Documentary Review: Jim Crockett Promotions: The Good Old Days (2013)

Release Date: 2013
Cast: various

EllBow Productions, 134 Minutes

Review:

This is the last of the large lot of wrestling documentary DVDs that I ordered from Highspots when COVID kicked off and I needed stuff to watch while living that quarantine life.

Like the others, this one is comprised of a lot of talking head interviews, edited and cut together to tell the narrative. Almost all of the interviews are taken from previously released shoot interviews that were filmed and released over the years.

I felt like I was saving the best documentary for last, as the history of Jim Crockett Promotions seemed like a fantastic story that I wanted to delve into.

The problem with this (and really, it’s just my problem) is that I already knew just about everything that was discussed and recounted here, as I’ve watched countless shoot interviews and read a lot of books on wrestling history, especially regarding the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

That’s not to say that this isn’t informative and comprehensive, it’s just to say that none of this isn’t information found elsewhere. I had kind of hoped for some new or deeper insight.

Still, this is solid, well edited, well constructed and pretty educational and interesting to those who have a love of the subject matter.

My only regret is that I didn’t buy this back in the day when they released a three disc versions with lots of matches and extras.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by EllBow Productions or released through Highspots.

Documentary Review: Making Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film (2019)

Release Date: February 8th, 2019 (Santa Barbara International Film Festival)
Directed by: William Conlin
Written by: Thomas R. Burman, William Conlin
Music by: Shawn Patterson
Cast: Thomas R. Burman, Rick Baker, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Richard Donner, Dana Gould, John Landis, Leonard Maltin, Greg Nicotero, various

Gravitas Ventures, The Burman Studio Inc., Hellcat Productions LLC,  86 Minutes

Review:

This recently popped up on Prime Video, so I added it to my queue. I didn’t want to watch it, however, until I was done revisiting the original run of Planet of the Apes movies.

This was a great thing to watch following the five original films, though. And it’s especially cool for those who love practical special effects, movie makeup and/or the film franchise.

From the start, this documentary gets right into the development of the first Planet of the Apes movie and how everything from the effects side of the film came to be. It also gets into the sequels and talks about the advances in technology and how they changed the way the future Apes movies were made.

The thing I liked best about this, other than learning about the makeup process, was getting to know the creatives behind it all and how their craft changed filmmaking forever. It was also interesting seeing how their relationships evolved with one another and in a few instances, dissolved.

This really is a great piece on special effects filmmaking but it is made even better by telling a really human story about people that should be regarded as legends.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries on filmmaking.

Documentary Review: Two Falls To A Finish – Sixty Years Of British Pro Wrestling (2015)

Release Date: 2015
Directed by: Adam Gill
Cast: Robbie Brookside, Marty Jones, Brian Dixon, various

Figure Four Films, 60 Minutes

Review:

When I saw that there was a documentary on the history of British wrestling, I had to get my hands on it. Especially, since most of the stuff I’ve gotten recently from Highspots has been pretty good.

This was a giant fucking bag of meh, though.

It’s just under an hour and while it talks about the history of professional wrestling in the United Kingdom, it barely puts any real emphasis on the past and focuses much more on the recent past, covering stuff from the late ’90s and into the ’00s.

Honestly, after it moved past the old school stuff, I lost interest.

It’s not that this was bad, it’s just that the title implies that it is about the long and storied history of British wrestling. This just glances over that shit really quickly and then just wants to show a bunch of modern stars talking about more recent stuff.

Well, hopefully someone out there can make the documentary that I had hoped this was.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other more modern documentaries on wrestling history.

Documentary Review: Henchman: The Al Leong Story (2018)

Release Date: December 15th, 2018
Directed by: Vito Trabucco 
Music by: DJ Disco T.
Cast: Al Leong, John Carpenter, Jeff Imada, Dave Callaham, James Lew

Yinzer Enterprises, 110 Minutes

Review:

Growing up in the ’80s, I saw Al Leong everywhere. I didn’t know who he was; all I knew was that he’s a really unique looking dude that would show up as a henchman to the villain in just about every iconic ’80s action flick.

As I got older, I learned more about him but still, most people just saw him as that dude that popped up all over the place, who eventually got killed after doing some badass shit.

So I’m glad that this documentary was made, as the guy deserves to be showcased and to have his story told to all the fans who have appreciated him over the last four decades.

Leong’s story is much deeper and richer than I had expected and it was fantastic getting to hear him talk about his life in his own words.

We also get to see his colleagues discuss him and his career. It’s really cool seeing John Carpenter talk about Leong and why he used him in his films so often.

Overall, this isn’t a great documentary but it will satisfy fans of the guy’s work or just those who remember seeing him everywhere.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about character actors and filmmaking in the ’80s.

Documentary Review: The Funks (2016)

Release Date: August 10th, 2016
Directed by: Michael Elliott
Cast: Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., Ricky Steamboat, Gerald Brisco, Steve Corino, James J. Dillon, Stan Hansen, Bret Hart, The Blue Meanie, Jim Ross

EllBow Productions, 124 Minutes

Review:

I’m still working my way through a big stack of DVD documentaries I ordered when they were running COVID sales on Highspots. This one was the next one in the stack and it was made by EllBow Productions, whose wrestling documentaries have all been pretty good.

