The public remains fascinated with seeing behind the scenes. Problem is that many of the special features you get on a disc or online are such dull puff pieces. These, however, are much more fascinating than cast and crew members sitting in a chair and delivering platitudes about their project.
10. Dangerous Days/Blade Runner
While Blade Runner’s status as a highly influential classic remains secure, it’s lack of a “fun” protagonist and visceral thrills means it tends to be more respected than enjoyed. This documentary however is so thorough in its four hours and so well done that it will simultaneously boost even the fan’s appreciation of the movie while exceeding it. It’s detailed and analytical. One of the most interesting parts is a jaw-removing alternate opening with full storyboards. There are also such insights into the production design as the curious notion that fire hydrants would be replaced with outlets for electric cars. It’s also candid about the movie’s flaws, especially regarding the flubbed stunt scene and the inconsistent lighting during the climax. Also there’s when Harrison Ford summarizes shooting the experience by saying “it was a b***h.”
9. Burden of Dreams/Fitzcarraldo
Werner Herzog’s 1982 story of a crazed man trying to bring Opera to the jungle and being forced to haul a boat over a mountain is also considered a classic, but reviewers such as Roger Ebert have cited Les Blank’s film about the production as being better (he describes Fitzcarraldo as being overlong and meandering.) It’s helped immensely by that fact Herzog is a fascinating man and that the production was threatened by a Peruvian civil war, extreme physical demands, recasting crucial parts, volatile cast members, and basically being four years of torture. One monologue Herzog gives against romanticizing nature is more memorable than all the dialogue and almost all the images in his movie.
8. Full Tilt Boogie/From Dusk Till Dawn
From Dusk Till Dawn is a rather polarizing 1996 combination of Quentin Tarantino’s 90’s crime stories and action/horror. While all of its forced coolness and shift in tone will turn many off to it, they might get a bit more out of Sarah Kelly’s feature length documentary. Hearing actor’s discuss the craft in ways that vary from Juliette Lewis stating bluntly “an actor is a paid liar” to Harvey Keitel’s sincere if convoluted speech about how acting is like storytelling paints an interesting picture of the cast. Another nice bit is when shots of George Clooney clowning around from a distance shown on some Hollywood rumor mill show with loud, pulsing techno are contrasted with the quiet, somewhat laid back atmosphere on the set.
7. Project Greenlight Season 1/Stolen Summer
Following the tradition of maudlin movies where two kids become friends and one has to die by the end, Stolen Summer is a 2002 movie regarded as junk by critics and as just above average by audiences. But Project Greenlight, the show devoted to making it, was exceptional among reality television. There are such amusing moments as line producer Jeff Balis saying of the anachronistic cars visible through the windows “maybe we should throw in a line like ‘look at all those cars from the future!’” or producer Chris Moore bluntly calling the same shoot “retarded.” A sequence where director Pete Jones struggles to get a scene of the child actor to swim out to a buoy for climax of the film. Up to that point, Jones has been a highly sympathetic character, and him having to engage in borderline child abuse to get the shots he needs for his dream project is very poignant.
6. American Movie/Coven
Chris Smith’s Grand Jury Prize Winner from the 1999 Sundance Film Festival made such a star out of subjects Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank that they were featured on Late Show with David Letterman and on Family Guy in 2006. This was helped immensely by the fact the movie is painfully funny (on the commentary track for it, Borchardt says of himself “I’m in my own little world” in response to another speech) and so very sad. The movie that is being made in it, Coven, turns out to not have been worth all the trouble. The writer protagonist is uncompelling and whiny and the plot flat and repetitive with numerous characters that get a bit of screen time, one line, and have no impact on the story. Frankly, the fact it’s about implying that Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are actually evil, insidious organizations says something worrying about Borchardt’s mindset at the time. The fact his latest project, Scare Me, is about another writer being surrounded by evil forces seems to indicate he hasn’t moved on much.
5. Project Greenlight Season 2/The Battle of Shaker Heights
Reeling from what a complete bomb Stolen Summer was and apparently wanting more drama for the 2003 season, this time producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are went along with an idea that there should be writer contestant and a director contestant. The resulting movie, about a teen from a dysfunctional family with a WW2 reenactment hobby, ended up as cheesy as the screenwriter described it. Behind the scenes, while all the flailing about is interesting (particularly the father character being cast at the very last minute) and the pair of director brothers are amusing guys, the most compelling figure is Shia LaBeouf. The scene where he keeps flubbing his lines and yells “F***ing horses, ALL OVER ME… and they’re running.” is hysterical.
4. Hotel Torgo/”Manos” Hands of Fate
Admittedly, outdoing notorious 1966 trainwreck Manos is no great feat, but Hotel Torgo is still a very decent look behind the scenes, even if it is for one of the worst movies ever released to theaters. Most of the information in it comes courtesy Bernie Rosenblum, who was an all purpose crew member (and the only surviving one) in addition to appearing on camera in a high profile, worthless part. His stories about filming while lying on a table while filming actresses and excuse for why the shot goes out of focus is both unrepeatable here and not to be missed. It also presents the novel notion that there’s such a thing as a “Manos Historian.”
3. 30 Days in Hell/The Devil’s Rejects
While certainly a grimy movie from 2005 with some defenders, The Devil’s Rejects is also painfully derivative and a bit too winking to be as horrifying or involving as it attempts. This 145 minute feature accompanying it, by contrast, is really exceptional. Hearing Bill Mosley complain about how having to do a simulated near-rape scene is bumming him out is quite memorable. Writer-Director Robert Cumming’s odd combination of arrogance and humility is endearing in ways that go a long way to making him more likable than his project.
2. Overnight/The Boondock Saints
One of the biggest cult films of the 90’s and the one of the most hated, The Boondock Saints deals with a couple of extremely Catholic vigilantes providing vicarious violence against criminals. Overnight presents Troy Duffy letting a lucky break get to his head and becoming quite arrogant (Duffy insists for obvious reasons that this was manipulated by the filmmakers, though exactly how is unclear.) So much so that he rubs his decisions to go to business meetings in overalls in people’s faces and alienates everyone around him with money grubbing and insults. He’s much more compelling than his film. Be ready for the fact much of it looks like it was shot with consumer grade cameras, and for the fact there’s only a few minutes actually devoted to
1. Best Worst Movie/Troll 2
Okay, imagine Italian filmmakers who barely speak English coming to Utah and making a movie about a family that fall into the clutches of goblins that want to turn them into plants and eat them. 1990’s Troll 2 is even weirder than that makes it sound, and produces some weird, unintentionally hilarious and notorious bits, such as this viral video. Best Worst Movie is about showcasing the movie’s cult following and better acquainting the audience with the cast and crew of crazies. What makes it better than a normal puff piece is how it shows how, through excessively quoting the movie, living in the past George Hardy begins doing towards the end, the sheen will come off something like a camp classic really quickly.