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‘The Mighty Atom’ (review)

Executive Produced by Kristen Edgell
Produced by Shelaney Campbell, Dan Blaney
Written and Directed by Steve Greenstein
Narrated by John Klug
Featuring Joseph Greenstein

 

What’s the most physically demanding feat you’ve ever accomplished?

For many a lay person, perhaps you may recall a particularly challenging boot camp class, participating in a 5k fundraiser or even just attempting to climb a rope in gym class.

For Joseph Greenstein, AKA The Mighty Atom, his accomplishments included twisting horseshoes with his bare hands, biting through steel chains and preventing an airplane from going airborne by tying the plane to his hair. Call it folly or follicle abuse, for Greenstein, it was just another performance as his stage alter-ego, The Mighty Atom.

At 5’4 and weighing in under 150 lbs, Greenstein’s accomplishments were all the more miraculous considering his modest stature. A Polish Jew who had aspirations for greatness, Greenstein built his strength and honed his craft by traveling the world as a strongman’s understudy in a circus. Learning the secrets of both physical and mental toughness, Greenstein made it to the U.S. with an entrepreneurial spirit and vision that was way ahead of its time.

For writer and director Steven Greenstein, grandson of Joseph, the Atom’s story is a compelling one that justifies documentation for modern times. At a svelte 74 minute runtime, the film deftly utilizes stories from family members, fellow strongmen and NBC radio interview with The Mighty Atom himself to drive a narrative that empowers mind and spirit.

Themes of showmanship, entrepreneurship and heroism help The Mighty Atom rise above being “just” a real life superhero tale. Yet, there are tales of Greenstein’s heroism both on the sideshow stage and off.

There’s a story of Greenstein, who proudly showcased the Star of David on his performance singlet, single-handedly knocking out the attendees of a Neo-Nazi meeting. And another of him launching a violent, anti-semitic heckler through a storefront window.

It’s an important and timely theme in this film, demonstrating the anti-semitic rhetoric many Americans assume was isolated to WWII-era Europe, was also a real threat for Jews in the States. The quick history lesson helps to provide context as to how a sitting U.S. President can claim there are “good people” marching alongside Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, VA. Certainly, Greenstein’s heroism today would be welcome presence.

There’s no doubt a unique talent like Greenstein would be a social media sensation of epic proportions in our connected world. He was also ahead of the health craze movement, selling soaps, vitamins and laxatives that promoted body cleanliness and good energy. Yet, all of these business undertakings proved foreign and non-lucrative in the 1950s and 60s. Today, they could have been popular products at Whole Foods, GNC. Not unlike the fictional Sin City strongman, Marv, Greenstein had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong decade.

Fortunately, his grandson has managed to capture not just the tales of his incredible physical feats, but the legacy of his mission. The film ends with a narrative of refusing to accept outcomes just because they are perceived to be “impossible”.

In The Mighty Atom’s world, that meant overcoming a lot of physical pain to entertain, amaze and inspire the masses who saw him perform. For the majority of us, that lesson rings relevant for overcoming emotional trauma and social barriers to accomplish great things for our communities, our families and ourselves.

So whether you’re a brave soul thinking about starting a business, or an aspiring strongperson yearning to learn how to hammer a nail through a 4×4 with the palm of your hand, The Mighty Atom has plenty to offer you.

8 out of 10 stars

 

The Mighty Atom arrives on iTunes, Amazon & Google Play on Nov. 14th.

 

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