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The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Score: 95%
Rating: PG-13
Publisher: New Line Home Entertainment
Region: 1
Media: DVD/1
Running Time: 90 Mins.
Genre: Documentary
Audio: English 5.1 Surround Sound,
           Stereo Surround Sound

Subtitles: English, Spanish


  • Feature Commentary with Director Seth Gordon, Producer Ed Cunningham and Associate Producers J. Clay Tweel and Luis Lopez
  • Feature Commentary with Chris Carle (Entertainment Editorial Director, IGN) and Jon M. Gibson (Founder, I am 8-bit)
  • Animated Short "A Really, Really Brief History of Donkey Kong"
  • Arcade Glossary
  • I am 8-bit Music and Art Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters really took me by surprise. When I glanced at the cover, I assumed it was a comedy, maybe something along the lines of Grandma's Boi or the like, which was fine. What I got instead was a documentary about two men, one trying desperately to hold on to the title of Donkey Kong World Champion, and another breaking the record over and over and not being recognized for it. My X Files tingly senses screamed conspiracy!

This saga begins way back in 1982, when a young Billy Mitchell earned the title of Donkey Kong World Champion. Skip to (mostly) present day and Billy Mitchell runs a successful hot sauce company and restaurant in Florida, retaining his glorious title of DK World Champ. A Donkey Kong upstart from Seattle named Steve Wiebe (pronounced "Wee-bee", although officials at Twin Galaxies never seem to make the effort to say it correctly) sets out to break Billy's score. By spending countless hours in his garage on his Donkey Kong machine, all the while recording the events, he breaks Billy's score. He sends the tape in to Walter Day and Robert Mruczek at Twin Galaxies, the official scorekeepers of video game history, who dispatch two guys to check out Steve's machine in an unannounced meeting. The validity of the Donkey Kong circuit board is questioned and an alliance between Steve and Roy "Mr. Awesome" Shildt (the never-recognized and very disgruntled Missle Command champion) is discovered, leading the Twin Galaxies folks to suspect that Roy is helping Steve to unseat Billy out of spite and using less than official means to do so.

Steve is protrayed as the underdog in the situation, not a "loser" per se, but someone who has been extremely unlucky in life. Billy Mitchell is portrayed as an arrogant jerk who won't even come to a competition 10 miles from his house to compete in person against Steve. Walter Day, Robert Mruczek and Brian Kuh (another DK champ of sorts, who comes across as a Billy Mitchell lackey) all appear to be against poor Steve's quest to become champion, as they shoot down his scores that he sends in by videotape and then when he achieves success in person at the Funspot arcade, accept Billy's videotaped score over his.

Whether the film twists actual events to make some people seem worse or better is something I am unsure of. I've read some things on the net that seem to indicate that Billy Mitchell and team didn't appreciate the light in which they were portrayed and that perhaps Steve Wiebe isn't quite as snow-white as he appears. Either way, this film is great fun to watch. The rivalry is clear and if you are someone who appreciates classic gaming, you will really enjoy this movie. The folks involved take their gaming seriously and that, in and of itself, is a joy to watch.

Aside from the movie itself, there are some neat special features on the disc, including a feature on I am 8-bit (whose founder also provides some commentary) and some nifty commentary by those involved with the film, along with some experts on videogames. Supposedly, the film's creators accrued more than 300 hours of footage that they didn't use, for obvious reasons. Who knows - maybe a collector's edition will come out where viewers can see the entire saga. Until then, amuse yourself with The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. The only detractor to the movie was the fact that during a bit on Walter Day, some of the headings were cut off. Eh, perhaps it couldn't be helped since it was vintage 80's footage. Aside from that, this one is highly recommended.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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