Required Watching: "Nuts!" (2016)
Welcome to Required Watching where we find you a weird documentary online to watch tonight so you can tell your co-workers about it, or your family, or a date to test to make sure they're cool with what you're about to suggest (...that's right, be brave, talk to them about your needs, you are worth it and beautiful).
I know what you're thinking, and are absolutely correct: this is about goat balls. Specifically, about Dr. John R. Brinkley, who in the 1910s developed a cure for impotence by suturing goat testicles into scrotums. He claimed to have done this thousands of times, which is at least partially supported by the fact that he made millions off of it. Setting up his practice in Milford, Kansas, he invested his money into the town, eventually creating the “Brinkley Block.” This included one of the first broadcast radio networks, KFKB, where he pushed his testical-stitching remedy out into the masses along with other curalls. He eventually ran for office, securing his spot as the Citizen Kane of nads. During all this, Morris Fishbein, president of the American Medical Association, chased him like Tom Hanks in Catch Me If You Can. Soon enough, there’s a trial, and plenty of southern accents.
Accurate vs. Artistic:
That would require a bit of spoilers, which in this case, defeats the purpose of the film. Also, director Penny Lane has a play-by-play you can read as you watch, and is completely transparent about any inaccuracy (and, yes, Penny Lane is her real name). However, just because she called out which scenes are interpretations and/or artistic license, she still flat out makes up dialogue in some moments. This undercuts the authenticity, which, while entertaining, is still unnecessary and just seems like an attempt to modernize what people would have said even though it was recent enough. And, the specific sources used and cited to tell the story feature heavily enough within not just the narrative, but the theme as well, so the additions just get in the way. Also, the actor’s accents don’t help it, and some of the newspaper clippings were made in Photoshop. Fortunately, these additions and the dialogue are used to fill in the cracks of the story when research couldn’t find a conclusive account. And, documentaries can’t be faulted for combining and omitting details in exchange for a narrative flow, if for no other reason than to get it completed at all, if we trust that the facts control the story first and foremost.
Whenever Stittsworth appears take a shot. Twice if he mentions his dick.
Why You Should Watch It:
It’s not only a classic story of a person’s rise and fall, complete with a revolutionary invention straight out of Ann Rand's mind, but also a subversion of it. We all have fantasies about raging against the Man with our feverish devotion to the Truth against all odds, but this guy is a con man (please tell me you caught that by now). So, the real protagonists are his victims, making the chorus the one that has to come to a realization and change. And, because it’s real, we can’t deny we might be duped, too. Thus, those that opposed Brinkley become the heroes. The fact that multiple sources sighted become examples of the skepticism championed. Even the notes in the source page flat out say they’re imperfect. It makes questioning the great equalizer of any new ideas, from religion to the impact of a disease, and in this case, as cure. You’re meant to not just not believe what you read, but scrutinize it until it cries out a confession, then make it show it’s work.
What to Watch After:
All I could think to finish this off was a “Goat Boy” sketch from Saturday Night Live, but no, we’re better than that. So, because we’re making fun of swindled townspeople, let’s end the night with “Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man — which... wait... Nuts! could also be a musical...