Judge David Johnson must have missed this film's theatrical release, but he can't wait until the sequel: Back Pain: This Time, It's Personal.
Say Goodbye to Back Pain is a 20-year-old program, originally appearing on VHS (a scrolling preface on the DVD makes reference to what's contained on "this videocassette"), that has been newly transferred to DVD by Westwood Productions.
The creator of the treatment program is a Dr. Kraus, who apparently treated John F. Kennedy's back pain, so you know how far back he goes. Before I begin I should confess that, while I do occasionally suffer from a tight back here or there, I have by no means endured the degree of torment that the target audience for this disc presumably has. The treatment spectrum ranges from regular backaches to slipped discs.
For that reason, I cannot and will not comment on the effectiveness of the treatment on this disc, for the following reasons: (1) The disc is set up as a six-week program, so any judgment on the merits of the program would derive from a truncated version, which doesn't matter anyway because (2) I'm not suffering from back pain.
So I'll limit my review to the technical and presentation aspects of the disc.
The original Say Goodbye to Back Pain was produced in 1985. This point is obvious. The transfer appears to be straight crossover; the video quality looks pretty much like a videotape made in the mid-'80s. The four participants in the video—two male, two female—are all clad in the mandatory fitness uniforms of decades past: boys in the too-high give-the-imagination-the-day-off shorts with the Polo top and women in neon-colored leotards that will burn a hole in your cornea.
As the program unfurls, we are introduced to Alexander Melleby, the national director and chief instructor for the YMCA's back program (in 1985). Melleby provides the voiceover narration, and let me tell you, if this guy didn't supply the sportscaster voice for Joe Montana's SportsTalk Football for the Sega Genesis, I'd be surprised.
Before the exercises begin, Melleby takes you through a variety of tests that will rate the intensity of your back pain. If this is an antiquated method, I couldn't tell you. Following these tests, the actual program starts. Again, the whole shebang is geared toward a six-week commitment. Weeks are broken down with specific exercise to do. Generally, these workouts are low-impact. Minimal movement is required (e.g., turn your head left, lift your right knee up, clench your arm), there is lots of methodical breathing, and relaxing New Agey music is piped throughout. Combined with the monotone voiceover from Melleby and the submissive, attractive human specimens following the orders, the whole affair looks like a training video for the cosmonauts of Moonraker.
Frankly, it seemed a bit too holistic for my red-meat-eating, pop-a-pill-or-two medical worldview, but what do I know? My back pain treatment consists of sprawling on the living room rug, face down, and having my wife walk on my spine.
As a DVD, Say Goodbye to Back Pain won't be winning any trophies for innovative presentation and design. Chapter selection is it for extra content (though a step-by-step guide depicting the back exercises is included), the picture is obviously dated, and the mono sound is hollow. But it all does what it needs to—transmit information to you, oh languishing back-pain sufferer. Perhaps the program's mightiest selling point is that after twenty years, it is still deemed effective enough to mandate a foray into the digital world.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Westwood Productions
• Exercise Booklet
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