Filmmaker Penny Lane, who directed the found-footage documentary Our Nixon, combines archival footage with hand-drawn animation to tell the quintessentially American tale of a Kansas pharmacist who rode the times like a wave (Stranger Genius Award winner Drew Christie provided a portion of the artwork). John Romulus Brinkley first found fame in the 1910s when he invented a cure for impotence by grafting goat glands onto human testicles. In attempting to get the word out about the procedure, he stumbled upon a new obsession: radio.
So he built his own radio station and made KFKB the most powerful in the world, but this first chapter came to an end when his Moriarty, Morris Fishbein of the Journal of the American Medical Association, shut him down. Undeterred, Brinkley opened a border radio station in Mexico. Buzzing the atmosphere with one million watts of power, XERA saturated 17 nations (ZZ Top immortalized the border blaster in “I Heard It on the X”). With his earnings, he concocted new miracle cures until Fishbein caught up with him yet again.
In a different director's hands, this film might be a tragedy about the Depression-era consumers who fell for Brinkley’s schemes, like the sad sacks circling the drain in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, but for the most part, it's a quirky comedy about the income-tax-dodging marketing genius who predicted the medical hucksters to come, like anti-vax figurehead Andrew Wakefield. He gave the people what they wanted—and they made him wealthy. Ain't that America?