Naked eye

Turn on and tune in to the Dallas Video Festival

March 23, 9:45 p.m., Video Cabaret

Driver 23 As a one-man metal band, Dan Cleveland is kind of a real-life version of Tenacious D, except that Cleveland doesn't play for laughs and isn't in on the joke that he obviously is. Equal parts This is Spinal Tap and American Movie, director Rolf Belgum's rockumentary, for the most part, depicts Cleveland as the ultimate lost-in-his-own-world washout, the kind of guy who is hilarious mainly because he takes it all so seriously. He actually believes that what he's doing will one day pay off. To him, it's not a question of how but how soon, and that's part of (OK, all of) his charm. Somewhere along the way, Belgum starts to believe a little too, and you can't help but be sucked in by Cleveland's it's-not-an-act act as well. Sure, he's a horrible musician, and his chances of success even on a camp level are slim if not nonexistent. But you almost hope he pulls it off, if only for his own sake. (Z.C.)

March 23, 9 p.m., Video Box

Charles in charge: a scene from Theresa Duncan's History of Glamour
Charles in charge: a scene from Theresa Duncan's History of Glamour
Another round: Harry Keitt, left, and George Walton are On the Ropes.
Another round: Harry Keitt, left, and George Walton are On the Ropes.

Faded Glory: The Von Erich Story It's astonishing no one has yet turned the Von Erichs' tragic tale into a big-screen biopic; after all, theirs is a story shot through with enough drama and trauma to level any audience. Or maybe it's possible that no one will believe their tale, as fact or fiction. For a brief, shining moment, Fritz Von Erich and his boys (Kevin, Kerry, Michael, and David) ruled the wrestling world with an Iron Claw, only to succumb to drug abuse, suicide, and a thousand pounds of pain. Rusty Baker's documentary does an admirable job of presenting the short-hand tale of the Von Erichs, using home movies and footage from matches (even Kevin's very first in 1976); and it's gripping to hear Fritz, now dead, speak from beyond the grave about the two things he loved most in this world -- his sons, and beating the hell out of anyone who dared step into the squared circle with the meanest wrestler in Texas. "I think that Kevin was the most respected wrestler in the world," Fritz says of his oldest. "He would never give up, never submit." Indeed, Kevin is the last of Fritz's four sons (Jackie died when he was a child, electrocuted in a trailer park) -- the sole survivor of an ill-fated clan. Sometimes, this family's story is too sad even to contemplate. (R.W.)

March 26, 3:15 p.m., Videotheque

Food, Drink & Life Compilation If one hilarious parody can get you in the mooood, it could be Coldcuts from Elroy, a slice-of-life-and-death melodrama set in a small town. Mark Miller's opus tells the tale from the fat kid's point of view and celebrates the glories of beef on and off the hoof. Shot in Travis County, Coldcuts is a trailer-trash documentary without apology. The Appointment is a hopelessly torturous exercise in frustration tolerance, featuring an anal-retentive woman who even makes up her bed in a hotel room. She compulsively straightens everything in the room, then furiously destroys it, looking for...something. Filmmaker Deborah Korkuris succeeds in creating a frantic mood, but the ending is fairly hokey. Other titles in this series include bloody slaughterhouse images in Best in Beef; Teenage, a sad commentary on Kosovo refugees; a cynical homage to filmmaking, Coca-Cola, and American merchandising called Enjoy; and Anne McGuire's All Smiles and Sadness, which sets a new standard for the low-budget film featuring live theater performed without sets in somebody's basement. (A.M.H.)

March 26, 1 p.m., Video Box

Grass Director Ron Mann's archival history of weed, Mary Jane, skunk, boo, mezz -- you name it, we'll smoke it -- is damned entertaining, to a point. See, perhaps we made the mistake of actually watching it stoned, which seemed a good idea at the time; I believe the words we uttered while passing the pipe were, "Dude, an homage, cough cough." But Mann's film, which consists largely of ancient footage of knee-jerking dimwits promoting marijuana as the devil's tobacco, grows a little long-winded toward its middle half -- sometime after the requisite screening of Reefer Madness clips. Narrated by Woody Harrelson (who else?), Grass is a gas most of the time, especially early on; Mann unearths some gems, none more valuable than footage from a 1930s film titled High on the Range. It's informative too, for those looking for a little history on the shrubject (say, how the government's crackdown on potheads led to the Great Heroin Scare of the 1940s, and so forth). But like Mann's best work, including 1988's Comic Book Confidential, Grass loses momentum; it gets repetitive seeing propaganda clip after clip of some wigged-out doper going on a criminal rampage after smoking out with his honey. We got the joke: Weed doesn't make you dangerous; it makes you sleepy. So does a lot of Grass. (R.W.)

March 25, 10 p.m., Videotheque

Hell for Leather A group of leather-clad Hell's Angels -- we mean that literally -- torment London with operatic arias and flatulence (there's a difference?) in this wry, overblown retelling of Satan's fall to earth. The Lord of the Flies and his cheerful minions tool about on their bikes, hunting down sinners and dishing out punishments -- or is it rewards? -- to weak-willed reprobates while a falsetto-singing God whines from on high. The Lord, apparently, is a eunuch, while Satan's bunch is infernally cursed with bad teeth (this is England) and overactive libidos. Bad teeth or no balls -- which is a better way to spend eternity? Guess, and remember that in heaven you can't even cut a fart without making some sissy angel cry. Blessedly brief for an opera, this short video shot for Swiss television and subtitled in German and French makes for a fairly hilarious half-hour provided you remember that it's a joke, not a religious treatise. (P.W.)

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