Judge Jim Thomas doesn't have a world, but you'll find Thomasville just a few miles down the road from Otisburg.
On April 4, 2007, writer-director Bob Clark and his son Ariel were killed by a drunk driver on California's Pacific Coast Highway. During the next year or so, Deren Abram, who had worked with Clark for years, interviewed Clark's friends and collaborators, producing the documentary ClarkWORLD.
This isn't a biography so much as it is a celebration of Clark's career; not only the movies, enjoyed by millions, but the making of those movies, which were also enjoyed, albeit not by millions. Clark is best remembered for A Christmas Story, one of the most beloved holiday movies of all time. He wanted to make the movie for years, but it was only after the smashing success of Porky's that he had the studio clout to get it done. Appropriately, ClarkWORLD opens by revisiting the Florida Everglades site on which Porky's strip club was constructed.
ClarkWORLD is enjoyable, but don't expect to find out too much about the man. The general impression you get is that Clark was a talented, likable guy, very much an actor's director, running a fairly laid-back set. That's about it. You don't find out much about his training (other than he attended film school at the University of Miami), you don't find out anything about his family (even though his son died with him in the crash), and you don't find out anything about his influences. You do find out about his wildly uneven career—on the one hand, A Christmas Story, Porky's, Murder By Decree, and on the other, Karate Dog, Baby Genuises, and (retch), Rhinestone. The movie doesn't apologize for the bad movies, it flat out admits they didn't work, for whatever reason. The one exception is Rhinestone; Clark was brought in after the original director left over "creative differences" with star Sylvester Stallone. The film makes it quite clear that this was not the movie Clark wanted to make.
ClarkWORLD combines archival footage—including vintage interviews with Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet) and Margot Kidder (Superman), both of whom starred in Clark's seminal slasher film Black Christmas—with new interviews. Most of the new material focus on A Christmas Story, with Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) and several other supporting players, but you also get Kim Cattrall, who appeared in Porky's and Tribute, as well as Jon Voight (Mission: Impossible), who appeared in one of Clark's last films, a Chevy Chase made-for-TV film called Karate Dog.
The film takes an abrupt detour when it addresses Clark's death, becoming not just a diatribe against drunk driving, but also a vague diatribe against society in general, spurred on by the admittedly appalling fact that the drunk driver who killed Clark and his son got a mere six-year sentence. Secondly, the Chinese restaurant scene from A Christmas Story is played four different times during the course of the movie. Hey, it's a great scene, but that's a bit much. A secondary issue is the relatively weak coverage of Murder By Decree. It is, perhaps, the best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made, and had an all-star cast, including Christopher Plummer (The Last Station) as Holmes and James Mason (Heaven Can Wait) as Watson; it would have been interesting to get the perspective from some of the main cast members.
ClarkWORLD's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pretty good, given that the film was shot on a shoestring, and its source material varying wildly in quality. The Dolby 2.0 audio is fine for the format. In fact, most of the background music is composed by Clark's son Ariel, which has a nice, playful feel to it. The bonus features consist of extended versions of interviews with Peter Billingsly, Kim Cattrall, and the supporting cast of A Christmas Story.
Perhaps Abrams began work on the movie too soon after Bob Clark's death; for all the genuine love expressed for the director, there's a lack of depth and perspective. All in all, ClarkWORLD is a lightweight but enjoyable appreciation of a filmmaker taken from us much too soon.
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