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Nuts! 

Wednesday, Jul 6 2016
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Well, that was quick: A few months after Beth Harrington's The Winding Stream made it clear that the border radio station XERA needs its own documentary, that documentary appears in the shape ofPenny Lane's Nuts! It tells the too-strange-to-not-be-true story of legendary charlatan John Romulus Brinkley, who amassed a fortune between the two World Wars by claiming to cure impotence via the transplantation of goat testicles into men's scrotums. After the FCC's predecessor chased him off the legitimate Kansas station KFKB in the 1930s, Brinkley established the million-watt XERA in Mexico to hawk his many wares across all of the United States and beyond. The problem with Nuts! is that it cranks the style up to 11, then yanks off the knob. Unlike her elegiac collage Our Nixon, Lane had comparatively little source material, and much of the story is told through animated re-creations and stock footage.

That's a fine approach, but it feels like she doesn't trust the story she's telling — hence stylistic choices like adding a laugh track to a Buster Keaton clip, the use of far too many "funny" reenactment voices, and what may be the most gratuitous Wilhelm Scream ever. Nuts! is very entertaining, but it turns out the definitive XERA documentary has yet to be made. Get on it, Ken Burns.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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