Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

How many of you are old enough to remember the Dating Game, or the original Newlywed Game or perhaps even, the Gong Show? There was one man behind this wave of insanity that hit the airwaves starting in the 1960's - his name was Chuck Barris. In fact, most of what we now consider Reality Television was born in his twisted imagination well before it earned the title we now use to refer to it. Why do we say twisted though? Well, if you haven't seen the Gong Show you might well not have gotten a true glimpse in Mr. Barris. The program was more or less a very cruel version of American Idol - with awful acts paraded in front of merciless judges only to be Gonged off of the stage in humiliation
Chuck Barris, producer, host, professional killer
But that of course was only the beginning of Mr. Barris's strange story. That story became truly bizarre after most of his hit TV shows were cancelled in the early 1980's. Then he wrote a book titled: "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and exposed his big secret - that the producer of the Gong Show was in fact a hitman for the CIA. He wrote a sequel to the book as well, providing more details about the 33 or so assassinations he allegedly performed while working as a TV Producer.

Sam Rockwell proved again in this film that he's one of the best actors in Hollywood today

In 2002, actor-producer George Clooney took the two books and combined them into a movie adaptation of Mr. Barris's strange story and named the film after the title of the first book. The movie at least seems to take the claim of Barris' double life as a professional killer somewhat seriously. To date, no one has either confirmed or denied the claims (well, the CIA did say he hadn't worked for them but then again Barris clearly states in the book and the movie that he as an independent contractor).

We missed the movie when it came out in 2003, an easy thing to do given the nature of the subject matter and lack of promotion. This movie was never destined to become a box office hit, but now that it is both on cable and Netflix it certainly is worth seeing. Why is it noteworthy? Here's our rationale:

  1. The story is entertaining.
  2. Clooney did a good job both as a director and one of the key players in the film (he portrays Barris' CIA handler).
  3. The Chuck Barris story is so bizarre anyway, that even without the CIA twist it is interesting to watch - with the hitman fantasy it becomes truly fascinating.
  4. There's a great extended cameo by Julia Roberts.
  5. Because we've still never fully recovered from seeing the Gong Show...

Marcia Brady on the Dating Game - pop-culture cross promotion at its cheesiest

The big question you may be asking yourself is - could Chuck Barris have actually been a CIA killer? In the movie, they explain that often times on the Dating Game the contestants would be given vacations to strange locations so Barris could chaperone the couples and then steal away to conduct hits. In fact, the movie presents the idea that the CIA handler (Clooney) gave Barris the idea for the trips as a cover for his nefarious moonlighting. Who knows what really happened - most people have written off the hitman portion of the story as fantasy. Whether the story was real or imagined though, the movie is certainly entertaining. Perhaps Barris was the real James Bond?

The Gong Show pioneered bad taste on television 

Movie ReferenceRatings & ReviewsHow to Watch
Chuck Barris on Wikipedia  Rotten Tomatoes Review  On Netflix
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind on IMDB  Roger Ebert's review  From

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