Thursday, October 1, 2015


--> John Wood     Shannon Whisnant
           What a fine, intelligent peek at ordinary human beings interacting with each other.  Documentarians Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel give us a film that presents a three-dimensional look at John Wood and Shannon Whisnant in all their glory, showing what motivates them, where they came from, some of their innermost thoughts, their families’ perspectives, their effects on each other, and the effects of media attention.  Their story became famous, even internationally, for its bizarre quality and the sincerity each shows in presenting his point of view.
           Briefly, John lost the lower part of his leg and foot as a result of a plane crash in which his father was the pilot.  His father dies, and John loses the lower part of his leg and foot.  He feels much guilt not only about this but other things too, and requests that the amputated part of the leg be delivered to him after the surgery.  It’s important to him because he somehow wants to construct a memorial to his father with it.  But he does not always stay on track with his intentions and stores the leg in a rented storage unit.  After three months, when he is supposed to pay rent on the unit, he doesn’t, so the owners contact him and tell him the contents of his unit are to be auctioned off.  (Note, that he never gives his permission for this.)
           Shannon Whisnant buys and sells things and has a reputation for getting good deals.  He ends up buying the contents of John’s storage unit, which contains a bar-b-que grill; but what is inside?  An amputated leg preserved with embalming fluid, and dripping cholesterol!  He is not horrified; he is delighted, being an “entrepreneur” who recognizes its value, especially at Halloween.  For some strange reason, he calls the authorities about it, whereupon, it is given to a funeral home, and John is contacted.
           That sets up the scenario for this documentary:  Is John entitled to reclaim his body part?  But Shannon says, “Finders Keepers”; it is his property, just like if cash is found in a sofa that has been sold.  For Shannon—who has always dreamed of being on television (and this story went internationally viral)—and aware that others have marveled at his being able to profit from his purchased goods, completely latches onto it.  He gets a reputation as the “Foot Man” and charges people ($3 for adults $1 for children) just to take a peek at the body part.  Any media attention for him is grist for the mill of his moneymaking projects. 
           0John and his family are horrified at Shannon’s commercialism, but at the same time, John has serious long-lasting addiction problems, which are alienating him from family support.  The filmmakers keep the viewer guessing as to just how all this will turn out.  They include an interesting coda about both protagonists at the end of the film.

This will hold your interest and make you smile as you consider human issues and foibles.

Grade:  A                                    By Donna R. Copeland

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