Off the Charts


The Song Poem Story (2003)
Directed by Jamie Meltzer

Do you remember the film American Movie, which followed Mark Borschardt and his spacey pal Mike Schank as they attempted to make a horror movie in Wisconsin? Off The Charts: The Song-Poem Story is the ideal film to put on a double-bill with Movie, as they both depict, with considerable affection, likeable schmoes who are simply not talented enough to realize their ambitions.

For those not familiar with song-poems, perhaps you will recall the ads in tabloids which encouraged you to send lyrics, poetry and even sheet music to be produced and recorded by professionals, for a fee. The end result is delivered to the eager writer who waits for the royalties that never come in.

Charts gives us all sides of the song-poem phenomenon: the writers who send them in, the musicians who record them and even a few people who collect and treasure these audio oddities.

Much of the film’s humour is derived from those that send in lyrics, particularly the deranged Caglar Juan Singletary, a kung fu and bicycle enthusiast who penned a little number called “Non-Violent Tae Kwon Do Troopers”. Songs like Caglar’s aren’t simply weird; they’re like dispatches from another planet. That’s part of the appeal of acquiring these song-poems for collectors like Ellery Eskelin, who has a rather touching connection with the business.

A superb documentary. Highly recommended.

— Adam Clarke