September 4, 2019 Danger God (Documentary Review)
One of the positions on a film crew that is the most shockingly under appreciated and taken for granted seems to be the stunt double. It’s 2019 and they still do not even have an Academy Award for it! That in mind, hopefully audiences and Hollywood will have a new appreciation for their risk taking work now with Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood being a summertime box office hit and the fascinating Joe O’Connell documentary Danger God which is set for DVD release on September 17th through Wild Eye Releasing.
Professional stunt man Gary Kent has made a hard earned name for himself in over 50 years of falling, burning, jumping, fighting, and breaking himself for some of the most cherished independent B-movies of the 20th Century. This is his story, from the anything goes days of the drive in era, including his run in with Charles Manson and his infamous family, to his personal battles with health, alcoholism, and love. Featuring interviews with Monte Hellman, Duane Eddy, Richard Rush, Marc Singer, and plenty more… Danger God is an intriguing and highly emotional insight into a football player turned exploitation legend.
Now there is quite a lot to like and be entertained by with Danger God. Our lead, Gary Kent, who is more or less interviewed all throughout the film has a very enjoyable presence, even given the fact that in his movies we rarely ever see his face. He proves to be a great storyteller. Whether it be deciding to have a nice trip down acid lane to learn what it’s like to be on the drug for a film… To having a strange run in with Charles Manson and a dune buggy at the infamous Spahn Ranch. You immediately connect with Gary on a personal level and are simply mesmerized by the wacky stories he tells revolving around his professional and personal life as a stunt man.
This is clearly a documentary made with passion and love. It is tailor-made for cinephiles who have a fetish for the so called B movie genre, though it certainly does not end there. There is enough enjoyment in this documentary that even the most middle-brow audience member would find it appealing.The first half is just chock-full of strange and hilarious anecdotes of Gary’s adventures on various film sets. As well as clips from grind house cult classics like 1968’s Targets, 1966’s The Shooting (starring a young Jack Nicholson) and the fantastically awful Dracula vs. Frankenstein from 1971.
As we dip into our second half, we begin to shy away from the stunt world and veer into emotional territory that creeps up on you when you least expect it. In Gary’s later years, he is forced to grapple with his wife Tomi about her drinking abuse who eventually dies of cancer, his younger sister passes away at 78, and he himself begins to suffer heart problems having to get a triple bypass. It all becomes quite moving and you truly do feel fully invested in Gary’s story. Having said all that, what is quite enamoring about the man is how practical he is about everything. Going as far as to quote David Bowie with “Life is over much too soon” and telling us the audience in the final moment of the film to wake up and be kind to one another.
The only aspect that Danger Gods could have approved upon was its pacing. When you see a film with the words ‘Danger’ and ‘God’ in the title and it revolves around the life of a ’60s and ’70s stunt man… your mind would immediately gravitate to a faster pace and intense rhythm; not unlike American Grindhouse or Not Quite Hollywood. That said, the filmmakers opted to go with a slower more casual approach, which works fine, but the documentary could have potentially benefited from a more faster and colorful experience to complement the crazy adventures on screen.
Overall, this documentary is perfectly enjoyable and is never judgmental of Gary Kent or his work. It is very much an honest and genuine take on his life and it becomes quite obvious very quickly that this man just loved making movies and telling stories. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Danger God 4 out of 5 stars.