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The Creep Behind the Camera (2014)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/12/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/5/2017
There was a time when documentaries were judged based almost solely on their subject matter. If the filmmakers had chosen to cover a compelling story, and they held the camera steady, then a documentary would be a winner. But, somewhere along the way, someone decided that documentaries needed style. Suddenly, the story was taking a backseat to "clever" editing in which the events were no longer told in chronological order and "creative" cutaways were employed to make things more interesting. The result was a crop of documentaries which usually squandered a great subject by trying to be too crafty. Well, you can add The Creep Behind the Camera to that list.
The Creep Behind the Camera focuses on the making of the 1964 monster movie The Creeping Terror, which is considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. Art Nelson AKA AJ Nelson AKA Vic Savage has two passions -- the ladies and movies. He is determined to make not just a movie, but the greatest monster movie ever made. He hires Allan Sillphant, whose brother writes for television, to write a story for the movie. He hires Jon Lacky to build the monster (which looks like a giant carpet). He convinces local business man William Thourlby to invest in the movie. In the meantime, he marries Lois Wiseman, a woman who is much younger than him. When he's not abusing Lois, Art/Vic is on-set wooing the actresses, mumbling to himself, and frustrating the crew. Once Art/Vic had the components to make his movie, it's like he lost interest in doing so. Meanwhile, his behavior becomes more and more erratic and he finds himself in debt to many people.
I've never seen The Creeping Terror, but I've heard of the film and seen it on some "Worst Ever" lists. (The look of the monster and the fact that the actors were clearly pushing themselves into it as they were being "eaten" is always mentioned.) However, I knew nothing about the making of the film, which is absolutely fascinating. Art Nelson wasn't driven, a factor which we've seen in many artists. No, he was crazy. His erratic behavior and the way in which he treats others is truly shocking, especially his actions towards women. We then have his complete lack of understanding of how movies are made and the way in which he took Silliphant's story and made it as cheap looking as possible. Beyond that, we have mesmerizing things like the fact that none other than Charles Manson was involved in the making of the movie. This is Hollywood craziness at its best.
For The Creep Behind the Camera, Director Pete Schuermann has managed to arrange interviews with many people who were involved with the film, including Lois Wiseman and six-time Oscar winner Richard Edlund, who did title design on the film. These individuals share anecdotes about the production, but they mainly talk about how weird Nelson was. However, Schuermann has decided to make these interviews only a small part of the movie. Instead, he's opted to focus on dramatizations of the events in Nelson's life. (His excuse for this is that there was no on-set footage from the movie to use.) So, The Creep Behind the Camera is comprised from some interviews, a few clips from The Creeping Terror, and a lot of recreations featuring a guy who looks like Bill Paxton's brother playing Nelson. Yes, these scenes tell the story, but they aren't compelling. We are treated to the incredibly ironic presentation of a low-budget movie telling the story of a low-budget movie. The dramatizations drag the running time out to nearly two hours and some of the more bizarre moments don't have any sort of accompanying corroboration to let us know if they are true. The story of Art Nelson/Vic Savage and the doomed project which was The Creeping Terror certainly needs to be told, but it needs to be done in a much more straight-forward manner than this.
The Creep Behind the Camera could have found a more convincing Charles Manson on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Synapse Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The dramatizations and the interviews are very sharp and clear, showing on grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors are particularly good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is also impressive. The clips from The Creeping Terror show notable grain and a distinct amount of softness. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The tack provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get a few moments here where there are discernible surround sound effects and some nicely detailed stereo effects. The music sounds fine and it never overpowers the actors. I don't remember noting any distinct subwoofer effects.
The Creep Behind the Camera Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. The first, and most important, is we get The Creeping Terror in its entirety. It's framed at 1.33:1 and it shows some minor defects from the source materials, but it's certain watchable. We get an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Pete Schuermann, Producer Nancy Theken and stars Josh Phillips & Jodi Lynn Thomas. "The Making of The Creep Behind the Camera" (26 minutes) opens with a visit to a screening of the film and then dives into the film's production. We hear from the filmmakers, who attempt to justify their dramatizations, and we see them conducting the interviews. (Which is oddly redundant.) "How to Build a Carpet Monster" (28 minutes) takes us into the studio to see how the monster was built for the re-creations. "Breaking Down Art's Death Scene" (7 minutes) takes us on-set to see the burial being done. "Monster Movie Homages" (1 minute) has Schumer breaking down some Easter Eggs in the movie. "One Mick to Another" (5 minutes) has Byrd Holland and Allan Silliphant talking about their work on the film. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 12 minutes, as well as an ALTERNATE ENDING (2 minutes). "Screamfest Black Carpet Q&A" (19 minutes) has the cast and filmmakers answering questions after a screening. The extras are rounded out by two TRAILERS.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long