Director Frank H. Woodward’s “Men in Suits” is one of the best film related documentaries ever made. It’s an insightful and entertaining look at a rarely covered corner of Hollywood that’s gone unnoticed and uncredited since the beginning of film. “Men in Suits” is a fantastic chronicle of the facet of Hollywood films revolving around men that dress up as monsters for horror, fantasy, and science fiction, and bring to life many of the most iconic and horrific monsters ever put to film. Woodward chronicles how the art form began in the golden age of filmmaking, and has become something of a rare form of performance art in the era where studios are dependent on CGI and polygons.
“Men in Suits” interviews some of the most iconic film directors, and vocal advocates of the special effect, leaving no stone unturned. From Robby the Robot, the Gill-Man, and Godzilla, right down to the Angel of Death from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Woodward pays respect to the men that cover themselves in massive costumes, and suffer for the sake of creating the illusion of the monster for horror pictures. One of the more interesting chapters involves the discussion of Kevin Peter Hall, whose contributions to filmmaking and stunt work helped pave a legacy for future performers. Woodward explores his method acting in “Predator,” and “Harry and the Henderson” and interviews various contemporaries on how he influenced them.
There’s also a wonderful discussion with Bob Burns, who speaks of his days in film playing apes in various pictures, and how he approached invoking the animal with as much accuracy as possible. Monster movie fans will especially find the interviews with Godzilla actor Haruo Nakajima quite thrilling and eye opening, as Nakajima discusses the challenges of working with the heavy and exhausting costume, and the potential dangers he submitted himself to to commit to the action set pieces. “Men in Suits” is a light and fun documentary that breezes through at a quick pace, and yet is also very thorough in paying due to the contemporary and golden age artists, all of whom endured a lot of pain for very little credit.
Advocates like Guillermo Del Toro appear to discuss the fine art of inhabiting the monsters on film, and how it’s not nearly as simple as someone dressing in a rubber suit and growling. It takes skill and commitment, and we witness it through individuals like Brian Steele, who takes the work very seriously. There’s also discussion with Doug Jones, whose work in the field is nothing short of impressive, and he lends immense credibility to a facet of filmmaking that’s been greatly affected but negatively and positively, by the advancement of technology. “Men in Suits” wisely features book end footage of Douglas Tait preparing to play the Abominog for Joe Lynch’s independent horror film “Knights of Badassdom,” and Woodward perfectly conveys the hours of preparation and mental exercise it requires to don a heavy suit and create a lifelike performance as a beast. “Men in Suits” is a refreshing and remarkable documentary, one worth seeking out for the self respecting film buff and horror fanatic.