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Special When Lit: A Pinball Documentary (2009) Review

22 11 2011

Copyright 2009 Steam Motion and Sound

★ ★ ★ ★ (for a pinball lover)

I absolutely love pinball and have since I was very young.  There is something mesmerizing about playing a game that is mechanically based, rather than graphics on a screen; there is more control, more connection with the game and, to me, an overall more enjoyable experience nine times out of ten.  Don’t get me wrong, I have also been a heavy console gamer in my day, but pinball definitely holds a very special place in my heart.  Unfortunately, this beloved arcade classic gets a little less attention with each passing year and more and more are disappearing from store fronts as time goes by.  This documentary chronicles not only the history of this wonderful coin operated machine, but also celebrates its legacy.

Through voice over narration, interviews and on location shooting, the film explores the beginnings of pinball, through its heyday, and now into its decline.  It not only explores the opinions of collectors and avid players, but also those who design the machines and owned the arcades in which they were and are played.  Nothing about pinball is left uncovered in this extensive documentary, which turns out being both a blessing and a curse.  I enjoyed how complete a study the film was on its subject, but even I at times was waning a bit during a few of the interviews.

For me, however, over all it was a very enjoyable experience watching this film and brought back some great memories of some of the wonderful machines I’ve played and mastered in the past.  Now that I am older and pinball machines are no longer in many bars, soda shops and other establishments as they were when I was a young kid (during pinball’s second golden age of the early 1990s), I have decided to, like everything else these days, bring the entertainment home.  I have already ordered my first pinball machine, a Bally Doctor Who that was manufactured in 1992; it is currently being shopped and will be picked up at the end of December to early January.  I’m sure this will be the first of many, knowing my obsessions with things of this nature.  However, there is something lost, as with owning a home theater or pool table, when you don’t have that public environment, the general consciousness, surrounding your playing of the game.

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