This one focuses on the Funk bros, Dory Jr. and Terry and their wrestling careers.

This starts off going through their early life, however. It talks about their upbringing and their father, who ran his own wrestling territory. It then goes into how the sons sort of took over the business but ultimately, started wrestling for other marquee promoters, becoming two of the biggest stars of their time.

The Funks also delves into their world title runs, their greatest rivalries, as well as their retirements (multiple for Terry), as well as Terry’s time in Japan.

Like many of these documentaries, this features several different wrestling personalities giving talking head interviews. These are clipped and edited in to provide a good, cohesive narrative.

Overall, the documentary flows well and it gives you a lot of good insight into these men’s lives inside and outside the ring.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by EllBow Productions or released through Highspots.

 

Documentary Review: The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior (2005)

Release Date: September 25th, 2005
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Music by: Jim Johnston
Cast: Ultimate Warrior (archive footage), Vince McMahon, Triple H, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Eric Bischoff, Adam “Edge” Copeland, Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho, Jim Johnston, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Steve Lombardi, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Bruce Prichard, Sgt. Slaughter, Jim Ross

WWE, 90 Minutes

Review:

“He was probably too stupid to know where he was from! Either that, or someone paid him to keep it quiet. ‘Here’s 50 bucks, don’t say you’re from Pittsburg!'” – Bobby “The Brain” Heenan [on the Warrior hailing from “Parts Unknown”]

This was a controversial documentary from a pop-culture standpoint and it is one that the WWE sort of wishes they had never made because it’s sentiment doesn’t paint one of its most popular legends in a very positive light. But I guess Vince McMahon had thin skin and a bug up his ass in 2005, which suddenly went away around 2014 when he put the Ultimate Warrior in his Hall of Fame.

That being said, when you watch The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, it actually isn’t that bad and it’s not as heavy on the bashing as one would expect based off of the historical hype surrounding it.

I did see this back in 2005 but I hadn’t really watched it since. Back then, most of the information and stories about the Ultimate Warrior were already public knowledge. What made this interesting, though, is that the stories were now told by several of his former peers, colleagues and bosses.

This is kind of a disjointed production, however, as it spends a lot of time building up the man and his career. It takes digs and soft jabs throughout but it does convey his impact on the wrestling world. In a way, this is one part career retrospective and one part tabloid.

The tabloid parts of the film surround the stories about controversy, scandal and the Ultimate Warrior just being a general douche to most people.

Was he a likable guy? Probably not. Did he do some stupid shit that was only done to serve his own ego and self-interest? Absolutely. But does he deserve the condemnation that this documentary tried so hard to manufacture? Probably not.

The thing is, this was made with a very clear agenda in mind. Hell, the agenda is in the title. So it’s kind of hard to take this too seriously, as the WWE has a track record of re-shaping history to suit Vince McMahon’s wishes. I’m not saying that people are outright lying but if you have 90 minutes of a dozen or more people sharing their worst experiences with someone, you can paint anyone out to look like a total piece of shit.

Still, this is mostly entertaining and it allowed some other legends to blow off some steam. However, it’s hardly a clear or accurate picture of who the Ultimate Warrior really was at his core.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’00s WWE documentaries.

*since a trailer is no longer available, here’s an insane Ultimate Warrior promo.

Documentary Review: Scream, Queen!: My Nightmare On Elm Street (2019)

Release Date: April 5th, 2019 (Cleveland International Film Festival)
Directed by: Roman Chimienti, Tyler Jensen
Written by: Michael Beard, Clint Catalyst, Leo Herrera, Justin Lockwood
Music by: Alexander Taylor
Cast: Mark Patton, Robert Englund, Jack Sholder, David Chaskin, Robert Rusler, Marshall Bell, Kim Myers, Clu Gulager, JoAnn Willette, Linnea Quigley

The End Productions, 99 Minutes

Review:

I was pretty excited to check this out when I first saw the trailer pop up. I’m a big fan of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise and I was probably one of the few that actually liked the second movie, before everyone else figured out how “gay” it was.

Granted, I kind of saw the film’s gay subtext for myself and despite this documentary claiming that the gay innuendo was widely known when this came out, I don’t recall many people talking about it until the late ’90s or so. Then again, I was also a young kid and didn’t reach my teen years until the ’90s, so maybe my peers were a bit behind in picking up on the cues.

Anyway, I actually thought that this was just sort of meh. I wouldn’t call this documentary a disappointment but it just didn’t live up to the hype around it and to my own excitement after first hearing about it.

I guess the thing I liked most about it was that I finally got to see what became of Mark Patton, who sort of fell off the face of the Earth for a long time because of what he perceived as backlash from this picture and because he felt that it somewhat exposed him as being gay in a time when there was still a lot of misinformation and fear of AIDS, as well as a lot of homophobia in mainstream Hollywood.

Most importantly, this really goes into Patton’s personal life, showing the viewer what hardships he went through during and after this film. I don’t want to give too much away, as this is worth watching for those who also love the Elm Street movies.

