ALFERD PACKER: THE MUSICAL
CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL
The great surprise about Alferd Packer: The Musical is to learn that Alferd Packer was a real person and that the film is based on a true story. Packer (1842-1907) was actually born Alfred Packer it is not sure where the Alferd came from, it was spelt that way on a tattoo on his arm and it is suspected that this was a mis-spelling by the tattooist and that Packer subsequently adopted that spelling. In 1873, Packer set out from Provo, Utah with a party of 21, heading for a potential gold claim in Colorado. Against advice, Packer and five others left an Indian settlement in the middle of winter and soon became lost in the Rocky Mountains. In mid 1874, Packer was found alone in Gunnison, Colorado. What happened to the other five men then became a matter of debate by Packers claim, Shannon Bell went crazy, killed the other four and Packer was forced to shoot Bell when he came after him with a hatchet; on the other hand, the court believed that Packer had killed and eaten the other men. (Although in the 1990s, forensic investigation of the site where the men died would appear to uphold Packers claim far more than the court of the time believed). In 1883, Packer was sentenced to jail for 40 years, although was paroled in 1901. It is surprising upon reading up about Alferd Packer to discover that Trey Parker has adhered faithfully to the details of the historical story, even though he is playing everything in an absurdist vein and as a musical! (Trey Parker also plays the role of Packer under the name of Juan Schwartz an in-joke in that after escaping from custody Packer adopted the name of John Schwartz).
Certainly, Alferd Packer: The Musical is somewhat of a disappointment to come to after seeing South Park or any of Trey Parker and Matt Stones other works (see below). Although there is some good photography, the production is frequently amateurish and cheap. More so, what one has come to expect of Parker and Stones characteristic absurdist humour and taboo-pushing outrages are a little tame or at least not as polished as they would grow to be. Although in this sense, Parker and Stone are perfectly suited to the sensibilities of Troma who specialize in bad taste humour you could almost see Parker and Stones humour as as a more sophisticated version of Tromas films.
It is not until about halfway through the film that we get the first genuinely Parker-Stone-esque moment a song where trappers sing about killing small animals that segues into a bizarre mano-a-mano confrontation between he-men over whether they are singing in key, whether the piece is in minor or major keys and which is sharp or flat. A few of Parker and Stones deadpan lunacies do sneak in from that point a tribe of Indians that have been cast with Asians; tap-dancing numbers in the snow; songs about hanging that even come with instrumental solos written for the cow bell; and a few of their frequent gay jokes there is an elaborate gag set up so that Matt Stones character can offer Have some fudge, Packer during the middle of their starvation. Mainly, Alferd Packer: The Musical is of interest only to Parker-Stone completists and is too amateurish to be of interest in its own right.
Troma later released Devoured: The Legend of Alferd Packer (2005), which has Packer alive in the present-day.
Trey Parker and Matt Stones other films are: the Mormon porn star superhero film Orgazmo (1997); South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999), a theatrically released spin-off from their hit series; and the obscene puppet show/political satire Team America: World Police (2004).