Movie Review: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness

By Andrew McManus

Directed by Eric Goode & Rebecca Chaiklin

Starring: Joseph Maldonado-Passage aka Joe Exotic, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, Jeff Lowe, John Finlay, Travis Maldonado, James Garretson, Allen Glover, Joshua Dial, Rick Kirkman, Kelci “Saff” Saffery, Howard Baskins, and that Carole Baskins

Runtime: 41-48 minutes (7 episodes)

Rating: Mature/R (for violence, language, sexual content, drug use, and Cool Cats and Kittens) WAIT FOR THE KIDS TO GO TO BED!

Release Date: March 20th, 2020

Streaming Options: Netflix

We discussed last week our new format for our movie reviews for the foreseeable future. With movie theaters closed, and a “stay-at-home” order in place we will now look at streaming options. I was slightly concerned this format wouldn’t pick up steam but you did the exact opposite. I received several messages and calls telling me how excited they were to get recommendations on what to stream. I said we would be doing a “kids movie” this week. I apologize. Tiger King has arrived. I had to review this series. If you don’t read another word I’ve written. Turn it on! A disclaimer. This isn’t for kids. AT ALL. Wait til they go to bed. You’ll laugh, smile, and be drawn in like was. We will also be changing our rating system. We did a star rating for films, we are now doing a binge-worthy rating. (Thanks Tim Wolfe, great idea!) The higher the rating to 5. The quicker you should sit down and watch it, then click next episode, pause when needed but watch as many episodes as you can. Priorities!

Onto the series.

The production of this series is interesting in and of itself. This was filmed over a 5 year time span. The directors/producers slowly gathered footage and interviews with key players I’ve named in the “starring” segment and as the footage grew in size, the twists and turns did as well. What started out as a documentary on Big Cats and private zoos, this turned into so much more. This series has a little more intrigue for our area as well. Do you remember in Zanesville, Ohio when the animals escaped? This is touched on too. These aren’t just zoos in far off places. We had one right here in Ohio.

We start the series off with Rick Kirkman (producer of JoeExoticTV) who is asked “Where do we begin?” He’s said immediately, “I guess at the beginning.” We then hear voice overs saying how different the “animal people” are. The cream of the crop if you will are the cat

people. As James Garretson (businessman) states, “they are all crazy!” I’d use the word eccentric. We then hear from the star of this series, the Tiger King himself. Joe Exotic. The series cuts to “today” he’s been charged with “murder-for-hire” against his foil in the big cat life THAT Carole Baskins. Allegedly Exotic, paid the local zoo jack-of-all trades Allen Glover to drive to Florida and kill Baskins. Let’s pause for a moment. This is REAL LIFE. This isn’t a made for TV movie. This isn’t a dramatization. These are real stories and the people involved are the ones telling them. Are you intrigued yet?

We open in Homestead, Florida – 5 years ago. We slowly learn about the players in this saga and where they all fit in. We get a quick opening talking about how cats are safe, as a man is dragged down by one….We then cut between news segments regarding the murder-for-hire plot and the hot topic issues with private zoos. This is 5 minutes into the series of EPISODE ONE. As many have asked me all of last week about the show, I say. “Just keep watching. More to come.”

Let me give you a vague list of some of the things you’ll see throughout life with the Tiger King. You see the early days when Joe had his own TV show ( You’ll see various private zoos. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle runs an operation called T.I.G.E.R.S in Myrtle Beach, SC. This is by no means a shout-out to go see these locations just information. Although admit they do look fascinating. I’d be an unlucky one to get randomly attacked though. My first thoughts on “Doc” were that he looked like he was attempting to be a “real-life” genie! He comes inro frame of an elephant! He states at length his compound isn’t a cult, he isn’t married, and the ladies who come for an internship just happen to stay for decades (Most of them). “My girls” as he calls them. It’s OK everyone. It’s just a cowboy term according to him. He has charisma and obviously the animals are beautiful. (I’d have to get the award for most likeable in this series to Joe Exotic though or Travis…..) We see not only a Presidential campaign, but a Gubernatorial campaign in 2016 and 2018. I won’t delve into the more shocking aspects of things that happen, but there is polygamy, animal attacks, music videos and country songs, a TON of gunfire, explosions, a shocking disappearance, is it or isn’t it a cult, the political campaigns, fires, Feds, an accidental death and the “murder-for-hire” plot. Again. This is real-life. Oh there’s also Joe Exotic underwear available for purchase.

Alright no more plot points from me besides the last big one. The battle between Joe and Carole the rest you’ll see while binge-watching. Why is there a feud between Carole Baskins and Joe Exotic? That Carole Baskins feels the private zoos are terrible places. They use young cubs for selfies and to allow customers to pet, which she feels isn’t right. They are also big cat breeders. Again Baskins is not a fan. Her business is called Big Cat Rescue. She claims she isn’t a zoo, this is a sanctuary for exotic animals. So her way is good, and Exotic and Doc among others are bad? You see all of the organizations, they all have cages, they are charge money to see the animals? Granted she may not use expired Walmart meet for pizza….yes that’s a thing. Regardless the war is on. We then see years of this feud that ends with Joe Exotic’s arrest and current incarceration. Or is it just beginning?

We spend are time interweaving between Joe Exotic’s GW (Greater Wynnewood) Exotic Zoo Park in Oklahoma,”Doc” Antle’s T.I.G.E.R.S facility, and Carole and Harold Baskins’ Big Cat Rescue. We also meet the alleged inspiration for Scarface with Mario Tabraue. Absolutely WILD!

In our society today, it’s a scary new time. We are told to stay at home, and we are told to maintain safe distancing from people. I don’t have an answer for how long this will be or if it will get worse. I know we ALL need to take the State and Federal mandates seriously and act accordingly. So I’m asking you. Stay home (when possible) and watch this series. I’ve seen hundreds of documentaries in my lifetime. Tiger King is the best one by a mile. Pick a subject and ask yourself is that in this show? It probably is. I’ll be sending a copy of this to Joe Exotic himself at Grady County Jail, so Joe if you’re reading this. Your story has allowed the nation hours of pause of what we are all currently experiencing. This is currently number 1 on Netflix. Good luck and God Speed! Binge-worthy rating: 5 Big Cats out of 5.

By Andrew McManus