Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Doc You Meant Harry’s

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.


  1. Very nice roundup, Matt! I'm a film genre doc lover who has not seen these so I'm excited about getting my hands on them.

  2. I think I like docs about movies, as much as movies themselves! All of them are great and I totally suggest checking them out.

  3. Of those, I've only seen Not Quite Hollywood. I need to check out the others as I've heard quite a bit about all of them.

  4. Nice one Matt! Great tips.

  5. Heavenz: Not Quite Hollywood is the best of the bunch, but they are all very solid and cover a variety of film. Definitely worth checking out!

    Bjoernar: Thanks man! Hope you get a chance to check some of them out!

  6. I really liked "Z Channel" & "Not Quite Hollywood". I'm sure I would enjoy the others you mentioned. Love a good doc!!

  7. A great list of docs that I need to see. If only there was so much time in the day!

    The Not Quite Hollywood I've been following for awhile now and have heard nothing but good things.

    All of these appeal to my trashy taste in cinema!

  8. Those two are so great and very different from one another. If you are not into Hammer films or Blaxploitation, then you might not like those ones, but you might enjoy Schlock though.

    POT: You will love Not Quite might want to have a note pad and pen ready for all the cool looking films they feature in it!

  9. Great docs--I've seen them all but the first two, which also sound really interesting. Not Quite Hollywood would be my favorite--those Aussies made some damn fine exploitation and the doc covers most of the great ones very well.

  10. Yeah, Flesh and Blood and Schlock are really good and both cover their subjects very well...definitely give 'em a look when you can. And NQH is such a great doc, and one that I will probably watch many, many times again.

  11. This is a FANTASTIC post, Matt! I am excited to check out all of these.

    Did you ever catch the American Nightmare documentary from a few years ago? They broke down the horror genre/films in a great political and sociological context. Very good stuff!

  12. Somehow I havent heard of any of these, I appreciate the heads up, nothing better than a good film documentary!!

  13. Oh shit, I didn't even know you left this comment, Chris! Sorry man, I wasn't neglecting you! Glad you dug the post and hope you get to check out some of these docs at some point.

    American Nightmare sounds and looks familiar, so I probably watched it, especially if it was an IFC production. I can't remember a thing about it though, so there is a chance I didn't see it. My memory sucks! I'll have to check it out though and thanks for the recommendation!

    Carl: They're all worth checking out, Carl and the first I would suggest for you in Not Quite Hollywood. Some great horror stuff in that movie and even the non-horror stuff is very odd and off kilter!


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