Vernon, Florida Review
By Annette Cardwell
According to documentary filmmaker Errol Morris' web site, he originally started work on Vernon, Florida, because the citizens of this little panhandle town were famous for cutting off their limbs for cash. The town had the highest reports of dismemberment insurance fraud in the country, and he set out to capture these greedy self-amputees on film.
Also according to that site, Morris said he had to switch gears mid-stream when those same townfolk caught onto his film concept and threatened to kill him. The outcome is a series of engrossing and rather endearing series portraits of the eccentric populace (mostly with all limbs intact). For many fans of Morris' quirky and fascinating body of work, Vernon is the hidden gem, filled with memorable moments, faces, and dialogue.
Morris dwells longingly on the worm farmer who will be the first to tell you that you can't learn his craft from books, because "them books is wrong;" the zealous master turkey hunter who expresses deep love and appreciation for his "gobbler" prey; a couple who last vacationed with a drive across White Sands desert and returned home with a jar of "growing" sand ("It grooows!"); or the squeaky-voiced old timer who explains earnestly as he looks out over the town's swamp that "there's a lot of water out there; and that's just the top of it!"
It may seem at first that Morris is poking fun at these swamp-town yokels, but - after spending enough time with these eccentrics - you too begin to understand that his fixation on these people is a genuine fascination. And, thanks to Morris' deft editing and pacing, this series of interviews seems to jaunt along, carrying your curiosity through its swift 72-minute running time.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Thursday 8th October 1981
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Cast & Crew