Don King: Only In America (1997)
Throughout Don King: Only in America, Don King is portrayed as a true Satanic warrior: someone who believes in nothing but his own abilities. King’s special ability is exploiting others’ abilities; he helps others to the extent that their success is beneficial to him. Despite all his “immoral” or “unethical” deeds, King always survives with his financial assets and his wits intact, reminiscent of Walter Huston’s character in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
The film follows his life from age 23 to 67, from the time of his first murder to the time the film was made. In between we see the strength of his will propel him in status from a street hustler to America’s top boxing promoter. On the journey he negotiates with boxers, Muslims, Mafiosi and an African dictator. The dominant motive behind all of King’s actions is his need for respect. He doesn’t need people to like him, or accept him, but he does need people to recognize his extraordinary talent as a promoter.
Wanting to save space, I’ll refrain from expounding on the amazing acting and direction of the film, and focus on the Satanically significant points of the story.
Just as the Satanist discards all other collective identities in favor of the only truly accurate one — Satanist, so does King separate himself from all groups, preferring to be recognized for his individual accomplishments. King never believes in brotherhood, but he knows how to appeal to others’ sense of brotherhood to gain their trust (which he then exploits to its fullest). When he needs something from a Jew, he’ll emphasize the similarities between blacks and Jews. When he wants to convince Muhammad Ali to fire his Jewish promoter of good standing, he evokes Ali’s sense of “racial loyalty.” When he wants a white heavyweight boxer to fight Ali, he promotes the man as a working-class hero who is given the chance to take on the champ. Collective identities are very meaningful to the masses, and can be utilized by the Satanist for personal gain.
Throughout the film, King senses what others want to hear and then gives it to them. To return to Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “People pay a lot of money for you to tell them what they want to hear.” King is portrayed as a master manipulator, who exploits all that is sacred.
Just as Sir Basil Zaharoff was a peddler of death, who profited from man’s inhumanity to man, King is a peddler of desperate hope. This is also very similar to Stanton Carlisle in the quintessentially Satanic novel, Nightmare Alley. He has no scruples against taking bets from working-class people, people who are supposedly “his people.” He calls it the “Hope business.” He raises people’s hopes, then convinces them to take financial risks. Whether it is as a numbers runner in Cleveland in the nineteen fifties or as a heavyweight boxing promoter forty years later, King always profited from others’ hope. He followed W.C. Fields’ maxim, “Never give a sucker an even break.” Also like Zaharoff, King uses the “system” that plays both sides against the middle.
The film does an extraordinary job of seducing the viewer into liking this man without whitewashing his crimes. In light of just how much of a criminal Don King is, this accomplishment of the film is itself a remarkable crime. It is a thought crime. The perceptive viewer will quickly discern that King is not the most reliable narrator; no matter. This merely makes the film all the more intriguing. Similar to Death Wish, this film allows the protagonist to create his own justification for his criminal activities. And the viewer is seduced into agreeing with him out of respect for his continuously victorious will. Victory is, after all, the basis of right.
From the beginning to the last scene, King openly confronts the audience, speaking directly to the camera. The film becomes darker and King more devilish in the second half of the film. He points out the hypocrisy of a people who use one hand to wave the finger at him, and use the other hand to pay money for his boxing fights. Feebly the public plays the Devil’s game, and hypocritically they condemn the man who promotes and sells the game. King is portrayed as a Devil who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Regardless of whether the real Don King is a de facto Satanist, in Don King: Only in America, he IS the accuser.
[- Miles Jacobsen]