Film Rec: Universal Horror (1998)

OK, technically it's a TV movie, but I'll let it slide this time and punish myself later. Film Rec: Universal Horror (1998) Riddle me this, readers: do you know how hard it is to make an interesting talking head documentary about film? Do you? It's archival film footage and the old people who were young when it was shot. That's a challenge. Universal Horror pulls it off. The made for TV documentary presents an expansive history of the first wave of Universal Monster Movies leading into WWII. Instead of just rolling the highlights of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, they go into the history of the directors. Who influenced them? What films did they steal from? How did Universal fuck them over? Same with the actors, as well. Apparently, in 1997/6/8/when this was shot, many of the leading ladies of these classics were still alive, providing a welcome insider perspective to the habits of your Lon Chaney Jr.-s and Bela Lugosi-s. What Universal Horror does is present a story about the history of film in a way that feels like a story. There are twists and turns, colossal successes and unexpected disasters, and side plots of who hated who and who did what to which person and why did Bela not got this part but a total unknown did (poor Bela, always the bridesmaid, never the bride until Tim Burton made a biopic on Ed Wood). They even go into some of the lesser known properties, like The Black Cat and the Spanish-language Dracula shot at night on the same set as the English Dracula. Chiller TV is probably playing this sucker all month. Give it a try if you can. I know I learned a lot and had fun learning. That's the sign of a well crafted documentary.

Labels: film rec