It was a recent Twitter add by documentary filmmaker Jenny Abel that reminded me what a total douche bag I am; I never published an official review of her hilarious film ‘Abel Raises Cain’. We receive a good number of films here at The Documentary Blog, and although we unfortunately can’t get to all of them, I DID watch Abel Raises Cain and I DID enjoy it a great deal. So why isn’t there a review for it on the site? Good f*ck’n question. So, I figured this would be a good opportunity to start a regular feature here on the site (don’t hold me to the whole ‘regular’ thing) which I will simply call The Documentary Blog Recommends…Jenny Abel’s ‘Abel Raises Cain’!
I’ve always had an interest in hoaxes and ridiculously complex practical jokes. I think it’s the dedication that really impresses me. I recently read a book about magic and was blown away by a story about a magician who paid a taylor to sew a playing card into the jacket of a governor, only to wait months for the opportunity to pay it all off with a disappearing/reappearing card trick that would’ve totally blown the crowds, and the governor’s, minds. I also remember seeing Andy Kaufman’s original appearance on Letterman when I was a kid, and the image of this crazy haired man in a neck brace being slapped across the stage really stuck with me. Of course, back then I had no idea that it was all a big set up. Director Jenny Abel has grown up surrounded by this kind of stuff. Her father, Alan Abel, is an infamous media prankster whose elaborate schemes pushed all of the right buttons, resulting in some pretty entertaining reactions. His pranks usually consisted of a ridiculous organization for which he would assume the role of spokesman, campaigning to ‘Clothe Naked Animals’ or put a stop to the incestuous act of breast feeding. All great causes that I could get behind if they were real. Unfortunately, animals still roam the countryside naked and children still find sustenance from the breasts of those who birthed them.
The film focuses on Abel’s ‘career’ as a prankster, inter-cutting some priceless news stock footage and guest appearances on talk shows (Morton Downey Jr.!!!) with Alan’s seemingly mundane, current life. I was expecting more of a p.o.v. from Jenny herself, but was happy with the balance she maintained; focusing mostly on her Father while occasionally interjecting with her own thoughts. Alan Abel truly is a character, and I really enjoyed watching him and his wife (who played some major roles in his pranks) reminisce about the good ol’ days. They’re just so unsuspecting in appearance considering they’re currently in their…sixties? I’m guessing. The important thing to note is Alan is still at it. This is a man who clearly loves what he does and seems just as interested in entertaining himself as he is of others. I got some real joy out of the fact that these two people have spent a lifetime together all the while sharing a common love of pulling the shit from under unsuspecting major media outlets.
Abel Raises Cain is a must see for Andy Kaufman fans — Allan and Andy were friends — and anyone who appreciates a good public prank. Jenny Abel gives us an all-access pass to her family life while displaying the good sense in keeping the audiences best intentions in mind throughout, retaining a consistently relatable, entertaining and refreshingly candid perspective without ever feeling like you’re watching a home movie that has overstayed its welcome. A great film and an interesting childhood. Visit the official Abel Raises Cain website for information on how to order the DVD.