Thursday, February 18, 2016

Archie's Betty (2015) — Oxford Film Festival 2016

Gerald Peary's look at Archie comics and in particular an exploration of whether the comics are based in reality and if the comics have real world counterparts. The film is an expansion and re-investigation of a 1988 article that Peary had put together.

The not so much spoiler reveal is that the film does find that the comic does have real world counterparts. The people and places in the film come from original artist Bob Montana's life. The characters are, for the most part people from Haverhill High in Massachussetts. Montana moved around a great deal for most of his childhood and but he found a home at Haverhill and it stuck with him once he started drawing comics.

The official story of where the comic came from different than what is presented here. The publisher of Archie Comics says that the comics was created by John Goldwater, but what this film reveals is something much more complex. Archie in many ways has many fathers. On the other hand Bob Montana's friends and home town formed the framework over which it was all hung.

What makes the film stand out is more than simply trying to work out who Archie's Betty really was, Peary's original research as to who that was is found to be incomplete. Rather the film's strength is that the film investigates why the Archie comics have been kicking around for over 70 years. The reason for it appears to be a combination of humor and a portrait of America that many people could latch on to. As several people said the comic helped them assimilate into society, both Americans who felt as though they were outsiders but also for people coming to America.

This is a really good little film. Its a wonderful look at a cultural institution that shows little sign of slowing.

For tickets and more information go here

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