One rewarding aspect of this reviewing gig is the chance to screen unheralded documentaries about all kinds of obscure subjects. There’s stuff out there that SOMEONE has heard about and been intrigued enough by to turn into a documentary. Stuff that’s existed all along, unbeknownst to anyone unless they watch that documentary. Stuff like “Goat Man: The Life and Times of Ches McCartney,” for instance.
What’s that? You say you’ve never heard of this “goat man” fella? Me neither, but director Jimmy Hammett has, and by the end of this well-intentioned but crudely thrown together video, you’ll know more about Mr. McCartney than you’ll ever need to know.
A bit of an eccentric from the beginning, according to the old-timers interviewed here who knew him as a boy, Charles “Ches” McCartney was born in Iowa. He eventually married, settled down on the family farm, and had a son. Following an economic downturn, McCartney and his boy took his herd of goats on the road, eventually relocating in Georgia. There, he continued to raise his goats, founded a mission and even ran for president twice. (He lost both times, no recounts needed.)
Yet, the restless itinerant’s true home remained on the road. He claimed to have visited every state but Hawaii — excluded, he claims, because his goats couldn’t swim — supporting himself along the way by selling homemade postcards depicting his voyages. Before long, the legend of “The Goat Man” was born.
Now granted, while a minor legend like “The Goat Man” may not warrant the first-class treatment of, say, a twenty part Ken Burns documentary — or even an A&E “Biography” episode, even a vagabond goat herder probably deserves something a little less shoddy than this.
For starters, Hammett’s video mentions that McCartney is just the most famous of many such “goat men,” yet he seems to exist in a vacuum. If such hircine herders were indeed relatively commonplace, it would have benefited the film as a whole to provide more background information on such a colorful, little-known segment of American life.
More basic and, as a result, more damaging to the film is its shoddy editing in general. Hammett at least apparently knows enough to have his subjects reply in such a way so as to repeat the interviewer’s question, which is good. Yet, when they fumble a response, would it have been too much trouble to cut out the false start?
There are other editing issues as well. Too many unnecessarily long, repetitive sequences (such as the interminable segment with McCartney’s barely coherent son), for instance, and the fact that we don’t even meet the star himself until 75 minutes into this tape.
Once the initial curiosity fades, Ches McCartney’s life isn’t interesting enough to fill up over an hour and a half, goats or no goats. Director Hammett could do himself — and his viewers — a real favor by drastically re-cutting this video, culling it down into a more manageable sixty minute program. “Biography” might then call…and more viewers could discover yet another piece of obscure Americana.