Special When Lit

Special When Lit


Reviewed by: Keith Dudhnath

Pinball used to be massive. It made more money than the US movie industry from 1955 to 1970. Over the years its popularity has waned, but there are still pockets of people to whom it means a great deal.

Special When Lit is a documentary tracing pinball's history through to the present day. We meet the innovators who turned it from a game of luck to a game of skill with flippers. Fans who grew up playing pinball and the arcade owners explain just what pinball means to them. The collectors show us around their jam-packed houses, and competitors at the pinball world championships discuss the finer points of the game.

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Special When Lit is reminiscent of that other great documentary Spellbound. Both draw the audience into a world of obsession, impress upon you the level of devotion, and charm you with the people in that world. Every geeky sphere has its own nutters, and pinball is no exception, but Special When Lit treats them kindly, respectfully, and leaves any slightly mean sniggering up to the audience. That said, you're not human if you don't laugh your head off at the dances some people do when playing pinball!

It's not the sort of subject that you'd think would suit a documentary, but it works surprisingly well. It doesn't quite have the universal charm of the aforementioned Spellbound, and it is a little rough around the edges. It still offers fascinating insights and makes for an enjoyable watch. Recommended.

Reviewed on: 18 Oct 2009
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Special When Lit packshot
A history of pinball, and a look at its current devotees and major players.
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Director: Brett Sullivan

Year: 2009

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US


Raindance 2009

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