EVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE (directors: Seth Kramer/Daniel A. Miller/Jeremy Newberger; screenwriter: Daniel A. Miller; cinematographers: Seth Kramer/Sean Cunningham/Ken Fuhr/Roger Tibbetts Grange III/Richard Patterson/Rodney Patterson/Chad Wilson/Ben Wolf; editor: Seth Kramer; music: Peter Rundquist; cast: Morton Downey Jr, Gloria Allred, Richard Bey, Pat Buchanan, Kelli Downey Cornwell, Stanley Crouch, Alan Dershowitz, Chris Elliott, Peter Goldsmith, Melody Miller, Steven Pagones, Bob Pittman, Sally Jessy Raphael, Joey Reynolds, Lloyd Schoonmaker, Curtis Sliwa; Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Seth Kramer/Daniel A. Miller/Jeremy Newberger; Magnolia Pictures; 2012)
“The portrait of the controversial media figure, a love him or hate him type, is good enough to give us a somewhat fair portrait, considering the three directors were once fanboys.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
In the late ’80s, Morton Downey Jr, son of the famed Irish recording singer Morton Downey, emerged as a right-wing shock talk hosts on radio and TV. The current popularity of hateful talk show hosts can be traced to Junior. The bullying Mort, with a rep for turning everything into something theatrical, while taking conservative positions and all the while eying the ratings for his provocative show. This nostalgic documentary, co-directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger, highlights the self-destructive, in-your-face entertainer, at the peak of his few years of popularity, when he was recognized as the angry spokesman for his cultish blue collar mass audience.
“The Morton Downey Jr. Show” premiered in October of 1987 on WWOR, located in Secaucus, NJ, and went network in 1988 until canceled in the summer of 1989.
This slight documentary about a demagogic twisted ego-maniac gives its subject an affectionate look and shows him through old TV tapes whipping his hand-picked audience into a frenzied mob, who might lynch an unpopular guest if Mort would only give the word. Mort’s crazy man act reached its peak of popularity with his extended and obsessive coverage of the bullshit Tawana Brawley alleged rape case in upstate New York, where the black girl accuses some six innocent whites of the rape. Brawley’s race-baiting spokesman, Al Sharpton, someone more obnoxious and demagogic than Mort, if you can believe, gets into a fight with civil rights advocate Roy Innis during a 1988 taping at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. This kind of trashy entertainment appealed to a large audience (ugh!). Because Mort championed the cause of Brawley, his TV career was soon doomed.
The portrait of the controversial media figure, a love him or hate him type, is good enough to give us a somewhat fair portrait, considering the three directors were once fanboys. They do their due diligence laying bare his many sociopathic faults, while also praising him for his many contributions to the world of entertainment and that away from the camera he was more decent.
REVIEWED ON 11/20/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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