Sunday, January 9, 2011

Currently available on DVD: "Winnebago Man"

"Who is this guy?" is a popular response to viral videos of humiliating behavior, but few passed-around tapes and forwarded YouTube links have garnered as much attention as the outtakes from a 1989 Winnebago marketing video.

RV pitchman Jack Rebney's articulately foul-mouthed outbursts about verbal flubs, Iowa heat, flies and crew goofs — all in a broadcaster's baritone that give the gangly Rebney's ire a John Cleese-like majesty — have earned him the online sobriquet "The Angriest Man in the World." They've also spurred Texas filmmaker Ben Steinbauer to track down this underground star.

Winnebago Man is the result, a breezy stalking documentary in which Steinbauer locates the reluctant Web icon's hermitlike existence on a California mountaintop, coaxing him to face the cameras one more time. There's no denying that the now-septuagenarian Rebney — an ex-newsman disdainful of modern media who keeps some background details private, but his hatred for Dick Cheney ferociously public — is a galvanizing presence. It's only Steinbauer's ham-fisted attempts to impose a humanizing narrative onto this mild exploration of unexpected fame that feels needlessly forced.

But whenever Rebney gets to be Rebney — be it insulting, sweet or wearily perturbed — Winnebago Man shows a full tank of irascible charm.

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