PennyLaneIsMyRealName.com is the name of her website, so it just seemed wrong to me to ask Penny Lane about her name. The URL pretty much sums it up. Instead, I focused on NUTS!, the thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking film with which this energetic and eloquent filmmaker has gifted us.
This scintillating documentary is the story of one of the great con men of the 20th century, Dr. John Brinkley, a man largely forgotten today. Lane has an excellent theory about what that may be, despite his pioneering work in radio, including the high-wattage Mexican station XERA broadcasting to 17 countries, that made, among others, The Carter Family the stars that were and still are.
Lane is as fascinated as I am about the psychology that was at work with Dr. Brinkley’s amazing cure for impotence that involved goat glands and a willing suspension of disbelief. Which brought up the difficult truth that when it comes to science and medicine, there are few absolutes, and it’s that uncertainty on which the charlatan thrives. That brought up the element of manipulation as a whole, about which Lane has other excellent theories, as well as a keen insight into the prevailing powers that challenged Dr. Brinkley’s claims, as well as his high-wattage radio station. The lessons to be learned about rabble-rousing, as we discussed, have a few contemporary applications.
We finished up with a look back at Lane’s first documentary, ABORTION DIARIES, that allowed women to share their personal stories about the procedure, and why she felt this aspect of the debate needed to be told.
NUTS! is her doc about science, belief, and the power of a smooth talker. The smooth talker is Dr. John Brinkley, a man who tapped into one of the most primal of male fears, and turned it into both a medical and a media empire. In early part of the 20th century, Brinkley settled in Milford, KS, where his cure for goat-gland cure for impotence brought growth and prosperity to that sleepy prairie town. In turn, that notoriety, brought him to the attention of the American Medical Association, and the precursor of the FCC, leading to an epic confrontation that continued even when Brinkley moved his operation and operations to Mexico. Told with a piquant animated approach, Lane’s film is, nonetheless, a serious consideration of human nature, from hubris to gullibility to willful ignorance and the power of taking on the world with a straight face and a folksy tone of conviction. Lane directed from a script by Thom Stylinski.