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Abel Raises Cain

A wonderful documentary about a man who loved being a jerk!

This documentary is a little unusual in that the subject of the film, Alan Abel, is the father of the director, Jenny Abel.  The film is an examination of Abel’s very bizarre life and his many forays into the world of being a provocateur and prankster.  Over the years, Abel has deliberately created many hoaxes in order, I assume, to get attention as well as to see how far his hoaxes can go yet STILL be believed and reported by major media outlets.  Abel simply enjoys creating insanely stupid myths and seeing just how many folks believe it as well as for how long.  In many cases, his hoaxes have gotten nationwide newspaper coverage and have even gotten him on a wide variety of television shows!  None of these hoaxes would have worked had the media been doing their jobs and investigated before broadcasting Abel’s jokes as fact!

Among the many crazy hoaxes Abel has created over the years are supposed programs to force farm animals to wear clothes due to the immorality of them walking about naked, anti-breast feeding campaigns, Females for Felons (a program to provide prostitutes for prisoners), a supposed campaign to sell ambassadorships to the highest bidders as well as claims that he has the missing 18 minutes on the infamous Nixon tapes!  In many of these cases, Abel himself poses as an ‘expert’ while wearing a variety of disguises and giving himself official sounding titles as he gave press conferences to countless news outlets who just repeated the insane lies—as if they were facts.  However, he also has enlisted his patient wife’s help as well as that of many friends and celebrities to perpetrate these hoaxes!  The end result of many of these crazy stunts has been his fake organizations making appearances on The CBS News, The Today Show, Sally Jessy Raphael, The Mike Douglas Show, To Tell the Truth, The Phil Donahue Show and many other programs as they posed as leaders or experts for various fake nutty causes!  And, again and again, very few questioned the legitimacy of these organizations.

The film is narrated by Jenny Abel and she lovingly discusses not only his wonderful pranks but her parents’ simple lives—as they seem completely disinterested in wealth or fame as we’ve come to know it.  It is simply fascinating from start to finish and its uniqueness is a major plus.

As for me, I probably enjoyed it more than most because my father was also a prankster—though not nearly in the same league as Abel.  Growing up, my brother and I helped him fake an invasion from outer space (this story is too long to describe here, though it involved my older brother being wrapped up in aluminum foil and pretending to be an alien and seeing how folks reacted as they drove by him on rural roads—and also involved many reports to the police by the victims of this hoax), fake newspaper ads which would have destroyed the advertising agency where he worked had they been real and a lot of other hoaxes which were committed on much smaller scales than Abel’s.  My father’s goals weren’t nearly as high as Alan Abel’s, though he did thoroughly enjoy telling wonderfully insane lies with a straight face!

The bottom line is that even if you came from a normal family (and I hope you didn’t), you can still enjoy and laugh at this film.  It helps if you are old enough that you remember some of Abel’s campaigns though it certainly isn’t necessary.  Clever and silly—this one’s worth your time.

Martin's Grade: A

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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