Morton Downey Jr. shows his stripes.
ÉVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE (Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (August 30). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Long before Glenn Beck, Jerry Springer and Fox News began polluting the TV airwaves, there was Morton Downey Jr., the chain-smoking, obnoxious TV host who exploited his audience's anger, berated his guests and was characterized by a big gaping cartoon mouth.
This informative yet workmanlike doc takes us through Downey's (no relation to Robert) rapid rise and spectacular fall. The privileged son of a famous singer, he hobnobbed with the Kennedys before turning conservative. He was also a wannabe musician, so much of his life seemed an attempt to outdo dad.
The trio of directors have assembled an eclectic crew of talking heads, including (on the right) Pat Buchanan and (on the left) Stanley Crouch, who at one point compares his bullying tactics to Joe McCarthy's. Coming up the middle is comic Chris Elliott, a fan who later parodied Downey savagely on the Letterman show.
The main commenters are a number of producers from Downey's show, who reveal details about his bizarre behaviour on and off set - including a massive lie he manufactured about being assaulted by skinheads.
Interviews with Downey's daughter and footage of the man in the final stages of cancer fail to humanize him. He was ahead of his time, but is that really something to celebrate?