DVD Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Hilarious Bio-Pic Chronicles Career of World’s Greatest Hoaxer
Starting in the late Fifties, frustrated jazz drummer Alan Abel began plying a new trade as a media-savvy trickster. His first scam involved The Society for the Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA), an organization which solicited donations (all subsequently returned) for its mission to clothe all of God’s creatures. With the assistance of Buck Henry serving as spokesperson, the fake charity landed national attention, including coverage on the CBS evening news.
Abel followed that elaborate hoax with innumerable others, such as Citizens against Breastfeeding,” “The Sex Olympics,” and a mockumentary entitled “Is There Sex after Death?” Again and again, he managed to sucker major media outlets into reporting stories with absolute no substance to them.
For instance, at the height of the Watergate controversy, he had the nerve to pose as a former White House employee, claiming to have a tape containing the 18 missing minutes allegedly erased by President Nixon’s secretary. He called a well-attended press conference during which it took forever for the journalists to figure out they had been duped once again by the clever, chameleon-like master of disguise. What’s funny is that Alan didn’t put all that much effort into masking his identity, sometimes simply tacking a cardboard mustache on his upper lip.
All of these exploits and many more are recounted in Abel Raises Cain, an endlessly entertaining documentary co-directed by Jeff Hockett and Alan’s daughter, Jenny. The film shows that long before Borat, Punk’d or Girls Behaving Badly, Alan Abel was having fun at the expense of the media by mounting faux schemes ranging from posing as the reclusive Howard Hughes to arranging a marriage at the Plaza Hotel of Idi Amin to a Jewish girl from Long Island to a concert by the KKK symphony orchestra to a Euthanasia Cruise for people who wanted to commit suicide.
Featuring reams of footage shot at Abel’s assorted media circuses, plus the ensuing fallout, this flick proves far funnier than the best of Candid Camera. Why? Because his ruses weren’t designed to humiliate the very gullible, general public but rather aimed at seasoned professionals from the Fourth Estate whose basic job it was to discern the difference between real and manufactured news.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 82 minutes
Studio: Crash Course Documentaries
Distributor: Abel Raises Cain, LLC
DVD Extras: Bonus scenes, audio commentary with the filmmakers and the Abels, Powerball hoax featurette, raw footage from the Howard Hughes hoax, and more.