By Gregory Crofton
One of the best things about documentaries is that they can focus on the characters of real people, and real people can be endlessly fascinating and downright funny. S.R. Bindler’s HANDS ON A HARD BODY captures both type of people on film in an endurance contest at an East Texas auto dealership in 1995. The last man or woman standing, not leaning, with at least one of their hands on the “hard-body” truck, in this case a royal blue $15,000 Nissan pickup, gets to drive home with it. The winner the previous year had to stand for 87 hours to walk away with the keys.
The fact the late Robert Altman’s final project was working to remake HANDS ON A HARD BODY as a fiction film speaks of its uniquely American qualities. Interviews with the stoic, but philosophical Benny Perkins, a winner of the contest three years earlier in 1992, are one of the highlights of the film. The new digitally remastered version of the documentary includes bonus footage of interviews with Perkins and other contestants. You can rent, download to own or buy this version of the film here.
HANDS ON A HARD BODY was released in 1997, two years before Chris Smith’s AMERICAN MOVIE, another classic doc with a similar win-at-any-cost theme, came out.