John Paul Kinhart’s documentary Blood, Boobs & Beast explores the life and cinema of DIY filmmaker Don Dohler. It shares many qualities with this years fantastic rockumentary Anvil!: The Story of Anvil and the classic homemade-movie-epic American Movie but while each of those film’s protagonists can be seen as wide eyed dreamers and in they end instill us a somewhat goofy mix of pity and admiration, we never feel that Dohler is “out of touch.”
Dohler reaches the height of his success at the midway point of the film (which is comprised of recent interviews, vintage home movies, and behind the scenes clips of Dohler’s last film) and the modest level of success he rose to (his impressive involvement in the underground comics movement which gave him some early brushes with fame, his launch of a do-it-yourself SFX magazine called Cinemagic which helped impart the inspiration and know-how that many talented artists needed to break into the industry, and his first few films, one of the best of which-Nightbeast-is included in this 2-disc set) is inspirational without the touch of “let’s laugh at the hero” irony found in similar docs.
The film takes a disheartening turn in its second half when we see Dohler take a back seat to some of his collaborators, squeezing out cheap shot-on-video exploitation film that trade the sci-fi element that originally interested him in filmmaking for cheap gore effects and gratuitous, pointless nudity(the film’s title is a play on the “three B’s” Blood, Boobs, and Beast, which are needed to insure an independent horror film gets distribution, much to Mr. Dohler’s chagrin this “way of the world” axiom permeates the bulk of the creative discussions he has with his partners)
I spoil nothing when I tell you that the film ends on a note that makes it drastically different than those more “uplifting” films. On the back cover (and in the DVD’s introduction with Troma head Lloyd Kaufman) it is revealed that Dohler recently passed away in 2006. The film’s final scenes, in which it is quite apparent that the cancer diagnosed during filming will kill Dohler, are heart-rending and frustrating. Don Dohler wasn’t a crazy dreamer, he was fully aware of the short comings of his films, but the ones he was most proud of, the ones that are set apart by their ambition and good-natured do-it-yourself aesthetic are the ones that he will be remembered for. While it is sad, this film is a crucial companion to Dohler’s films. It helps us to better understand and sympathize with the fan, filmmaker, and family man who so passionately threw himself into an industry that never really accepted him.
I can’t recommend this movie enough, great stuff.