It's also interesting to see the strange paths which his life took, including a passion for cooking and meetings with the Dalai Lama.
The documentary was co-directed by Mike Myers of Austin Powers fame who makes his debut behind the camera here. He and his partner Beth Aala bring a breath of fresh air to the piece by intercutting the various interviews and archive photos with re-enactments of events discussed in the movie and clips from movies which share a theme with the present subject. (My favorite was when a clip from The Warriors popped up.) And while it appears that Gordon's devoted friends would have shown up to support their buddy, I'm sure that it didn't hurt to have Mike Myers assisting in getting people like Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Mick Fleetwood, and Willie Nelson to stop by. Given his background, Myers also does a great job of brining the comedy in Gordon's story to the fore-front. Even when discussing tragedy, something funny is mentioned. Of course, who knew that Alice Cooper and Tom Arnold would have the funniest lines.
The one problem with Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is that it all comes across as too good to be true. Clearly, Gordon has led a blessed life and many doors have opened for him, but was everything a success and does everyone truly love him? We don't hear any negative stories, nor do we get comments from anyone who may have had a falling out with Gordon. A moment where we hear how Gordon forced his view onto Myers for a scene in Wayne's World implies that he may have bullied some people over the years. Still, if taken with a grain of salt, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is a documentary which sounds pretty run-of-the-mill on paper, but reveals itself to be a unique story.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon reminds us that Alice Cooper was once a huge star on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The film is comprised of modern interviews and archive footage. As one would imagine, the video quality of the older material varies, as the HD transfer only enhances any defects. The modern stuff looks very good, as the images are very sharp and clear, showing no grain. The colors look very good, especially the tones we see at the house in Hawaii. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a documentary, most the audio comes from the center and front channels, but the music sounds very good, and there are some moments where sound effects are creatively mixed into the rear channels.
The Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long