Danny Wolf’s newest documentary is notable mostly for being a movie that’s produced by Jim McBride. McBride is famous, of course, for being “Mr. Skin,” the founder of one of the biggest, and first, websites about nudity in film. Aptly titled “Skin,” the documentary about the history of nudity in Hollywood and filmmaking and how it shook the landscape of pop culture, wants to desperately be taken as a bold mix of educational and entertainment, but beyond fleeting insight and fascinating looks at pre-code film, it’s mostly just another nudie reel.
“Horror Noire” is the film you have to see right now. If you fancy yourself a horror aficionado, a film buff, or just a lover of history, “Horror Noire” is essential viewing that is long overdue. For a long time we’ve garnered some amazing documentaries that have covered a lot of overlooked chapters in horror cinema, and “Horror Noire” touches upon the most important era, exploring the history of African Americans in horror cinema, and how they evolved from being demonized, to becoming props, right up to becoming genuine heroes.
John Sturges’s “The Great Escape” is easily one of my favorite action movies of all time, and one of my top five McQueen pictures (“The Getaway” takes the number one prize). It’s legacy and influence on pop culture and action cinema as a whole has been lasting, with John Sturges presenting a slew of brilliant actors at the top of their games in what is a very intriguing tale about escaping Nazi clutches, and fighting for freedom. “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever” is a fine and entertaining historical documentary for anyone that fancies themselves a fan of the movie. It’s exhaustive, meticulous in its detail, and we even get some candid stories about the cast.
Documentary filmmaker Thom Andersen (Los Angeles Plays Itself), began this nonfiction feature as his UCLA thesis project and finished it a decade later; it was rejected by the Los Angeles PBS station that helped finance the project, but later had a brief theatrical release before mostly vanishing from circulation until its 2013 restoration and 2015 inclusion on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
We at Cinema Crazed have had the pleasure of enlisting some truly gifted writers and movie fanatics, and Phil Hall is no exception. We’ve been very close friends with Phil for over ten years, and have followed his extensive work in film both far and wide. He’s worked in film festivals, helped bring very obscure cinematic gems to public attention once again, and has also garnered an immense insight in to the art of filmmaking over the years. His latest book “In Search of Lost Films” from BearManor Media explores the tragic history of how many films have been lost to time, and the rising tide of film preservation.
If there’s one film I’d suggest to blossoming horror fans that need a primer course for the genre, I’d suggest “Terror in the Aisles.” It’s not a horror movie, so much as a compilation of some of the most interesting thrillers and horror movies from the seventies and eighties, and it touches on the idea of horror’s role in our everyday lives. Why do people love to be scared? What keeps us coming back to horror movies? Why do so many people frighten by horror cinema when there are valid threats in reality? One of the more interesting ideas behind “Terror In the Aisles” is the exploration of movie going as a communal experience.
Once upon a time we could sit in a large dark room with a bunch of strangers and soak in a horrific experience together. We’d laugh, flinch, scream, and feel some sense of camaraderie, in the end. That’s become something of an antiquated habit with the advent of home entertainment. I won’t be seeing “Terror in the DVD Player” any time soon. The gorgeous Nancy Allen and Donald Pleasance host what is a pretty well put together montage that examines fear and how we use it as a means of excitement and exhilaration, even when we’re sitting in the comfort of a movie theater. Allen and Pleasance’s hosting is fantastic as they indulge the audience with charismatic introductions of key moments in some great horror films.
They’re fitted to topics like sex, natural terrors, the occult, and despicable villains. One of the reasons why the documentary is still so resonant is because there are moments during the compilation where we’re given a glimpse at movie goers watching and reacting to horror movies. Scripted as they may be, director Andrew J. Kuehn captures the thrill of the movie theater and losing yourself in frights accurately, and they result in some fun and funny slices of life. I’m still a bit taken aback that there are no clips to “Dawn of the Dead” or “The Exorcist.” You figure two films with such impact on the horror medium, including the latter title would be the centerpiece of the documentary.
Despite that glaring omission, there are still a myriad iconic moments from great films like “Scanners,” “Strangers on a Train,” and “Carrie.” Kuehn’s documentary is a thrilling and excellent celebration of horror and the movie theater community, and is a must see to this day.
Director Josh Johnson pulls off an ingenious move with “Rewind This!” Truly, it’s about the age of VHS and recalls many of the fond memories of buying VHS and learning how to enjoy the spoils of the hunt for the perfect Friday night entertainment from your local mom and pop video store. But by the end of the documentary, director Johnson is wise to warn about how personal media and art is slowly becoming impersonal and is gradually breaking from our grasps.
In the interest of full disclosure, author Mike Watt is a friend and respected colleague who sent us a PDF of his latest book for review. This is nonetheless an objective review of his book “Fervid Filmmaking.”
You have to give it to author Mike Watt. His book isn’t built around 66 great films, or even 66 of his favorite films, but 66 films of importance and relevance that really say something about the genre they’re representing. Take for example the entry in to “Survival of the Dead” by director George Romero. While I’m often a Romero apologist, author Watt really does manage to break down the specifics of the film, and cite past interviews with director Romero to paint “Survival” as a film made by a man perpetually chained to the sub-genre that made him a horror icon.