It was also cool seeing the cast of the second Elm Street movie finally reunite after all these years. It’s obvious that Patton’s cast mates cared for him and had missed him during his self-imposed exile from the business.

Overall, this was a decent piece on the man and his life but I wish it would’ve gotten more into the movie itself and actually tried to show it more as a somewhat beloved film by a small minority of Elm Street fans. It was the most bizarre and weird of the Elm Street pictures and that’s without looking at the subliminal homophobia that was written into the script.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent horror movie documentaries.

Documentary Review: 30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story (2017)

Release Date: September 20th, 2017
Directed by: Jeff Zapata, Joe Simko
Music by: Dr. Chud, Matthew Chojnacki
Cast: Art Spiegelman, John Pound, Tom Bunk, James Warhola, Adam F. Goldberg, Mackenzie Astin, various

Peel Here Productions, 114 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my queue for a long time but it was only available to buy. They recently set it for rent, so I was finally able to check it out. No offense, filmmakers and Amazon but I didn’t know if I wanted to spend like $12 on it. A few bucks for a rental, now that’s more like it. Make everything rentable.

Anyway, I was happy to see this, as I was one of those ’80s kids that spent a good few years obsessed with Garbage Pail Kids, even though they became hard to track down in my area after local parents groups caught on and got them pulled out of stores. You know, the same parents that didn’t care that their kids in the ’80s were watching slasher movies from the video store or flipping through dad’s Playboys.

I pretty much already knew the story about Garbage Pail Kids but it was neat seeing the story retold in an official documentary. Plus, this also gave some background on the creation of the Topps trading card company, as well as a lot of the other non-sports cards they produced before Garbage Pail Kids came along.

My favorite thing about this, though, was where it went into the art side of things. It went through how the Garbage Pail Kids came to be, every step of the way. It also explained the process and the reason why they made each set a certain size and the process in how cards were selected based off of dozens of concepts.

Additionally, this interviews a lot of the key people involved, including the primary artists who worked on these over the years.

After that, I really liked the section about the live-action Garbage Pail Kids movie and being enlightened as to why it was such a terrible film, pretty much destined to fail.

All in all, this was a beefy and informative piece about something I once loved and kind of still do.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about niche ’80s and ’90s stuff, as well as specific fandoms.

Documentary Review: Rock-n-Roll Never Dies: The Story of the Rock-n-Roll Express (2015)

Release Date: 2015
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Ricky Morton, Robert Gibson, Jim Cornette, various

EllBow Productions, Highspots, 117 Minutes

Review:

Watching this documentary, it kind of dawned on my that I have seen the Rock-n-Roll Express wrestle live and in person over five consecutive decades. I saw them in the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s and the ’20s after recently seeing them at NWA Hard Times back in January before this COVID spectacle put the dead stop halt on Planet Earth.

While they’ve never been my all-time favorite tag team, they are certainly pretty high up on my list and have my respect for their contributions and longevity in the wrestling business. Hell, these guys can still go and they’ve proved that the two most recent times where I was able to see them.

So I was pretty stoked when I got this three disc set, which featured the documentary I’m now reviewing, as well as two other discs packed full of bonus material, interviews and matches.

As far as the documentary goes, it was a good, solid piece that covered these guys’ long and storied careers. It even goes back to the time before they were a team, showing how each man developed their style and how they eventually came together, forever changing the business and the tag team landscape.

So many other great teams have been inspired by the pairing of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson and their effect is still felt today, even with the younger generation of wrestlers we have now, who are two-to-three generations removed from the height of the Rock-n-Roll Express’ career.

The best part about this piece, is hearing the stories that Ricky and Robert got to share about their history, as well as their takes on the business then and now.

Old school wrestling fans, especially those who loved the greatest tag team era, should thoroughly enjoy this.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by EllBoy Productions and put out by Highspots.

Documentary Review: History & Tradition: The Story of the National Wrestling Alliance (2012)

Release Date: August, 2012
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Bill Behrens, Jason Caley, Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk, Rob Kellum, Adam Pearce, Chance Prophet, Harley Race, Damien Wayne, various

Ellbow Productions, Highspots, … Minutes

Review:

I was kind of excited to watch History & Tradition: The Story of the National Wrestling Alliance because I’ve been a fan of the NWA my entire life and because I really enjoyed the recent documentaries I watched on Championship Wrestling From Florida and the one about Memphis wrestling called Memphis Heat.

Both of those other two documentaries were top notch but this one felt like it was a step down.

The main reason for that is due to this mostly being comprised of clips from various shoot interviews that were cut up and re-edited into this. Now many of the documentaries offered at Highspots are done in the same way but for whatever reason, this one felt more sporadic in how it told its stories and it just didn’t have enough material with the people that were there.

Granted, they had to work with what they had but I feel like this could’ve been a much better film had they got interviews that were specifically shot for this feature. Sometimes this spliced together stuff works and sometimes it misses its mark.

Now I can’t say that it entirely misses its mark, as there is still a lot here to take in and digest. It also delves into all the eras of the NWA that predate the current one.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by Ellbow Productions and put out by Highspots.