If you're male and have cruised by Cinemax in the late evening hours, the chances of you having watched a Jim Wynorski flick are pretty high. His big breasted, B-movie filmography could have easily been the reason that the cable channel has been lovingly dubbed Skinemax, and here's why: Wynorski has directed over seventy-five B-exploitation films featuring busty blondes (his preferred type) in various softcore situations. His film philosophy, "A big chase and a big chest," has served the filmmaker well and his penchant for topless women even earned him the nickname Tom Popatopolous. All of this, combined with Wynorski's signature low budget aesthetic, workhorse attitude, and hard-nosed but loveable antics are captured beautifully by Clay Westervelt's documentary on the filmmaker -- Popatopolis: How to Make a Movie in Three Days.
The film chronicles Wynorski's career -- using The Witches of Breastwick's three day shoot (with a two man crew!) as its guide to tell the tale of the director's humble beginnings, to some of his more shameless moments (the reference actress and collaborator Julie Strain makes to C-movies should tip you off to what shameless means). When we first meet Wynorski, he's showing off his movie collection which he stashes in the kitchen cabinets of his home. The man clearly has a love for film (no one uses nicknames like Arch Stanton unless they really dig movies ... ), but Wynorski has been called to task for cranking out crap for cash.
Those interviewed for Popatopolis acknowledge that Wynorski has produced cult favorites like Chopping Mall and Not of this Earth (featuring Traci Lords' first "mainstream" role), but argue that it feels like decades since the filmmaker has actually enjoyed himself and produced work for something other than a paycheck. And these aren't just naysayers either, these are people who consider Jim family -- like long-time collaborator Julie Smith, who has become Wynorski's voice of reason during his apparently mishmash shoots. In one scene, which becomes almost painful to watch, Wynorski directs the actress by making her repeat her lines over and over again until she gets it exactly how it's written in the script. Does he do this to torture her, or because he's adamant about his vision? Some would argue that Wynorski lacks vision in the first place -- his shoots are fast and disorganized and he frustrates easily -- often times appearing bored or unfazed during a shoot. He doesn't provide amenities for his crew (something that creates an amusing argument amongst his female cast members), and he can stretch a flashlight effect and a person's patience like no one's business. Despite all this, Popatopolis captures the heartfelt respect and love that those who work closely with Wynorski feel for him.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Popatopolis is the way the documentary almost becomes a love letter to the art of B-filmmaking past. B-cinema has all but vanished from the shelves -- collected by VHS enthusiasts and relegated to late-night cable channels -- these films just aren't what they used to be. Wynorski has been self-producing/financing his own movies for some time now, and has carved his own path in what many would consider to be a dying genre. Westervelt captures this sentiment perfectly. Wynorski himself claims, "I'm no Picasso, I'm the guy that paints black velvet paintings of Elvis." Westervelt, however, treats his subject with much more care and consideration than a flea market painting -- while still acknowledging all the wonderfully sleazy and low-fi elements that make Wynorski much revered in cult cinema circles. The disc comes with a few extras like a filmmaker's commentary, and actor commentary from Antonia Dorian and Monique Parent. If you're a fan of Wynorski's big-breasted, low-budget classics then you definitely need to pick up a copy of Westervelt's film. Fans of B-movies will also find much to appreciate and smile at in Popatopolis. Pick up a copy of this behind-the-scenes, engaging documentary over here and be sure to visit the filmmaker's website to let him know what you think.