There are moments in the documentary “Gizmo!” that are designed to make you say “Wow!” and there are others designed to make you say “What were they thinking?” but the number one thing I kept mulling through it all was “How much more of this do I realistically need to see?”

The not-terrible “Gizmo!” is a compendium of clips I’m willing to bet the people who wrote old Wile E. Coyote cartoons have observed at one point or another. 

Director Howard Smith (“Marjoe”) has assembled old black-and-white archival footage of people testing out wacky inventions, pushing the boundaries of what their bodies are capable of, and, perhaps most entertainingly, people falling flat on their faces or exploding when their experiments go horribly wrong.

“Gizmo!” offers up very early footage (I’d speculate mid-1900s, though it’s never really specified) of daredevils scaling New York City skyscrapers, a woman zip-lining over Times Square using her teeth as a harness, and a guy contorting his body so that he can squeeze himself through the frame of a tennis racquet. It’s all so wacky and broad that you just knew that fat guy taking a cannonball to the gut would end up making an appearance at some point.

As expected, a little of this lunacy goes a long way and, although seeing burly dudes rip phone books in half and marveling at numbskulls who test parachutes for a living is diverting to a fault, watching people test their endurance for 76 straight minutes was more than enough time to test my own.


Rated: G

Director: Howard Smith

★★½ (out of ★★★★)

Categories: 1970s

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