Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Bob Opel
UNCLE BOB (2010). Director: Robert Oppel.

Bob Opel was the man was streaked the academy awards in front of 70 million viewers. He was also an advocate for sexual freedom, a gay activist, a performance artist in the counter-culture San Francisco art scene, and a murder victim at the age of forty. Shortly before his death, he put on a show called "The Execution of Dan White" after the murderer of Harvey Milk and George Moscone got off with only five years due to the infamous "twinkie" defense. An interesting documentary could have been made about Opel (who dropped one "p" from his last name), but instead the director -- Opel's nephew, Robert Oppel -- seems more interested in putting himself in the limelight. Interspersed with some file footage are reenactments starring the younger Oppel standing in for his uncle. Whatever his commitment to sexual freedom or gay rights, Opel was certainly an exhibitionist, not in the sense of someone who exposes himself to schoolgirls, but in his obvious need for attention (a need certainly provided by his streaking stunt). Uncle Bob explores but doesn't confirm the notion that the academy was in on the joke (with David Niven's famous line about the streaker's "shortcomings" being written before the show), and it never even makes clear if Opel was gay, bisexual or what. A woman who is interviewed is referred to as Opel's "girlfriend," but whether this was romantic or if she was merely a "fag Hag" bff is never made clear, and Opel's boyfriends are never mentioned. In any case, Opel opened a gallery of male homoerotic art featuring the work of Tom of Finland and Mapplethorpe, and published a homoerotic magazine as well. Opel is shown talking to Divine, John Waters, and others, as well as appearing on the Mike Douglas show, where the bland host sings a medley of songs putting the word "streak" in the lyrics. Opel was apparently killed by robbers who entered his shop looking for drugs and money, but young Oppel tries to make a case for a conspiracy theory that falls flat.

Verdict: If you can take a colorful subject like this and still make a dull documentary, you're not doing it right. This film probably should not have been made by a relative. *1/2.

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