Documentary Review: Portrait: Orson Welles (1968)

Release Date: June, 1968
Directed by: François Reichenbach, Frédéric Rossif
Written by: Maurice Bessy, François Reichenbach, Frédéric Rossif
Cast: Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Pierre Vaneck (narrator)

41 Minutes

Review:

Orson Welles has always fascinated me. Well, at least since I learned about him extensively in my high school film studies course.

Luckily, there are a ton of biographies and documentaries about the man and his work.

This documentary is unique though, as it was made for French television in the ’60s. I guess it didn’t actually air and was sort of lost to time and only resurfaced after being included in a Criterion Collection featuring some of Welles’ work.

The short film doesn’t play like a standard biographical documentary, though. It really just follows Welles around a bit, talking about his struggles in getting his art made, while also editing in some clips of Welles interviews.

This is a pretty up close and personal peek into Welles’ life at the time that this was made and honestly, it feels kind of like a time capsule.

While I wouldn’t call this a spectacular piece or the best of the many Welles documentaries, it is still worth a look for those who feel like they may want to see the man, as himself, more intimately.

I also couldn’t find a trailer for this short ’60s documentary, probably because one doesn’t exist, so I instead posted one of my favorite Welles scenes of all-time.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Orson Welles documentaries, which there are plenty of.

Documentary Review: Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (2008)

Release Date: July 24th, 2008 (Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival)
Directed by: Frank H. Woodward
Cast: Ramsey Campbell, John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, Neil Gaiman, Stuart Gordon, S. T. Joshi, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Andrew Migliore, Robert M. Price, Peter Straub

Wyrd, 24 Frames, BintFilm, 90 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t know if there was a good documentary on H.P. Lovecraft but I felt like I wanted to watch one, so I found this. Luckily enough for all those who are interested, it is streaming for free on YouTube. Granted, that could change at any moment.

What’s great about this is that it is a pretty legit and well produced documentary. It features several notable people between Neil Gaiman, Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Peter Straub and others.

This goes through all the motions like you’d expect it to, as it discusses Lovecraft’s childhood, the things that shaped him and then it delves deep into his work and what it meant to people, primarily those being interviewed.

Overall, this is pretty standard, even though it definitely doesn’t feel like some hastily thrown together extra for a random horror box set. It’s a documentary created to stand on its own and it does quite well.

All of the interviewees did a good job providing stories, context and discussing how Lovecraft has influenced their creations.

It’s definitely worth checking out for fans of Lovecraft’s work, the stories he’s inspired or even just his film adaptations like Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon and more.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: H.P. Lovecraft film adaptations, as well as other documentaries about great literary figures.

Book Review: ‘Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko’ by Blake Bell

Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko reminds me a lot of another book I recently read and reviewed: Kirby: King of Comics.

Both books are very artistically driven with lots of pictures and pages upon pages featuring the men’s artwork over their careers but they also serve as proper biographies that delve into their personal lives but more importantly into their legendary runs at the major American comic book publishing companies.

Before reading this, I thought I knew quite a bit about Steve Ditko but this is so full of information that almost all of it was new. Frankly, it’s a great read if you care about the man behind the great work.

Ditko was an interesting guy, who had his own views on the world that often times had him at odds with publishers and the business world in general. This does a fine job of going through all the highs and lows of the man’s life and career.

If you are a Ditko fan and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be, this is certainly worth a read. Heck, even if you don’t read it and want to flip through it, admiring the man’s art, it’s still worth the cover price.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other books on comic books legends.

TV Review: Road to the NHL Stadium Series – Sharks v. Kings (2015)

Original Run: February, 2015
Written by: Aaron Cohen
Cast: Bill Camp (narrator)

Ross Greenberg Productions, EPIX, 4 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

This four-part documentary series is a sister program to EPIX’s Road to the NHL Winter Classic.

Where the Road to the NHL Winter Classic followed the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals, this documentary series follows the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, who are bitter rivals. The fact that the Sharks and Kings hate each other is what added a bit more credence and excitement to what was at stake in this documentary.

In recent years, the Kings have won two Stanley Cups and a lot of bragging rights. The San Jose Sharks have spent a decade or so as a real contender for the Cup but have fallen just short on a number of occasions. Many times, it has been at the hands of the hated Kings.

This series follows many of the key players on both teams, as well as the coaches and gives an intimate view of the behind the scenes stuff that most fans aren’t privy to. It tells the story, in their words, and is beautifully shot and edited – following the precedent set by the Road to the NHL Winter Classic.

All of this builds up to the big crescendo, which is the Sharks and Kings fighting it out on the ice in a Stadium Series game. For those who don’t know, the Stadium Series is comprised of outdoor hockey games held in massive venues. In this case, they played at Levi Stadium in San Francisco, CA.

