Tracker Pixel for Entry

New doc looks at the king of the daredevils

Cinema | February 14th, 2015

By Greg Carlson

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Daniel Junge tackles the larger-than-life personality of iconic American motorcycle stunt performer Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel in the entertaining biography “Being Evel.”

As fast-paced and foul-mouthed as its subject during his 1970s heyday, Junge’s movie prominently features plenty of footage interviewing producer Johnny Knoxville, a fellow fan who had simultaneously been developing a Knievel film prior to teaming up with the documentarian.

In addition to his conversation with Knoxville, Junge conducted sixty chroma key interviews for the movie, compositing the talking heads with “projected” images in a visually striking theatrical setting.

Junge intends to reconcile Knievel’s heroic status with the man’s consistently horrible behavior, and on that count, “Being Evel” is reasonably successful. As the story unfolds, two Knievels – the patriotic action figure and helmet safety advocate and the conniving, belligerent, greedy outlaw – emerge.

For millions of kids who idolized Knievel, revelations about the less savory aspects of his character are brought to life through the recollections of those involved. Promoter Shelly Saltman, for example, offers insight and perspective on his painful meeting with the business end of a baseball bat wielded by Knievel following a perceived slight published in Saltman’s memoir.

Knievel’s exploits were very well documented, and Junge uses a trove of archival material to his advantage. Sections on the wildly popular Ideal Toy Company’s wind-up Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle and the 1971 movie produced by and starring George Hamilton contribute to an understanding of the Knievel phenomenon, but the most devoted aficionado will be looking for references to other artifacts, like the Bally pinball machine, the Topps bubblegum cards and the spectacular Aladdin Industries lunch box.

It is simply not possible to squeeze in everything (the rehearsal footage from Knievel’s “Jaws”-inspired shark tank jump, included in the 2005 “Absolute Evel” documentary, is omitted here), but Junge makes strong choices to explore key highlights in depth.

No matter how many times some of the clips of Knievel’s leaps have been shown on television over the last 40-plus years, audiences will react to many images with fresh amazement.

The failed 1967 Caesars Palace fountain jump, which sent Knievel skittering and tumbling across the pavement like a discarded ragdoll, receives significant attention.

So too does the 1974 Snake River Canyon attempt in the steam-powered Skycycle X-2. Junge recognizes the latter event, complete with the surreal spectacle of Hells Angels mingling with high school marching band members and the general atmosphere of criminal behavior and sexual debauchery, as a critical turning point in the narrative.

Junge and Knoxville credit Knievel as a spiritual godfather to the adrenalized and inherently dangerous world of extreme sports, modern stunt riding and the Jackass generation. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the interview subjects in “Being Evel” are men, but one of the most moving witnesses to the circus is Knievel’s first wife Linda, to whom he was married for 38 years.

Suffering the indignities of her husband’s serial infidelities and the psychological stress of raising four children who had to grapple with the possibility that their dad could lose his life every time he pulled on his red, white and blue leathers (and that he did so by choice), Linda’s candid responses are among the film’s most pointed and poignant.

“Being Evel” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be widely available later in 2015.

Recently in:

Growing Together Opens New GardenBy Annie Prafckehttps://www.facebook.com/annie.prafcke20 May 2021On April 15th, Growing Together held a groundbreaking for the opening of its newest gardens at Gethsemane Cathedral. The space, which…

By Michael M. Millermichael.miller@ndsu.edu17 June 2021The Lehr Tabernacle near Lehr, N.D., celebrates its 100th Centennial with events on June 18-20, 2021. The Tabernacle, also known as Prairie Bible Camp, was featured in an…

2021 Summer Calendar Toby KeithMay 21, 7pmBismarck Event Center, 315 SOUTH 5TH STREET BISMARCKTickets $25-$175, pre-party starts at 5pm.Heart and Soul May 22, 9pmThe Aquarium, 226 N BroadwayR & B, Smooth Jazz, Funk, Neo-Soul and…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021Our opinion: Let’s work together instead of against each other.Think of where we are now in comparison to last year. Think of what we’ve learned since and how this is affecting our…

Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com29 July 2021This Is About the Religious-Rich-QAnon-White Supremacist-Trumplican CultThere are hundreds of thousands of cults in countries and societies around the world that have played or are playing…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021With Grand Forks being a hop skip and a cruise away from Fargo-Moorhead, our neighbors to the north have some great dining options. Whether you’re planning on spending a weekend or…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021“We have a guy that's been involved with the show for many years as a landlord and knew what it was like in the heydays. So he knows where he wants to take it.” says WE Fest General…

Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.com29 July 2021Conor Holt works in television post-production in Los Angeles and has scoured almost every video store and thrift shop in Los Angeles County on an endless quest for VHS cassettes. This…

Alicia Underlee Nelson  alicia@hpr1.comDowntown scored a new mural from The Greetings Tour, a project that aims to create a mural in the style of…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…