There's a house within a mile of my Indianapolis home. It's located at 4923 Kessler Boulevard East, an otherwise middle-class area marked by a home that many call "The Dolphin House" because of its gaudy dolphin sculptures that mark it's elaborate driveway. The home was originally built by 24-year-old Jerry Hostetler, a onetime Indianapolis pimp who would keep adding to it even as his time as a pimp came to an end and Hostetler went legit as an area construction magnate.
Nearly everyone would agree it's an ugly house. Yet, it's a compelling one. Once known as the ugliest house available on AirBnB the house has played host to organizations and even celebrities in the years since Hostetler's health declined and he eventually passed away.
The house is still there and somehow exists both as cultural icon and symbol of much, much more.
I thought about "The Dolphin House" a lot as I watched writer/director Michael DeMinico's feature debut The Mundo King, an engaging feature doc following the existence of eccentric German artist Rolf Schulz and his incredibly unique abode he calls Castillo Mundo King.
Despite the almost absurd story contained within the 69-minute running time of The Mundo King, DeMinico has crafted an engaging and surprisingly affectionate film about a man whose stories certainly seem out of this world yet so grounded in earthiness that you can't help but find yourself immersed in his reality. The Mundo King could have easily been a sort of winking portrayal of a man who always seems to be just not quite right.
But, what if he is right?
Schulz weaves together tales of attracting alien spaceships to Earth, an attraction that grows via his extraordinary expressions of art, architecture, and something resembling showmanship. The master stroke of The Mundo King lies, perhaps, beyond Schulz himself and lies within the warm, and even nurturing, presence of the occasionally odd yet always endearing and accepting community that surrounds him.
Castillo Mundo King exists as a currently seven-floor work of wonder atop a Dominican Republic hillside where its presence baffles and bewilders yet fiercely draws you in. It's a gaudy house for sure, yet unlike my own neighborhood's "The Dolphin House" this is not actually an ugly house but an emotionally resonant and intellectually curious one. DeMinico captures this all quite beautifully and vividly brings to life Schulz's presence in this home and this community where he is reported to leave the doors open in something resembling a connection to his community.
This is not to say that The Mundo King does not explore the very real man Rolf Shulz. Indeed, DeMinico paints a realistic portrait of a man who is likely seen most successfully as an artist and less successfully as partner, father, or in anything resembling human connection. He is not antisocial, far from it, but it seems clear that Schulz's true self is expressed through his art and architecture and in the ways in which he seeks to express himself universally.
Picked up by indie distributor Indie Rights, The Mundo King is currently available through your usual streaming outlets including the Prime Video link listed in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic