out of Five
Running time: 88
Hugely enjoyable, frequently funny and luridly fascinating documentary that's utterly riveting from beginning to end.
What's it all about?
Directed by Errol Morris, Tabloid revisits The Case of the Manacled Mormon, a lurid and fascinating tale that gripped British tabloids in 1977. The story centred on former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney, who tracked down the man of her dreams (Kirk Anderson, a Mormon missionary who had decamped to England) and then, according to Anderson, kidnapped him, tied him to a bed and forced him to have sex with her, though she claimed he was a willing participant in “three days of fun, food and sex” and that he only said otherwise because he was afraid of getting ex-communicated.
The story is told via several to-camera interviews, primarily with Joyce herself (who's remarkably candid and clearly something of a character), but also with Express journalist Peter Tory, bemused semi-accomplice Jackson Shaw, Mirror photographer Kent Gavin and ex-Mormon missionary Troy Williams, though, sadly, Anderson refused to be interviewed for the film. The interviews are interspersed with a huge amount of archive material, including tabloid stories, photographs, home movies, TV appearances and illustrative clips from films and TV shows.
Morris expertly assembles his material, allowing McKinney free reign to tell her story and – perhaps wisely – never challenging her interpretation, though he's not above a bit of cheeky undercutting, e.g. flashing up the word “MINIBAR” when she struggles to find the right word. Similarly, the subjects are all great value, whether it's Brown grinning from ear-to-ear as he recalls the see-through top McKinney greeted him in or Tory appreciating what a great bondage word “spread-eagled” is.
What emerges from the film is less a picture of what actually happened – Williams points out that there's her insanely romantic version and his inconsistent official version and that the truth is probably somewhere in between – and more an intriguing portrait of the characters involved. In addition, as with any great tabloid story, the details of the film are endlessly fascinating and frequently bizarre, e.g. Kirk becoming agitated when his chastity suit undergarments were removed.
However, just when you think that the story couldn't possibly get any weirder, it takes two more bizarre turns: first when the Mirror uncover McKinney’s secret past and then years later, in 1986, when she becomes the subject of another strange tabloid tale after she clones her beloved dead dog Booger ...
Hugely entertaining and constantly surprising, Tabloid is a superbly directed documentary that's both laugh-out-loud funny and utterly fascinating. Highly recommended.