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Palm Pictures presents
Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (2002)

"Fear is a mind killer."
- Mark "Gator" Rogowski

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: February 16, 2004

Stars: Mark "Gator" Rogowski, Tony Hawk, Jason Jessee, John Brinton Hogan, Steve Olson, Brandi McClain
Other Stars: Stacy Peralta, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Kevin Staab, Michelle Chaves, MoFo
Director: Helen Stickler

MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Run Time: 01h:20m:06s
Release Date: February 17, 2004
UPC: 031398112549
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-BB+ C

DVD Review

Mark "Gator" Rogowski inspired legions of young kids towards skateboarding in the 1980s and helped to cultivate the image of the rebellious athlete. But his rise was extremely short-lived and ended with a violent, horrifying tragedy. What elements lifted up this troubled individual and then contributed to his crazy demise? Once ranking among the legendary Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, and Lance Mountain as an elite skater, Gator lost it all and ended up with a 31-year jail sentence. His tale provides more than just a personal tragedy; it illuminates the progression of skating from the '80s and into its current heyday.

Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator presents the tumultuous rise of skateboarding from a sport of outcast kids to a mainstream business commodity. As the representative of Vision, Gator grows with the sport and becomes one of its most recognizable figures. Countless skating figures sell both the action and a silly image of standing up against authority. Skateboarding had always moved apart from the mainstream, with Gator as one of its key figures, but he quickly became embroiled inside the corporate machine. Others like Tony Hawk also made considerable amounts of money skating, but they retained some credibility by keeping the focus on the action. Gator's overexposure included stints on Club MTV with Julie Brown and numerous advertisements that made him a joke within the skating community.

The rise and fall of celebrity athletes is hardly a new story, but rarely has a person fallen as far as Gator. Following the rise of street skating, he tried unsuccessfully to adapt his style to match the new trends. Unfortunately, he failed miserably and looks extremely clumsy practicing basic moves on the concrete. Searching for an outlet, Gator became a born-again Christian, but even this world didn't hold the answer for him. Angered at his longtime girlfriend for leaving him, Gator struck out violently at her best friend. The tragic result was her rape and murder, which delivered him an extremely lengthy jail sentence. As a symbol of skateboarding, his demise represented a black mark for the sport and drew the hatred of his friends and associates.

Writer/director Helen Stickler does an excellent job describing the skating world through conversations with numerous key participants. They all basically narrate this tale and give honest reactions to Gator and his place in the sport. Effective video footage documents the raw energy of the early scenes and the rising business presence of skating. Especially saddening are the ridiculous Vision Streetwear ads, which make Gator look foolish and help to seal his ostracism from the community. The feature moves very quickly through its 80-minute running time and includes plenty of worthwhile material. Supporting the action are classic punk tracks from bands like Black Flag, the Butthole Surfers, and Bad Religion. These tunes provided the soundtrack for kids growing up in that era and helped to fuel their rebellious nature.

Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator includes several eerie phone messages from Gator himself that reveal his basic mindset during each time period. The nature of his crime prohibited a direct interview, but these comments reveal plenty of intriguing aspects. One element that deserves more time is Gatorís family problems and history of mental disorder, which might help to more clearly explain his actions. They are presented briefly near the end, but aren't given enough time to resonate clearly. Even given that omission, Stickler still deserves tremendous credit for capturing the scene and crafting a fascinating portrayal of a once-revered individual.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Stoked utilizes a solid full-frame transfer composed almost entirely of documentary and interview footage. The images are rarely grainy or distracting, but they lack the crisp sharpness of many digital pictures. However, this quality level isn't really necessary, and the events flow smoothly throughout the feature. The only distracting element is the periodic words "property of Palm Pictures" that appear in large letters across the top of the screen on my early review copy. I totally understand the studio's need for copyright protection, but these words distract significantly from the overall feature.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: This release includes plenty of effective 80s punk-rock tracks that spring well from the 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer. The sounds remain fairly centralized, but that combine nicely with the skating action to provide an energetic atmosphere. The dialogue is easily understandable throughout the presentation, even those words from Gator's answering-machine message. This film would benefit from a more expansive transfer, but it still provides a solid experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Demonlover, Director's Series Vol. 1: The Work of Spike Jonze, Director's Series Vol. 2: The Work of Chris Cunningham, Director's Series Vol. 3: The Work of Michael Gondry
0 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. 90+ minutes of bonus footage, including the Radio Mic Chicago Skateout 1987, Psychoskate Interview 1987, Fallbrook Christmas 1989, and the Stoked Fuel TV Special 2003
  2. Bonus archival skating footage
  3. Bonus interviews
  4. Last interview from Gator/rare photo slide show
Extras Review: Palm Pictures has provided only a screener version of this disc, which only includes the five preview trailers. The released product will contain an impressive collection of extra features, including many additional scenes and interviews. These supplements are subject to change.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Stoked:The Rise and Fall of Gator will undoubtedly invoke comparisons to the remarkable Dogtown and Z-Boys, but it's a much different type of film. Both movies do cover skateboarding and its corruption from business influences, but they move within different eras. That picture spends its time in the '70s near the origins of skateboarding, while this one covers its meteoric rise in the '80s. Stoked lacks the infectious energy of its renowned predecessor, but it does provide intriguing material and an effective personal tale.


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