Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry - My Work Speaks For Itself

Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry - Now Available to buy & on Netflix!


DVD Review on Pop Syndicate.com


Pop Syndicate.com

DVD Review on Pop Syndicate.com

Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry

Decent documentary about the life and times of one of America’s most famous tattoo artists.

People with tattoos most likely know the name Sailor Jerry. If you don’t have tattoos you probably know of him, even seen his work, but just don’t know it. The classic American tattoo designs have been on clothes and posters for years, one of his protégées has his designs on the most hideous and gaudy fashions since Crocs, Don Ed Hardy. Jerry was a tattooing pioneer and legend who’s designs today grace the walls of flash in every tattoo shop all over the world. In his heyday things ran a little differently, but he still managed to be a major influence on young artists everywhere and infuriate others. In Erich Weiss’ new documentary, Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry, he looks into the life of the man.

The film details Norman K. “Sailor Jerry” Collins’ life as told through his own letters to friends and family and with interviews with ink slinging colleagues who knew him well. Jerry was a seaman who traveled around the world’s oceans before falling in love with, and setting, in Hawaii before World War II. On the island of Oahu, in Honolulu’s Chinatown district amidst the bars and brothels Jerry set up shop and gave the sailors something to do after leaving their three minutes of pleasure with one of the working girls. This is where his iconic “Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed” design originated. Here he became known for his great needle work and tough guy nature. Many people know about this side of Jerry but they might not know about the feud with other tattoo icon Lyle Tuttle, who Jerry greeted with hostility because of his arrogance and showiness in the industry. When no one thought purple ink pigment was possible in tattooing, especially Tuttle, Jerry figured it out and the shock of some guy showing Tuttle the work sent him into the hospital. Jerry responded by sending purple flowers to his room. He may have been a jerk at times, but he was a funny one.

Interviews with tattoo greats from Tuttle, Hardy, Crazy Philadelphia Eddie Funk, Zeke Owens, Bob Roberts and a few more. They all have some great story to tell about the good old days of tattooing in America, specifically Hawaii. Their stories are funny and interesting to the tattoo fan as well as the un-inked. Who knew the legendary tattooist was very conservative and abhorred liberals? Jerry went to Japan to study some of their amazing techniques and styles which were not prevalent in magazines at the local drug store like they are today. All of the guys are funny especially Crazy Eddie who lives up to his name with every chance he gets. The highlight of the documentary are the inclusion of voice overs reading different examples of the man’s correspondence. He always had something to say and you better believe it was blunt and, somewhat, humorous.

On Indiepix’s DVD release there are just a few extra features, aside from a trailer reel of the studio’s other releases. Director Weiss gives an audio commentary and there are about ten minutes of deleted scene interviews discussing sterilization and, of course more Crazy Eddie. Rounding out the bonuses is a trailer and two other brief letters from Jerry, with a runtime of just under a minute. I really wish there were more of these because they were certainly the high point of the brief (73 minutes) doc.

The look into the life of a tattoo pioneer is interesting for anyone, but tattoo enthusiasts will surely appreciate the tale. Worth a rent if you didn’t catch it on the festival circuit.