I do love these very specific subject documentaries that are starting to show up more and more on Netflix, mainly because most documentaries have a small, small theatrical run or just stay on the festival circuit. Much like the documentary about concert posters, this is another little hobby/recreational thing I enjoy doing and that is about pinball. Not so much about the game itself, but about the culture that surrounds it. Sure they are something of a peculiar engineering feat, but much like the creation of pinball machines, it is about the culture that surrounds the machine. From players to collectors, fans and fanatics, this is a perfect little chronicling of the rise, fall and eventual rise again of the pinball machine. Time for some pinball wizard!
Before video games took over the world’s amusement arcades, convenience stores and bars, pinball was a leading pastime for folks with some change in their pockets, and in the 1950s and 60s, America’s pinball machines took in more money than the movie industry. While electronic games have won away a large part of pinball’s market share, there are still plenty of fans of the old games out there, and filmmaker Brett Sullivan offers an entertaining look at pinball’s past and present in the documentary Special When Lit. The film presents a history of pinball (including how the addition of flippers radically changed the nature of the game) as well as profiling hard-core fans that are still committed to pinball and show off their winning styles and strategies. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
So there is this small bar in North KCK, 403 Club, that has a wall of pinball machines that I like to go to often. Aside from the cheap drinks, knowing the bartender and close proximity to my house, I found myself enjoying pinball more and more than I have ever before. I was never one to play it at the arcade back in the 90s during my youth, you know arcades, usually found at malls and strip malls and wherever else they are found. Sorry, sidetracked there, I never gravitated towards the pinball machines at the arcade, I think it was because I outright sucked, but I have started playing it a lot more either on an actual machine or even digitally on a console or computer. Something about the lights, sounds, multiball, replay, and frustration of putting the machine on tilt is intoxication.
But this documentary is a chronicling of the fans and culture around the iconic arcade machine. Some are appreciating the craftsmanship of the machine, the engineering and design that goes into each unique machine. There are a lot of interesting designs out there for some of the pinball machines. Themed machines, movie tie-ins, or just the run of the mill design, each has a lot of time and appreciation put into the machine. Those are the fans that love the machine itself. Then there are the fans of the game of pinball, the pro players who know all the little intricacies of the game, when to hit the right item for get the “special” or that coveted “multiball”. Those are the people who pump quarter after quarter into the machine looking to perfect their technique or best their previous score. There are some interesting characters that are interviewed in the player aspect of the documentary, as there always are with a certain fanatical subset of people for a particular subject.
There is always a documentary for everyone’s taste or particular likes and this one is for those that have spent some time basking in the glow and sounds of the pinball machine. Looking at the early start of the pinballs fame to the decrease in its popularity and the eventual rise of its nostalgic comeback, the pinball machine is a fairly iconic machine of its time. There will always be people, most of them shown in the documentary, that will keep it alive. Whether they are collecting or seeking out places to play, pinball will always be around thanks to them. Now to head off to the 403 Club.