Special When Lit (2009)

Before there were videogames there was pinball and it was a huge industry, even bigger than the entire American movie industry during the 50s and 60s if this documentary is to be believed. You could find pinball machines in all sort of places. They have now disappeared (well, you can still get them on your iPad although it’s not the same) and this movie tries to teach the viewer about its history and the enthusiasts who still care about them (and collect them). I did play quite a bit of pinball during the nineties, so I was interested in the story this documentary had to tell.

Special When Lit offers a good mix of interviews with people who worked in the industry who passionately talk about their experience and the fans of pinball. Just like other hobbies there are some which are very extreme/nerdy about it (like one guy who records people playing on them and sells DVDs of that). It made some parts of it look like a bit of a freak show, an entertaining one though. Then there are the collectors who have some amazing amount of machines on display. I especially was amazed by a French collector who had very early ones. As I mostly played pinball during the nineties it was fun seeing quick shots of machines I played on.

Even if you are not a fan of pinball, this movie manages to give you a good understanding of its world as it goes from the manufacturing to pinball tournaments. An entertaining watch if you are looking for something a little different.

Score: 8

Did you ever play pinball?

8 thoughts on “Special When Lit (2009)

  1. I used to play a lot of Pinball, back when I used to hang out at bars. Was a big fan of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Twiglight Zone machines. I actually have a Target Alpha (1976) pinball machine in my dining room. It is a pretty basic table and mostly collects dust but it looks cool.

    They actually have a couple of sweet pinball games on Xbox arcade right now. Not really the same as playing an actual machine but still fun.

    Think I will have to try and check out this film.

    • Cool, I didn’t play it as much, but always loved it when I did play. Can’t remember much of the machines, but there were some cool ones!

      It’s not the same indeed, but for old times sake it’s fun to play them once in a while

  2. I watched this documentary on Hulu Plus. I got back into Pinball this year after a long time away due to the new release of Pinball Arcade by Farsight Studios. They are recreating old pinball tables for virtual releases. I’m so happy to be able to play classics like Medieval Madness and Cirqus Voltaire whenever I want.

    As far as the documentary goes it does walk a fine line between normal people who love pinball and some really peculiar individuals. I’d love to own a full cabinet, but I’d be nervous about the maintenance it would involve, nevermind the space it would need. I recently played the old Doctor Who table, holds up really well!

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