New to DVD and VOD this week:
MABEL, MABEL, TIGER TRAINER
Santa Barbara 2017
Beverly Hills, SF DocFest
A biography of Mabel Stark, one of the trailblazing female performers of the circus world.
Mabel Stark survived an impoverished and abusive upbringing to join the circus in 1911. There her romantic involvement with a big cat trainer led to training tigers herself, a role for which women were said not to be suited. Her determination allowed her to attain celebrity within the circus world in the decades before WWII, and notoriety for how many times she was mauled by her tigers only to return to continue her act. Stark spent much of her later life in Jungleland, where the TARZAN movies were filmed, until a new owner booted her out, and trouble befell her beloved animals, precipitating her death in 1968. Interwoven with Zemeckis’ affectionate, but too-conventional and uncinematic recounting of Stark’s colorful life are several interviews with retired female circus big cat trainers/performers, who offer slightly more contemporary variations on Mabel’s experiences, but ultimately serve as an unnecessary distraction from her story.