Walter Rhum (Anthony Amedori) dreams of making it big as a pro-skateboarder, just like his hero Blair Stanley (Rick McCrank). When Walter submits his gold-painted VHS tape to Stanley’s sponsor, the world’s largest, most powerful skateboard manufacturer, Machotaildrop, he is promptly invited to the company’s headquarters by its eccentric owner, the Baron (James Faulkner). Signed to a lucrative contract with the company, Walter is initially overjoyed but doubts arise after meeting an embittered and crippled Stanley, causing Walter to investigate the unknown fates of Machotaildrop’s former athletes. Meanwhile, the Baron’s plan to construct an amusement park on the habitat of a near-feral skate-gang, the Manwolfs, threatens the company’s empire with their wrath. The result of the filmmakers winning Fuel TV’s The Fuel Experiment contest, Machotaildrop is “equal parts surreal comedy, fable and indictment of our co-opting, logo-glutted culture – and 110 percent just plain weird” (Steve Gravestock, Toronto International Film Festival).
- Audio commentary with filmmakers Corey Adams and Alex Craig
- Short film collection including Adams and Craig’s Of Wolf & Limb, Ming Juice, Mongo Man, films from the Swamp Donkey and Bangmaster Generals Warning series, and Harvey Spannos, winner of Fuel TV’s The Fuel Experiment contest
- Machotaildrop promo for the Madrid Skate Film Festival
- On the Road with the Manwolfs: video gallery of the Manwolfs in Paris, the Manwolfs at the Madrid Skate Film Festival, the Manwolfs 2012 Art Show in Seattle, and a promotional video for éS Skateboarding
- Interviews with professional skateboarders and Machotaildrop stars Anthony Amedori, Rick McCrank, John Rattray, and Steve Olson.
- Behind-the-scenes footage and image gallery
- Image gallery of the Manwolfs Jean Jacket Art Exhibition, showing various international artists’ renditions of the iconic Manwolfs back patch
- 16-page booklet with an essay by Toronto International Film Festival programmer Steve Gravestock
Ape Snake Edition – Package includes:
- Machotaildrop on Blu-ray or Standard DVD with over 3 hours of bonus material
- High quality 720p HD Digital Download of the Film
- Instant Download of the Machotaildrop soundtrack including songs by The Black Angels, Plants and Animals, and Chad VanGaalen
- 27″ x 40″ Manwolfs Poster Autographed by Corey Adams and Alex Craig
- Manwolfs Official Ski Mask
The most succinct and frequently employed comparison used to encapsulate Machotaildrop comes by describing it as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) as made by Wes Anderson and set in the world of professional skateboarding. While the filmmakers acknowledge the explicit influence of Willy Wonka but maintain they did not have Anderson in mind while making the film, this reductive description is neatly applicable. Walter’s admission into the secret empire of Machotaildrop by way a golden
ticket videocassette and his interaction with the company’s eccentric owner, the Baron, certainly bears an incontestable kinship to Stuart’s film. The Anderson comparison is similarly easy to identify. Machotaildrop is populated by exclusively Andersonesque characters, childlike men obsessed with naïve ideas about adulthood, professionalism, and success. Aside from young Walter and the former acrobat, now wheelchair-bound conglomerate head, the Baron, Machotaildrop includes the company’s former star, the sullen and petulant Blair Stanley; the Baron’s creepily devoted right-hand, Perkins (Lukács Bicskey); the company’s presiding medical authority, the shady Dr. Mansfred (John Rado); and the screeching leader of the Manwolfs (Guy Faulkner). The sole female figure, Sophie the Machotaildrop archivist (Vanessa Guide), functions as yet another gently maternal, manic pixie dream girl. Add to that some typically Anderson-like motifs such as fastidious arrangements within the frame, frequent tracking shots, slow-motion flourishes, a conspicuous use of popular music, and the nostalgic mash-up of eras in the film’s production design (baroque castles, 1920s fashion, 1970s and 1980s youth and DIY cultures), and the Wes Anderson comparison seems automatic.
Still other connections can be made. Critics and reviewers make comparisons to Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry (for their visual inventiveness and their admiration for certain aspects of youth culture), Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979) (for the Manwolfs), Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976) (presumably for its combination of dystopianism, authoritarianism, and youth culture), the TV series The Prisoner (for its setting), and, my favourite, Strange Brew (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, 1983) (as Bob and Doug McKenzie’s Shakespearean misadventures in the Elsinore castle/brewery feels perhaps more in the spirit of Machotaildrop than Willy Wonka given its less fantastic story, its more budgeted production value, and something of a more Canadian texture to the film). For their part, Adams and Craig specifically cite Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (1973), Werner Herzog, Pier Pasolini, Neil Blender’s G&S Footage (1990) and Memory Screen (1991), Peter Greenaway, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), Terry Gilliam, and Béla Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky’s Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) as direct influences on Machotaildrop. All of this works to make Machotaildrop feel like a very familiar film (or a derivative film to its detractors), despite its unusual and idiosyncratic content.
Machotaildrop exists thanks to Fuel TV’s short film contest, The Fuel Experiment. Adams’ treatment was one of 10 short film proposals accepted by the network to compete for a $1,000,000 sponsorship to produce an action sports feature. Adams and Craig’s Harvey Spannos (2006), a kind of precursor to Machotaildrop, won the competition and the rest is skater history. Except that it’s now 4 years since the feature was initially screened and it has only since played at a smattering of film festivals with no general commercial release. Can Drafthouse Films save Machotaildrop? Does it need saving? If so, from whom? The filmmakers lay the blame squarely on Fuel TV, stating in the film’s Facebook page that the channel has no interest in releasing the film. That might be true, transforming Machotaildrop into an ironically prescient statement against corporate exploitation of creative talent. To be fair though, I can say that efforts in my community to host a screening (brought to the filmmakers by myself, a potential sponsor, and a local theatre programmer) have never received a response. It’s too bad because Machotaildrop is a quirky, fascinating movie. Drafthouse Films has the capacity and the tenacity to pursue single films like Machotaildrop and find solutions to their dissemination. So here’s to dreaming of a Drafthouse Films spine-number on Machotaildrop and hoping that the label’s first action sports film isn’t Gleaming the Cube (Graeme Clifford, 1989).
Drafthouse has an obvious preference for using the original marketing campaign materials for its cover treatments, so here’s Machotaildrop‘s theatrical poster. It a simple, but eye-catching design, and would probably look great wrapped around a transparent Blu-ray case and sporting a powder blue spine-number.
Credits: With no commercial release whatsoever, there are no pre-existing special features to move over to a Drafthouse Films edition. Most features cited above have been provided hyperlinks to their sources, so there’s not much more to say. Various showings of the Manwolf Jean Jacket show seem have occurred, but I haven’t been able to find it properly represented online. Machotaildrop was part of the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, programmed by Steve Gravestock. He discusses the film briefly in an interview, and I’d like to see him elaborate on why the film was selected, what he thought of it, and how it was received at TIFF.