I like to hurt people was billed as a documentary, and maybe it is… But Donald Jackson presents it as a linear narrative – far more like a feature than a documentary. It lends itself to this format, because of the inherently staged nature of wrestling, pushing a story line right alongside the gladiatorial combat. Indeed, this feels familiar, with plenty of ringside interviews and grandstanding to inter cut between staged scenes .
We get backstage imagery of one Wrestler threatening the cameraman, spectators at the snack bar discussing the current match, backstage antics and the like. The most notable of these kind of scenes is one with wrestlers waiting in their car to meet their opponents. The camera captures perfectly, their shock when Andre the giant emerges, gargantuan and bigger than life from his ride. I’m going to go on record right now and say this movie is worth the watch just for this and to see more Andre.
In great part, this is the story of heel wrestler Edward Farhat, better known as the Sheik. In the early days of television, the Sheik almost single-handedly escalated the violence and commercial appeal of professional wrestling with a style that was “Hardcore” long before that genre of wrestling ever existed. Steve Slagle, a student of wrestling, wrote in The Ring Chronicle that ”perhaps no other wrestler is more responsible for influencing the current generation of ‘hardcore’ wrestling than the one and only Arabian madman known as the Sheik.” “I like to Hurt people” follows the 6 foot tall, 247 pound villain as he cuts through the wrestling world, changes managers and fights his way through with a showdown against Dusty Rhodes : the American Dream on the horizon. This is professional wrestling, it’s old school. It’s not the glitzy polished events we’re used to seeing with the WWE. These wrestlers are a barrel chested, big guys with less muscle definition, but every bit as much attitude and big personality as you have ever seen in any pro wrestling event. There is blood here too, not quite as much as you might see in the underground hard-core wrestling circuit that 42nd Street Pete promotes , but more than what you are probably used to in your average royal rumble!
I find it particularly amusing to watch Andre the giant literally lift people up over his head and then toss them out of the ring.
In the background, we have the President of the “Stop the Sheik” movement attempting to derail the upcoming match, and get the Sheik out of the circuit. It’s a subplot that helps to hold the entire story together between matches. Interestingly enough, this wasn’s part of the original pitch, but was added in years after the footage was shot to pad the run time and give the film more structure. Eventually the “Stop the Sheik” movement ends when the man behind it just… disappears!
Contrived subplots aside, there’s still plenty of interviews, giving you a clearer picture of why the wrestlers do what they do and what it means to them. It keep the film feeling like a documentary, even as it unfolds as more of a hybrid.
“It’s how I found true meaning. I like to hurt people”
Jackson isn’t content to just cover mainstream wrestling though, we get a side story about a female wrestler named “Heather Feather” who really wants to wrestle a man. Jackson documents the arm wrestling match that leads to the real thing. We follow her into the ring for what is billed as the first pro wrestling match between a woman and a man. It’s a novelty act, but an Ernest one. Jackson not only covers women’s wrestling but also matches with little people – as brutal and pitched as any fight you can imagine.
Back on the mainstream circuit, trouble arises, and the shiek’s manager quits and has to be replaced by an even more colorful character. The Sheik continues on, bringing his boa constrictor with him to the ring and bowing to it before the matches. He rarely speaks, and what he does say is in Arabic, spoken in sinister tones. In the back on his limo, he and his manager ride off to the future.
When we talk about Donald Jackson, we usually like to focus on the bad films. But I’m going to come straight out and say this is a good movie. How can I tell? Because I don’t like wrestling. I may know some of the names because they are pop culture, but I do’t have any interest in the form or genre. Nevertheless, I was completely sucked in. I was riveted by this film on a subject I don’t care a bit for. It goes on Ebay from twenty to fifty dollars.Do your self a favor and scour the goodwill, salvation army and other thrift stores to find a battered old VHS copy of this.