Video Details

Title: MARJOE (1972 Marjoe Gortner) / THOTH (2006)
Title AKA:

OUR PRICE: $18.75

Year: / DVD / 128 mins

Director: Howard Smith, Sarah Kernochan / Sarah Kernochan

Marjoe Gortner / Sarah Kernochan, S.K. Thoth aka Stephen Kaufman

Video Notes:
The Academy-Award-winning MARJOE is the ferocious and extraordinary chronicle of a firebrand evangelical preacher who wholeheartedly and humorously exposes himself as a fraud. An evangelist prodigy at the age of four, the film captures an adult Marjoe as he recounts how he discovered the seductions of the 60s counterculture and dropped out of preaching, only to return later, using his swaggering bravado, to woo Pentecostal audiences out of their offerings. Directors Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan follow Marjoe as he embarks on his "farewell to the faith tour," revealing the secrets of religious hucksterism. MARJOE is both a fiery baptism in the cynical waters of faith healing and evangelical fervor and a fascinating profile of a man who went from hellfire to hellraising. In the Oscar®-winning THOTH, director Sarah Kernochan turns to another wonderfully unique personality, a fantastic character who performs one-man operas in a strange language on the streets of New York to amused, befuddled, and awed audiences. "There's more to Marjoe than the exposure of an evangelical fraud. Directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, this Oscar®-winning 1972 documentary operates on a number of levels as it follows Marjoe Gortner, a fire-and-brimstone preacher who had been raised, since becoming an ordained minister at the age of 4, to preach the Gospel to a large flock of believers. It didn't matter that young Marjoe was himself a non-believer, or that he would eventually trade his Bible-belt revival tours for the hedonistic pleasures of the 1960s counterculture. What we witness in Marjoe is the power of charisma, and the sheer vitality of a born showman whose fervor--regardless of its falseness--had a profound effect on Christians all around the country, to the extent that Marjoe Gortner achieved a kind of spiritual celebrity by the time he exposed himself as a phony in the early 1970s. Smith and Kernochan capture Gortner's essence with such candor that he emerges as an amiable narcissist, betraying his own selfishness and self-loathing yet honest enough to confess the "business" of harvesting cash donations from his Pentecostal audiences. Gortner succeeded in using this film to launch a modest career in movies (including a role in the 1974 disaster hit Earthquake), and his deceptive preaching was just another form of acting. In exposing himself as a fraud, Gortner deliberately drew attention to himself in the pursuit of celebrity. Ironically, he also succeeded in boosting the faith of his followers, and by acknowledging this, Marjoe adds yet another intriguing facet of truth to its subject." "It makes perfect sense that Marjoe has been paired in this DVD set with Thoth, Sarah Kernochan's Oscar®-winning 2001 documentary short (40 minutes) profile of S.K. Thoth, a street performer whose persona, like Marjoe Gortner's, is entirely fictional yet genuinely compelling. The former Stephen Kaufman (his father was Jewish, his mother African American) struggled with his ethnic and sexual identity, and Thoth shows how he reinvented himself, renamed after an Egyptian high priest, and developed a one-man opera based entirely on "The Festad," a fantasy world, with its own made-up language, that he's created as a youthful refuge from the racism he endured as a biracial youth in the '60s. A self-described "blessed creature" with a unifying message, the androgynous Thoth (whose gold loincloth costume suggests a hybrid of male / female and ancient Egyptian identities) fascinates his audiences of tourists and Central Park regulars, some regarding him as a charlatan while others accept his ruse a celebration of pan-cultural humanity. Thoth may seem like a New Age phony or simply a loser to some viewers (he barely makes a living, and is largely supported by his mother), but his life, like Kernochan's film, is a fascinating quest for multiple layers of truth." --Jeff Shannon. VIEWER COMMENT : "This is a business, and over the course of 90 minutes, Brother Marjoe and his intrepid crew out the bizarre and wild world of Pentacostal hucksterism. What a weird circle of wonder he decided to come clean. Just try not to look as the toothless man screams in tongues during a sermon! Regal at the close-ups of the gaudy (and no doubt pricey) necklace worn by Reverend Taylor as she preaches that her ministry doesn't spend the congregants money on "foolishness"! Why, it's like rubbernecking at a car wreck and watching a gang of battered old drunks waiting for the state store to open rolled into one! Heck, this is almost as good as the psuedo-documentary of Idi Amin, and nearly as sad. It's hard not to feel pity for the way these rubes are being duped, and from the looks of it they're pretty oblivious. One minister candidly talks about his upcoming trip to Brazil. He owns land there, which he tells Marjoe a food processor is interested in. Bought and paid for with your generous donations, praise Jesus! Marjoe helpfully describes some of his carny tricks, like drawing red crosses with sweat activated ink, and the radio/televangelist method of turning "prophecies" into maximum financial return. He evens throws a smoke bomb (shown in a short clip near the end)! Yeah, Marjoe may have been a pretty dispicable con man too, but at least he did his best to expose this nonsense when his conscience got to him. If my parents pimped me to church folks for a living from the age of four, I'd doubtless do the same, and probably with a ton of venom that Marjoe never displays (at least for the cameras). Highly recommended viewing...invite your prayer group over for popcorn and Dr. Pepper!" VIEWER COMMENT : "Praise the Lord, MARJOE is Back! I have waited and waited and waited and waited for this release on DVD. Marjoe won the Oscar in 1972 for best documentary and rightfully so. He went out on a limb, admitting he was a fraud and an entertainer, and brought a film crew to capture it all. I love this film, the way he shows traveling evangelists are mainly cons who make off with a lot of money from people who don't have any to begin with. The segment with the preacher woman who breathes into her mic is crippling--telling her congregation she knows they have bills to pay and have set aside money for a winter coat but the church needs that money more. Ugh... It's incredible to watch him perform and preach the word at these revivals--he's very much a rock star--and even though he's taking this money, it's easy to sympathize with him. He was thrust into preaching at the age of four by parents who exploited and abused him to make money for the family--and ultimately, the film itself is his confession and he's genuinely sorry. I needed this movie when I saw it ten years ago. May it find more viewers who are in a bad way. Marjoe is the court jester of evangelists, and I thank him for doing this film and tarnishing his name on the Pentecostal circuit by doing so. He's helped some of us decades after he took that leap." DVD FEATURES : Two Discs; NTSC Region 1; Close-Captioned; Full Frame Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; Interactive Menus; Scene Access; Excerpts from THOTH's One-Man Opera; Filmmaker Biographies