Thursday, September 17, 2009

One Bad Cat: The Reverend Albert Wagner Story

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Chronicles African-American’s Salvation via Sermonizing and Painting

Albert Wagner (1924-2006) freely acknowledged that he frittered away his first half-century on Earth chasing skirts. A slave to wine and women, he fathered 20 children between his wife and his mistresses.
He bottomed out while spending time behind bars after being accused of molesting one of his own kids. He admitted committing the act of incest, and considered himself lucky not to have received a stiffer sentence than the five days behind bars the judge gave him.
Blaming his profligate behavior not only on lust, but on a combination of racism and narcissism, Albert turned a new leaf after God spoke to him on his 50th birthday. From that point forward, the shameless sinner reformed, dedicating his life to Jesus and seeking salvation by creating Christian-themed paintings and by preaching as an ordained minister.
Having spawned such a large extended family, Reverend Wagner discovered that he had a ready-made congregation in his own relatives. Meanwhile, he also met with success as a prolific folk artist, first in his hometown of Cleveland, and then all across the country, as word of his colorful masterpieces started to spread.
The arc of Albert’s life from heathen to hero is chronicled by One Bad Cat, a compelling documentary narrated by Delroy Lindo. The bio-pic was shot mostly on location at the ailing octogenarian’s home/studio shortly before his death, although director Thomas Miller also mixes in some interesting archival footage.
The charismatic Wagner proves to be as controversial a figure as you’re going to encounter onscreen, as he somehow comes off as simultaneously likable and despicable. Yes, he strikes you as sincere, even if his belated conversion came only long after his having apparently wreaked enough havoc to leave lots of females’ fragile psyches emotionally-shredded.
Like Shaft, this was definitely one bad… [shut your mouth!] who, if he hadn’t been Born Again, could easily have written a handbook for gangstas on how to be a player.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 83 minutes
Studio: Vanguard Cinema
DVD Extras: Slideshow of Reverend Wagner’s work and a trailer.

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