The Lander Mystique
I won't be holding my breath for this to happen for real, but my fantasy is that one day something like Criterion Collection will exist to produce clean prints of kink-wrestling classics, digitally restored and enhanced for Blu Ray, or whatever comes after Blu Ray to grab consumers' devotion and wallets. Near the top of my list will be the Mark Lander wrestling matches for the now-defunct Lets Wrestle (or Let's ... or even Lts ...) web site. I have a few of these matches on DVD-R disks I bought via YouTube years ago, and I value them highly. The young South African (though some claim he's Coloradan), now a grown man in his late twenties or early thirties, has become, in the six or seven years since the company's closing, the center of an ardent underground cult. Now he is the dedicatee of a Facebook fan page, from which I took these photos.
Unanswered questions about Lander and the exact location of the company that first released his cum-worthy feats of grappling feed the mystique surrounding this wrestler. Mark Lander was not the only skilled and good-looking wrestler on the company's roster. But it is Mark who captures the imagination. Lander's dark (and it is very dark) allure has been the subject of more than one conversation with my friend and occasional visitor to this blog, Matt. It seems odd, for instance, that the real "Mark Lander" has not spoken up about (or cashed in on) his Internet celebrity. Is it possible he is entirely unaware of it? Is he the only man on earth who has not once Googled his own name (or pseudonym)? Might he be dead? Or, to fan the spurious flames of speculation, undead?
Besides the mysteries surrounding his past and present whereabouts, and true identity, most of the fascination with Mark centers on his wrestling. The matches themselves are mainly free of dialogue, silent except for the sough and rustle of struggling bodies, with the occasional bird song or overhead aircraft filling in the background. Mark and his victims do not theatrically enhance (or "sell") their struggle and their pain. The quietness of the matches intensifies the effects of the moaning and slap of skin on skin. The holds--chokes, scissors, armbars, and chickenwings--last forever. Minutes pass as a hapless wrestler writhes in Lander's clutches. Such "dead time" would be edited out of most other wrestling tapes, and perhaps rightly so, since so far only Lander has succeeded in making the utter immobilization of an adversary so hypnotic as to demand my full attention. I've made the analogy before, but the effect is like watching 35 minutes of nature film footage showing a boa constrictor serenely and untiringly swallow a Jack Russell.
Mark wears small black trunks and no boots. The simplicity of his gear and absence of leather, studs, chains, straps, latex, and masks do nothing to lessen the sadism of his holds. When opponents tap out, Mark ignores them, up to and slightly past the point when their faces turn purplish. When he has completely subdued an opponent, he often turns his smileless face to the camcorder and strikes a bicep pose. When an opponent in his grip has been still and silent for too long, he will bend back to increase body stress to induce a response, or he may simply bend in to him and grind his sharp chin against a shoulder blade. His beautifully muscled tan thighs ripple as he flexes, scissoring a victim, who thrashes like a mouse in a spring-loaded trap before finally, chillingly collapsing to immobility.
It's easy to imagine a guy like this coming to a bad end. But during the few years he made wrestling videos, he turned himself into a god, a grim and unrelenting one, to be sure, but a spellbinding one. And I'll say just this one thing more: except perhaps for Kevin Von Erich, especially in his early '80s heyday, I can think of no other wrestler for whom the identity of his opponent is so inconsequential. A Mark Lander match is just that: Mark Lander ... plus some quivering, whimpering flesh and bone he is tautly enfolding.