As any biography of the man will point out, the author Joe R. Lansdale has been prolific. This includes dozens of novels, screenplays, comic books, and hundreds of short stories. That is only part of the story. A closer look, revealed with testimonies and passionate filmmaking in Hansi Oppenheimer’s All Hail the Popcorn King, shows us the full results of Lansdale’s creativity.
His work has been adapted into films such as Bubba Ho-Tep, and into TV shows like Hap and Leonard. He also wrote a short story, “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”, which was later adapted into one of the best episodes of the legendary horror anthology series Masters of Horror. These are stories with very human characters, nonetheless in comic, horrific situations. A goodly portion of Lansdale’s works involve monsters.
What All Hail the Popcorn King shows us with style and depth is how far-reaching these stories can be. The documentary balances fun interviews with Lansdale with commentary from the various people whose careers have benefitted from Lansdale’s singular works. What surprises you with these anecdotes is that all of them were also moved by Lansdale’s writing on a personal level.
Indeed, Vince White, one of Lansdale’s friends, notes that he is a writer who can make you “laugh and cry on the same page.” All Hail the Popcorn King uses a variety of different interviews and pieces of footage to create its stirring portrayal of the man responsible for those sentiments.
All Hail the Popcorn King is at its best when we simply take in Lansdale himself. Indeed, the man is the sum of a seemingly endless catalog of influences, ideas, and stories. Barely pausing for breath, he juggles all of those things as he discusses his life and career. The documentary itself seems riveted by these things.
In turn, this film is nicely driven by the need to share these things in the most exciting, well-made fashion possible. Succeeding in this, the only downside of All Hail the Popcorn King is that it isn’t long enough. It could also be argued that 56 minutes is the perfect amount of time to leave you wanting more.
Amber Benson, Mick Garris, Bruce Campbell, and Joe Hill are among those who praise the writer for creating very believable characters, constantly in the throes of an overtly violent, often fantastical universe. Combined with Lansdale’s thoroughly compelling insight into storytelling as a whole, Oppenheimer’s documentary is an exciting tribute that speaks for itself beautifully.
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