If you are a hockey fan or just a fan of sports documentaries, this is a pretty unique series to watch. It plays like a second season of the Road to the NHL Winter Classic but its cast of characters and story is its own. And like its predecessor, you can check it out on Netflix streaming.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other EPIX NHL documentary series.

 

TV Review: Road to the NHL Winter Classic – Blackhawks v. Capitals (2014)

Original Run: December, 2014
Written by: Aaron Cohen
Cast: Bill Camp (narrator)

Ross Greenberg Productions, EPIX, 4 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

To ring in the most recent Winter Classic event put on by the National Hockey League, EPIX ran a four-part one hour documentary series called Road to the NHL Winter Classic. Unfortunately, I don’t have EPIX but I was able to catch this a few months later, as it is currently streaming on Netflix.

The documentary series follows the two teams involved in the big event: the home team Washington Capitals and the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. It goes through their recent history and chronicles the first few months of their season – leading up to the big event. The fourth and final part of the documentary covers the big game itself, the result of it and a bit of aftermath. It is certainly worth checking out if you are a hockey fan, especially if you are a Capitals or Blackhawks fan.

The series gives a nice look into the personal lives of coaches Joel Quenneville (Blackhawks) and Barry Trotz (Capitals). It also follows a lot of the key players on both sides of the equation. It shows an inside view of both organizations and hockey as a whole. It is nice seeing some of these guys in roles other than just warriors on the ice.

Road to the NHL Winter Classic is well shot, well edited and presented nicely. I actually hope it is the start of more NHL documentary projects. Other sports need to step their game up because NFL Films has been ruling the roost for decades.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other EPIX NHL documentary series.

TV Review: NWA Ten Pounds of Gold (2017- )

Original Run: 2017 – current
Created by: William Patrick Corgan
Directed by: David Lagana
Cast: Tim Storm, Nick Aldis, Cody Rhodes, Eli Drake, James Storm, Marty Scurll, Billy Corgan, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes (archive footage)

A Lightning One Production, 59 Episodes (so far), Minutes Vary Greatly (per episode)

Review:

As a lifelong wrestling fan, WWE is kind of dead to me. Over the years, I kept watching it because it was the only thing that was regularly accessible. And every few years I’d get excited about new signees like Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka or Finn Bálor only to see them misused and wasted because Vince McMahon is an out of touch old man.

However, as of late, things have changed. We now have AEW, as a legit alternative. But in the shadows, a once great wrestling promotion has been building steam and making an impact once again and that company is the WWE’s once greatest rival: the National Wrestling Alliance.

With just a few marquee events and only a few episodes of their new YouTube series NWA Powerrr under their belt, they are making real waves and have reignited my love for professional wrestling and not “sports entertainment”.

I immediately fell in love with Powerrr just two weeks ago but it made me want to support the company as much as I can. So I picked up their Ten Pounds of Gold DVD, which is a three disc set of their reality YouTube series that follows the journey of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship and the men who possess it and fight over it.

This series has been streaming on YouTube since 2017 and I’ve checked out episodes, here and there. However, seeing them in order and now as a complete body of work, this is a really awesome series for fans of old school wrestling.

This primarily focuses on the journeys of Tim Storm, Nick Aldis and Cody Rhodes but it also features a ton of great wrestlers and other personalities with lots of commentary and input from the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, the owner of the NWA since 2017.

If you miss the days of old territory wrestling or the era where it felt like it was actually a sport that was dominated by manly men and not kamikaze millennials trying to emulate better wrestlers before them, than this is definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries.

Documentary Review: Shadowing the Third Man (2004)

Release Date: October 11th, 2004
Directed by: Frederick Baker
Written by: Frederick Baker
Cast: John Hurt (narrator)

Media Europe, NHK, BBC, 95 Minutes

Review:

The Third Man is a movie that I discovered fairly recently but it instantly became one of my favorites. I couldn’t get enough of it, honestly, and I watched it three times over the course of a month.

So when I came across this documentary about the film, I had to check it out. This is streaming on the Criterion Channel for those of you interested in watching it.

This goes into great depth about the film, looking at how it was made, as well as being a love letter to Vienna and the iconic locations where the film was shot.

What’s really cool about this, is that it shows you the same locations in Vienna now, in modern times. Not much has changed in these locations but it’s really neat seeing them in full color, compared to the shots of the film.

This documentary is narrated by the great John Hurt and he adds a certain bit of eloquence to the presentation, as he guides the viewer through this film’s genesis, it’s execution and the impact it had after its release.

Another great thing about this film is that it shows interviews with most of the key people involved in the film. The stuff featuring Orson Welles is compelling stuff.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The Third Man and any Carol Reed or Orson Welles film.