Well, kids, Biff’s going to bring it to you on the documentary tip this week. Yes, I know, I know, “Biff, I just can’t get enough of the cheesy ’80s movies that you’re always cramming down my throat.”
Well, there’s plenty of time for that next week. This week, however, ol’ Biff is going to dedicate this column to a serious matter that has been transformed into two of the most engaging documentaries this movie dork has ever seen. Sure, “Kurt and Courtney” made me a little annoyed, but it didn’t come close to the feelings I was left with from “Paradise Lost” and its sequel, “Paradise Lost: Revelations.”
Here’s the short version:
These two documentaries follow three teen-age boys from West Memphis, Ark., Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, after they are charged with the murders of three 8-year-old boys.
Rather than providing physical evidence the three boys committed the crimes, the prosecuting attorneys spend their time attempting to convince the jury the defendants were part of a secret satanic cult engaged in orgies and human sacrifice.
What was their evidence these three were minions of the Dark Lord? Well, they usually wore black, they had no interest in sports, two of the boys had long hair, and they loved Metallica. Remember kiddies, this is the Bible belt.
There is still more “evidence” that points to their love for the Prince of Darkness: Echols had checked out books from the public library dealing with the Wiccan religion (which is by no means satanic), he had a tattoo, people around town thought he was just plain weird, a notebook was found in his room which contained Metallica lyrics and words written in code and, Biff’s personal favorite, Echols had books written by, gasp, Stephen King!
What’s unbelievable is this was the evidence used against him that convinced the jury to sentence him to death. I mean, I don’t know about you, but can you imagine a teen-ager with an affinity for ‘tallica, Stephen King, tattoos, writing in code and wanting to be left alone? “Gee, he must be a triple murderer,” Biff says sardonically.
In all fairness, there are other details, such as a confession by Misskelley, that point the finger at the three boys. Before you jump the gun, though, Misskelley, at the time, was a 16-year-old boy who had a 72 IQ and no concept of what a lawyer was. His confession is wrong in key facts of the case and his lawyer (who Misskelley thought was a cop) got him to confess to a burglary that never occurred.
The list goes on and on. Here’s Biff’s suggestion: Check out the documentaries “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Lost: Revelations” and become as angry as me. If that isn’t enough for you (or perhaps too much), a book has recently been written on the subject, “Devil’s Knot” by Mara Leveritt, which is available in most bookstores as well as on the Internet.
To my knowledge, the first group to truly take up the cause of the West Memphis Three (other than the HBO filmmakers, of course) was Seattle rockers the Supersuckers.
Through the record label Aces and Eights, the Supersuckers spearheaded the first benefit CD for the accused boys, pulling together such huge names as Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder, Steve Earle, John Doe, Zeke and Nashville Pussy. The Supersuckers are awesome.
Not to be outdone, legendary skinny punk-rock singer turned body-building butt rock singer turned insanely muscular author/comedian/spoken-word artist Henry Rollins called in a few favors and put together his own benefit CD. Rollins’ benefit takes on the theme of a Black Flag karaoke party of sorts.
With his Rollins Band serving up the instrumentals, butt rockers old and new came in and contributed the vocals to their favorite Black Flag tunes. Old-school butt rockers such as Slayer’s Tom Araya, Mike Patton, Lemmy from Motorhead and Ice-T mix freely with nu-school metalers Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Casey Chaos of Amen, Neil Fallon of Clutch, and Ryan Adams (Get it?! It’s ironic because Ryan Adams is really a Mellencamp/Goo Goo Doll kind of guy, not a butt rocker. Repeat: Not a butt rocker. Biff is too funny!).
Anyway, here’s the lowdown. Rent the two documentaries, read the book, check out the benefit CDs, and visit the Web site www.WM3.org for more information. It’s not very often that Biff actually takes up a cause, but this one seems to be a true modern-day witch hunt.
One last detail: Recently a bite mark was found on one of the victims and the three boys underwent a test to determine if it was from their teeth. The test excluded all three boys from being the perpetrators of the bite. And so it goes.