REVIEW: TIGER KING

Joe Exotic in Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)Tiger King, a new Netflix docuseries resulting from a five-year odyssey that fully earns the term wild, started, perhaps surprisingly, in the reptile world. In 2014, Eric Goode, a film-maker and longtime conservationist, was looking into a notorious snake dealer in south Florida when a stranger mentioned, off-hand, “check out what I just bought”. There’s a collective “oh shit” when he slides open his van to reveal a snow leopard resting in a cage, in 100F heat. “It just blew my mind: what is a snow leopard doing in the back of this guy’s van?” Goode says early in episode one. “That set me on this journey to really understand what is going on with people keeping big cats in this country.”If only it stayed that simple. Over the next five years (and seven 45-minute episodes), Goode and co-director Rebecca Chaiklin followed the thread of private big cat ownership in the US – a disturbing if fascinating topic in and of itself – down a rabbit hole including, in no particular order: a murder-for-hire plot of a rival big cat owner, a theory that said owner fed her millionaire husband to tigers (there’s no evidence to support this, though the husband’s children from a previous marriage have aired the claim in local media), a guru-led harem based around an exotic animal park in Myrtle Beach, an accidental gun death and a federal sentence for animal abuse. That’s aside from the astounding fact that there are more privately owned tigers in the US (somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000) than in the wild (fewer than 4,000), kept as pets or in side-of-the-highway wildlife menageries.But all that comes later, as Goode and Chaiklin follow the descent of one of the most notorious tiger owners in the US: Joe Maldonado-Passage, professionally known as Joe Exotic, who ran a 16-acre private zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, with dozens of tigers, plus lions, bears and alligators. The film-makers first learned of Joe, an attention-loving eccentric with a bleached mullet, piercings and a penchant for leopard-print outfits, through Carole Baskin, operator of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, and Joe’s philosophical opposite. She had “a hitlist of ‘bad guys’”, recalled Chaiklin via email. “And Joe was her No 1 bad guy” as a prominent breeder of tigers for “cub petting”, a cottage industry in which people pay for photos with baby tigers, which grow to be unmanageable after about 12 weeks and are then frequently discarded, mistreated or euthanized. “Carole was completely obsessed with Joe, which naturally made us quite curious about him,” said Chaiklin. They reached out, and soon were filming in Wynnewood, about an hour north of the Texas border.Joe loved the publicity (“Joe loved being on camera more than just about anything,” said Chaiklin), his husbands (of which there have been several, sometimes overlapping, throughout the series’s five-year timeline), and his YouTube and TV channels. But he hated Baskin, who he accused of feeding her husband to tigers in the late 1990s and who had successfully petitioned malls across the country from hosting his cub petting shows. “The feud between Carole and Joe and their obsession with each other was quite comedic at first – it had a very best in show feeling to it,” said Chaiklin. But there was no end to the escalation – as documented in the show’s early episodes, Joe frequently and crudely mocked Baskin in his broadcasts, threatening to set venomous snakes on her and even shooting a dummy of her in the head.And then, in September 2018, in the middle of the Tiger King project, he was arrested on charges of hiring two hitmen to kill Baskin. “This story is a film-maker’s dream in how it evolved narratively,” said Chaiklin. “However, when you spend a lot of time filming with people, you get to know them quite well. So on a human level it was quite difficult to process some of the unexpected twists it took.” Some of Joe’s commentary in the series is taped from jail phone calls; in January 2020, he was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for the Baskin plot and various wildlife violations.Still, Joe Exotic’s fall from self-proclaimed Tiger King to prison is but one of several absurd threads in the series, in part because the world of big cat ownership in the US is isolated, unregulated and propagated by cults of personality. “All of these characters check out of mainstream life,” said Goode via email. “They have created their own individual universes – little ‘utopias’ – along with their own set of rules, which ultimately was Joe’s greatest downfall.” For example, Goode and Chaiklin interview Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, a polygamous, guru-styled owner of Myrtle Beach Safari who has been accused by a former longtime employee of running a cult, and by Joe Exotic of euthanizing tiger cubs once they outgrow petting (he has denied these accusations; his compound was raided by federal agents in December 2019); Jeff Lowe, a former Joe Exotic business partner and con artist who took over and dismantled the Wynnewood zoo; and Tim Stark, a former Lowe partner and private zoo owner in southern Indiana who is also under investigation for animal cruelty. And that’s not even getting into the staff and associates of each.Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)It’s easy to see how Goode and Chaiklin obtained too much material over five years on this story – there’s a miniseries on Antle’s compound alone – but the most gutting and dramatic thread remains the shadow trade of wild animals in the US. “I’ve been in this exotic animal world for a long time, and I wanted to expose the exploitation and the suffering of these cats,” said Goode. In typical American fashion, regulation of the ownership of big cats such as tigers and lions is scant and confusing, varying state by state or even county by county. States such as Oklahoma have almost no regulations. “In some places there are more regulations on keeping a pet dog than a pet tiger,” said Chaiklin. “It’s not dissimilar to guns – you can buy an AR-15 in Oklahoma and you can buy a tiger in Oklahoma easily,” said Goode of an unwillingness of state and federal governments to wade into private wildlife regulations. A federal bill to impose much stricter rules on private ownership of big cats, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, has not passed Congress.Joe Exotic in Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)It’s clear, even after just an hour of Tiger King, that there’s an intoxicating allure to big cats – a force that draws visitors to lucrative private zoos, turns keepers into fanatics and beckons viewers deeper and deeper into what can seem like an alternate reality. In Tiger King, reality is stranger than fiction and the characters larger than life, their morality, and culpability in Joe Exotic’s fall, is up to viewer discretion. “I hope we have told this story in such a way that the audience will arrive to their own conclusions,” said Goode, while “ultimately … recognizing that the real victims in this story are the cats”.

