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Image Entertainment presents
The New Sideshow (2002)

"This whole show is a potpourri of things your parents told you not to do."
- Jim Rose

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: September 15, 2003

Stars: Jim Rose, Enigma, Katzen, Tim Cridland, Lucifire, Nicolai Diablo
Other Stars: Omego, Islvan Betyar, Jason The Impaler, Christine: The Lurid Neice, Natasha Verushcka, John Hartley, James Taylor, Bebe Rose
Director: Tim Miller

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (scenes of people skewering themselves with needles)
Run Time: 49m:01s
Release Date: August 19, 2003
UPC: 014381019728
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Originally produced for The Learning Channel in 2002, The New Sideshow is a brief but entertaining look at the modern revival of the nearly abandoned circus sideshow, through interview segments with some of the leading-edge performers in this decidedly unusual profession. While the original concept of the sideshow, with its human genetic oddities, has long since fallen out favor, it has in recent years been replaced by an entirely new breed of human oddities, admittedly far more punishing in nature than anything P.T. Barnum could likely have ever have imagined.

Narrated oddly enough by perky sounding former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, the show goes behind-the-scenes with a number of major players in the revitalized world of this purely bizarre form of entertainment, where full-body tattoos, fire-eating, and skewering the body with sharp needles is the order of the day. The show centers primarily on the folks that make up the The Jim Rose Circus, The Bros. Grim Sideshow, Seattle's Carnival Diablo, as well as solo act and sexy red-headed dynamo, Lucifire. We get to hear the performers speak, see bits of their acts, and I suspect most viewers might be surprised at how relatively low-key and "normal" all of the individuals seem, despite their having assorted piercings, implanted horns, split tongues or the ability to devour cups of live crickets or swallow swords.

Most people are probably at least casually familiar with the gravelly-voiced Jim Rose, and his comical mile-a-minute chatter, and while he is well-represented here, The New Sideshow is quite fair and gives equal time to the other acts; my only minor beef is that noted sideshow historian James Taylor (not the singer), a man with a real wealth of knowledge on the subject and its rich history, only gets a few moments screentime here. Still, that's a small complaint, considering the coverage of such genuinely likeable weird acts as Enigma, with his implanted horns and nearly full-body tattoos of thousands of blue puzzle pieces, and his beautiful wife Katzen, she of the tiger stripe tattoos, implanted whiskers and surgically pointed ears. True to old-fashioned sideshows, the commonality of shameless, relentless self-promotion is what makes all of the featured acts tick, and when The New Sideshow wraps with a segment on the sex-fueled sideshow/theatrics of Lucifire, if it was possible to buy tickets to her show through my television, I would have done so in a heartbeat. Wow!

I have a real soft spot for the traditional 10-in-1 concept (ten acts for the price of one), and people like Jim Rose have thankfully been at the mainstream forefront (thanks to MTV and The X-Files) enough to help spawn the resurgence of this art form by melding old-school sideshow theatrics filtered with a wonderfully punk attitude. These acts are loud, garish, and not always for the squeamish, but the performers seen in The New Sideshow are still, in their own special way, channeling the spirit of P.T. Barnum.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 full-frame print is presented here in a clean, well-balanced transfer on par with what you would expect from documentary content originally produced for cable. By far, the look of this disc is significantly better than any cable signal I receive, so I was happy. Colors are bright, and though black levels are not especially deep, they don't detract from the presentation. No major nicks or scratches to be found.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 surround, and while I hadn't expected the presentation to be particularly noteworthy from what was originally a television production, I was mildly surprised at how full the track sounded. Music, especially, had a strong presence, occasionally filling out the rear channels, with Sebastian Bach's narration coming across equally resonant. Some of the performance footage taped during the Jim Rose Circus segment is a little rough (my daughter Sam commented that he ought to either invest in a better microphone or quit screaming), but all of the subsequent interview segments are just fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lucifire Live!
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Extras are limited to a Photo Gallery of 25 images of the performers, as well as something billed as the Lucifire Live! trailer (adult version), which is essentially a re-edited version of her segment The New Sideshow, repackaged as a promotional clip for her live performances and apparent DVD, also put out by Big Chief, Inc. (the makers of The New Sideshow). There are a couple of newer, saucier moments on the trailer (like her taking a flaming torch and rubbing it quickly across her nether regions), but for the most part all of the material is rehashed from the program. Oh, by the way, she is my new dream girl...

The disc is cut into a whopping 20 chapters, quite a bit for a 49-minute program, and does not feature any subtitles.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

I've always been a sideshow fan, reinforced by the fact that I have a photo of my wife, daughter and myself, taken with Enigma and Katzen, hanging in my family room. And, in the Weird Coincidence Department, the segment on The Bros. Grim Sideshow, with Enigma, Katzen, Tim Cridland, and Veruschka, was filmed during the same time we were there, and that almost gives the proceedings the feel of a perfectly demented home movie for me.

The New Sideshow allows this new generation of "freaks" to speak, explain their motivations, and what makes them do what they do. It's just that 49 minutes doesn't seem nearly long enough.

This is fun stuff.


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