Joe R. Lansdale is described as "the greatest writer you've never heard of" here, but if you have read him then you'll be aware of his prodigious talent as an author. In an attempt to highlight his work and get more people giving his material a try, documentarian Hansi Oppenheimer has made this one hour film where she followed him about for a while with her camera as he gave her a guided tour of his Nacogdoches hometown in East Texas, and shared some of his thoughts on his work as well as relating the story of his background and how he became interested in writing. Interspersed with this are the accolades of some of his family and friends, mostly captured over the phone or the internet, for a little added input.
Lansdale is so prolific that understandably there's only so much he could discuss, but nevertheless All Hail the Popcorn King was a piece you may well find yourself wishing was longer, a ninety minute experience rather than what feels like a film that doesn't quite reach its full potential. But setting that misgiving aside, it was clear director Oppenheimer was only operating with a limited amount of funds, and considering this could have ended up looking and sounding like her home movies that happened to have a renowned author wandering around in them, it was impressive that she managed to get the support she did from Lansdale's better known fans who were all plainly eager to praise him, even if it was recorded over a phone connection.
The man himself is on garrulous form, happy to chat and expound on his opinions, but you get the impression he is a generous, modest personality from what we see of him here, admitting he doesn't always understand what might be his best work while he's writing it, and when he does send it away to the editor or publisher he still has misgivings; it's only when he gets feedback he will realise that he has been onto a winner. If you're wondering, Joe R. Who? then this will fill you in with a compact rundown of his greatest hits - he believes his best book (actually it turned into a trilogy) is The Drive-In, a horror yarn about a bunch of drive-in patrons trapped in the establishment and forced into a deadly game of survival. But perhaps his lasting legacy will be his series of books featuring Hap and Leonard.
They were translated to a television series by that name which garnered a cult following, as the books did, and many are regretful it was cancelled before all the instalments could have been brought to the small screen. He was also the source for the cult movie Cold in July, a thriller that picked up good notices but did not hit blockbuster status, and that seems to be the story of Lansdale's career in a nutshell: a small yet no less substantial group of fans keep him in print and support him, while bigger name authors lap up the fame. Bubba Ho-Tep is another cult item he was responsible for, and Oppenheimer was blessed with a few quotes from its star Bruce Campbell for celebrity value, pointing out Lansdale is less interested in your politics and more keen to know if you are a decent person or not in how you treat others. We get some of his martial arts moves too, from a true renaissance man: he is very good company, and while this may be a cheapo doc overall, crucially you can see why Lansdale is worth championing, that is very clear.