 

REVIEW: PROP CULTURE – SEASON 1

Prop Culture (2020)

Featuring

Dan Lanigan
Erin Andrews (That’s My Boy)
Brian Henson (Labyrinth)
Joel Hodgson (Mystery Science Theater 3000)
Kathleen Turner (Serial Mom)

 

Prop Culture (2020)n the old days of Hollywood, movie props weren’t cherished or saved. Once a production was finished shooting, a lot of props were either thrown out, repurposed, or lost somewhere along the way. As time went on, people began to hold items from their favorite movies in high regard, and movie props became treasured artifacts. Today, movie props are some of the most expensive collector’s items out there, often selling for hundreds to thousands of dollars at auction.Prop Culture (2020)That brings us to a new Disney+ documentary series called Prop Culture, which follows film historian and prop collector Dan Lanigan as he tracks down movie props from some of Disney’s most iconic films over the years. Like a kid in a candy store, Lanigan travels around the United States, meeting filmmakers, actors, production crew members, and fellow collectors so he can either see a rare item from Disney’s film history, or show one off for a sentimental reunion and fascinating conversation about movies ranging from Mary Poppins to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.Prop Culture (2020)Prop Culture takes cues from documentary shows like Toy Hunter and Comic Book Men, but the production quality is much more sleek and it packs much more of an emotional punch with a swell of respect for the items from Disney’s history that are in the spotlight. Each episode focuses on a different movie with eight episodes comprising the first season: Mary Poppins, TRON, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and The Muppet Movie.Prop Culture (2020)For each film, several different props and costumes are highlighted, and host Dan Lanigan takes the time to talk to the people who either came up with the idea, created the prop themselves, or played the character to whom the items belonged. This result is a fascinating trip through movie history with plenty of memories attached to them. It’s surprising just how many people embrace a particular item or wardrobe piece by calling it an “old friend” and giving it a hug or a loving touch.Prop Culture (2020)This series is for true movie nerds who like to know anything and everything behind the scenes of their favorite Disney movies. Every episode has surprising and compelling bits of trivia, from directors, costume designers, special effects artists, visual effects artists, puppeteers, animators, archivists, composers, and more. While getting their first-hand account of the making of these movies never gets old, you get to spend so much time looking at these props and costumes. As the camera lingers on every nook and cranny of these objects, you get a new appreciation for the detail that went into them, especially when filmmakers and crew members reveal details you don’t get to see on-screen. These items are treated like real treasures. The episode about Mary Poppins highlights how difficult it is to find any items from the movie because of how props were treated back in the 1960s. That’s why people like actress Karen Dotrice (who played Jane Banks) and choreographer Dee Dee Wood (who worked on the chimney sweep song-and-dance sequence) get emotional when they encounter things like one of Jane’s costumes and a chimney sweep brush.Not everyone looks back on movies with reverence in these episodes though. The TRON episode in particular makes it seem as if director Steven Lisberger is rather jaded after the movie bombed at the box office, feeling rather disconnected from the film’s legacy. But as Lisberger digs through boxes that he haphazardly