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Review: ‘Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story’

Local Doc Gives History of Classic Board Game

Above: "Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story"

Audio

Aired 3/3/11

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the locally produced film "Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story"

Transcript

One man's passion for a board game has led to the locally produced documentary "Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story" opening March 4 at the UltraStar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center.

Kevin Tostado's desire to compete in the Monopoly championships led him to make a delightful documentary about the classic board game for its 75th anniversary.

"Monopoly took off because it was on the tail end of the Depression," Tostado tells me when he stopped by the KPBS studios, "and people could live vicariously through it and be a property owner and get rich inside the game and for some people that was a dream come true."

"Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story" is a dream come true for Tostado, a local freelance producer who spent more than a quarter of a million dollars to bring his film to the screen. He looks to the roots of the game and how Lizzie Magie's The Landlord's Game was eventually transformed by Charles Darrow into Monopoly.

"She was trying for this gloss of entertainment on it where people would play a game but come to understand why property ownership is bad," says blogger W. Eric Martin in the film, "and that idea is still exhibited in the game itself: one person wins, everybody else loses. It's a celebration of capitalism where one person eventually stands on top and throws all the money on top of their head and says I am awesome, I rule you guys suck."

Filmmaker Kevin Tostado at the KPBS Studios.

Beth Accomando

Above: Filmmaker Kevin Tostado at the KPBS Studios.

Tostado shows how the game has gone global with Hong Kong and London editions, among others. It has also become the obsession of collectors thanks to Special Editions of the game produced right here in San Diego.

"We take a look at the company that produces a lot of those special editions," says Tostado, "It's USAoploy up in Carlsbad. They put out a large number of sets over the years so we filmed with some collectors who have hundreds upon hundreds of sets in their collection."

But the most interesting story he uncovers involves the game’s British licensee. During World War II John Waddington perfected a way of printing maps on silk that could be sewn into paratroopers' jackets and he thought that this might also be useful to POWs. So he had the idea of putting the silk maps into sets of Monopoly. The only problem was how to get sets of Monopoly inside the POW camps. The answer: the Red Cross. So not only were the silk maps smuggled into the camps in Monopoly games but so too were compasses, money, and files. The film explains that this was such a secret project that it took 45 years for the story to see the light of day.

Tostado employed more than a dozen local crew people and had the production shoot in 9 countries. "We self-financed the film fully by just friends, family and colleagues and we're still trying to raise funds to take this finished film out to more cities," says Tostado.

"Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story" (rated G) has its theatrical premiere today but Tostado’s work is far from done. He’s in the final days of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 more so that he can distribute the film to other cities across the nation.

Companion viewing: "King of Kong," "Spellbound," "Wordplay," "King of Marvin Gardens"

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