BOILED ANGELS: THE TRIAL OF MIKE DIANA Review, Directed by Frank Henenlotter, Fantasia 2018

Boiled Angels Movie Review, Directed by Frank Henenlotter, USA

Overview: Frank Henenlotter, best known for independent horror films like BASKET CASE (affiliate link) and BRAIN DAMAGE (affiliate link), turns out to be the right man for the job in telling the story of Mike Diana, a young cartoonist prosecuted (and convicted) for obscenity because of his doodles. He gets some bigger names on board — including Jello Biafra as narrator, and noted artists like Neil Gaiman to explain how censorship has affected them. Even George A. Romero appears in what may be his final interview. [Romero died on July 16, 2017] And, amazingly, Henenlotter tracked down practically everyone he could who was connected to the trial: the prosecutor, the defense attorney, protestors, the local news reporter. This is as full an evaluation of the case as could be done (and with some interviews filmed as far back as 2014, it has been in the works for a while).

Director: Frank Henenlotter
Starring: Mike Diana, Neil Gaiman, George A. Romero

Gavin’s Rating

Review: Boiled Angels

Brilliantly, Boiled Angels (affiliate link) puts the case into its wider context rather than just presented as a “courtroom drama”. We see where Mike Diana fits in on the timeline from EC Comics, to “Seduction of the Innocent”, to R. Crumb and beyond. And we see how his art coincided with the Gainesville serial killings (making him a suspect!) which was a big part of why he drew the attention of law enforcement. Even the Internet comes into play, with the prosecutor (Stuart Baggish) acknowledging that obscenity is a shifting standard; he believes that arresting Diana was “the right thing”, but acknowledges in the Internet age the very same material could never be judged as obscene.

The ultimate irony of the trial is that while it may have temporarily stopped Diana from drawing, it catapulted him from a local unknown to a national (even international) figure. Before getting on the local news, he was publishing 300 copies of any given issue of his zine. After, reprints were selling by the thousands. Certainly it worked on me — I became aware of Diana and “Boiled Angel” around 1995 or 1996, and this never would have happened if he had not been convicted.

Boiled Angels (affiliate link) does run a tad bit long, but the biggest drawback is that, unfortunately, none of the members of the Diana family (including Mike) are terribly charismatic or eloquent. This makes his case no less interesting or important, but has the effect of making him less of a poster child than the comics industry would prefer.

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