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Who needs Spinal Tap when you have such a real-life figure as Jon Mikl Thor, the subject of Ryan Wise’s entertaining documentary? Chronicling the life and career of the Canadian bodybuilder-turned-rocker who’s soldiered on through his career despite a wide variety of obstacles, I Am Thor is an amusing show business tale that is all the more endearing for the respect it shows towards the eccentric and indomitable figure at its center.
The film begins with a clip of Thor (modeled after the Norse god, not the Marvel superhero) at the height of his powers. Possessing a truly impressive physique that made women swoon, he’s seen being introduced onstage in Las Vegas by Merv Griffin and delivering his brand of heavy metal-style music dubbed “Body Rock.” He also performs such unique feats of strength as blowing into a hot water bottle until it explodes, something which he points out that Donny Osmond couldn’t do.
Born in Vancouver in 1953, Thor pursued a bodybuilding career before segueing into show business. He performed in such stage shows as What Do You Say to a Naked Waiter? and enjoyed a prosperous run as a male stripper until, as the film has it, he was outshone in the genitalia department by an African-American co-worker.
He eventually formed a band and was signed to RCA’s Canadian division, which released his 1977 debut album Keep the Dogs Away. But career difficulties ensued, including — if he’s to be believed — an incident in which he was kidnapped as a result of a dispute between his manager and the record company.
He also pursued an acting career, starring in such now-largely forgotten B-movies as Zombie Nightmare and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, the latter of which he also scripted. But despite coming tantalizingly close to the mainstream by nearly snagging a juicy supporting role in 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting (he lost the gig to Vincent D’Onofrio), his film career fizzled out.
In the ensuing years, he was married for ten years to nude model/magazine editor Rusty Hamilton, better known as “Cherry Bomb”; he suffered health problems, including a nervous breakdown and a stroke that left him blind in one eye; and he settled into a quiet domestic life. But the lure of show business pulled him back, and he re-formed his group for a comeback tour that has continued sporadically to this day.
Featuring a plethora of archival footage combined with present-day interviews with the no longer quite so buff rocker and various figures from his life, the film is more anecdotal than analytical, preferring to let its colorful subject speak for himself. That he does so in such engaging and entertaining fashion makes I Am Thor a worthy addition to the burgeoning canon of offbeat show business documentaries.
Production: Blue Lame 61 Productions
Distributors: MPI Media Group, Dark Sky Films
Director/director of photography/editor: Ryan Wise
Producers: Ryan Wise, Alan Higbee
Composer: Christopher Ward
Not rated, 84 min.
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