I watch a pretty good amount of documentaries and I love all types, but lately, I have been on a bit of a tear with the amount of film related docs I’ve watched. I LOVE documentaries about movies, whether it be about one film in particular, a film series, or my personal favorite, docs about film genres. Here is a list and a few quick thoughts on the ones I have seen in the last two or three months.
Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror
1994 - Directed by Ted Newsom - 100 min
Hammer has a truly rich history and one that spans a long time and this documentary covers a lot of that history. Filled with a ton of great interview by many involved with the studio and the films themselves, and it’s narrated by Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, there is a lot to be learned from Flesh and Blood. Being a Hammer production, there are a lot of wonderful photos, film clips, and old behind the scenes footage to be seen, however, being 16 years old, the doc already feels very dated. Another issue is what seems to be low production values, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt the movie overall as the content itself is just top notch and a must for fans of Hammer.
Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies
2001 – Directed by Ray Greene - 89 min
Focusing on the early stages of Exploitation cinema, this documentary covers the independent Sexploitation movies from the 50’s and 60’s. It’s really cool seeing these early films that would kick off a completely different type of cinema, and there is a lot to be learned about genres like Nudies, Roughies, and right on up to the Gore films of Hershel Gordon Lewis. There are some great interviews with Doris Wishman, Roger Corman, Vampira, plus plenty more and the film is pretty well put together. If you are a fan of Exploitation cinema, this is a must as these are the film that paved the way for what many fans know of as more modern Exploitation films.
Z Channel - A Magnificent Obsession
2004 – Directed by Alexandra Cassavetes - 120 min
Launched in 1974, Z channel was one of the countries very first pay cable channels predating even HBO. This was a channel that showed many art house, foreign, and underrated films often letterboxed and even directors cuts were shown. Z Channel is a great mix of real life drama and movie documentary as it focuses on the stations head programmer, Jerry Harvey who had a love and passion for film unlike anyone else. With that love, came a channel that showed films that were not shown anywhere else, or seen by many people beforehand. However, Harvey had major psychological issues that resulted in the murder of his wife and his own suicide. This is a fantastic look into a history of cinema I knew absolutely nothing about and as a film connoisseur, there is much to learn. The human drama elevates this film to a different level and adds a lot of emotional investment to this wonderful documentary.
Baadasssss Cinema - A Bold Look at 70's Blaxploitation Films
2003 – Directed by Isaac Julien - 58 min
And no, despite the title, it’s not about sheep, or donkeys, but this one is about Blaxploitation movies. I actually just watched this one the other night, completely forgetting I had already seen it a few times before on IFC. It is an IFC production and is a very basic introduction to the genre and what it meant, along with the impact it had on the black community and cinema in general. It is perfect for anyone new to the genre, but it doesn’t go all that deep into the films that came out, mostly the basics. There are a ton of great interviews with Tarantino, Pam Grier, Melvin Van Peebles, and Fred Williamson to name a few. IFC makes a lot of docs like this and while I wish they were longer and a little deeper into the genres they covered, they are perfect for anyone looking to learn about a type of film they have little to no knowledge about. Whether or not I know most of what is covered, I still enjoy watching it anyways.
Not Quite Hollywood
2008 – Directed by Mark Hartley - 103 min
Covering the Exploitation/Horror boom from Australia during the 70’s and 80’s, there are a lot of movies to be learned about with this one. Just when you think you know it all, something like Not Quite Hollywood comes along and introduces a slew of films never before heard about and it covers all of the aspects of the film industry in Australia at the time. While I really like and/or love all of these documentaries I am talking about here, this one is by far the best of the bunch. I’m surprised it’s under two hours because the wealth of cinema covered is vast and there are so many great interviews with actors, filmmakers, and of course, Tarantino. To top things off, this is one of the most incredibly produced documentaries I have ever seen and there was a lot of work put in to make it look as good as the content. Phenomenal and yet again, another must see.
Between all of these documentaries, there is a whole lot to learn about cult and midnight cinema and if you have not seen anyone of these, then certainly check them out. So worth your time and Not Quite Hollywood and Z Channel are both on Netflix instant view right now. I’d love to hear what you all love for horror/film docs…there are a whole lot of them out there and while I have seen my fair share, I always seem to find something new to learn from.