keeps in a yurt on his property, he starts to light up and remember the passion and innovation that came from working on the movie. The best episodes are the ones that assemble key cast members to interact with the props they used during the making of these movies. Bruce Boxleitner is humbled to see TRON‘s suit from the early 1980s, the kids from Chronicles of Narnia are overjoyed to see their weapons and costumes, each still having specific memories from making that movie nearly 20 years ago, as well as details that only they would know about them. For example, the liquid in Lucy Pevensie’s potion bottle in Chronicles of Narnia was strawberry flavored.Maybe the best example of how great Prop Culture can be comes from the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids episode when the kids themselves are reunited with what’s left of the helpful ant, Antie. That episode also features a delightfully surprising and rare on-camera appearance by Rick Moranis, which is extremely satisfying. Plus, it also ventures outside of the typical Prop Culture formula by having a restoration done on the shrinking machine. Outside of the sentimentality of these moments, the fascinating trivia from this series is also a big part of what makes it so enjoyable. You’ll marvel at stop motion puppet creators Phil Tippett and David Sosalla showing off their puppets from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. You’ll be mesmerized by the creation of characters and sets from The Nightmare Before Christmas created by armature builder Tom St. Amand and miniatures builder Fon Davis, not to mention the items that have been kept by director Henry Selick and composer Danny Elfman, who also provided Jack Skellington’s singing voice.As much as Prop Culture is about movie props, it’s also about the history of cinema, and our love for the movies. You can see how much care went into making these imaginary stories feel real, whether it’s Christopher Lloyd and Kathleen Turner‘s memories working on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and crafting their characters down to the most intricate details or legendary Muppet designer/performer Dave Goelz‘s beloved work on The Muppet Movie. Even the locations where props are displayed and interviews take place bring energy to the series, such as a road trip to my neck of the woods in South Bend, Indiana to see the Studebaker from The Muppet Movie.hulu_Into_the_Dark_My_Valentine_reviewEvery episode of Prop Culture brings a cavalcade of insight, archive footage, concept art, and stories from the history of Disney. It’s also full of genuine love and joy thanks to host Daniel Lanigan being genuinely wowed and interested in learning anything he can about these movies. You’ll wish you could be in his shoes, if only to hold these props in your own hands. But for now, we’ll have to live vicariously through him with Prop Culture, and I hope there are many more episodes to come.

 

REVIEW: NEVER SURRENDER: A GALAXY QUEST DOCUMENTARY

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)

Featuring

Tim Allen (The Santa Claus)
Patrick Breen (Men In Black)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)
Jed Rees (Deadpool)
Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2)
Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
Brent Spiner (Star Trek: TNG)
Sigourney Weaver (Alien)
Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory)
Rainn Wilson (Super)

Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest (1999)All film documentaries traffic in colorful behind-the-scenes details, and Never Surrender is chock-full of them—some new, some well-known to longtime fans. For instance, Enrico Colantoni reveals that his audition for Mathesar nearly bombed—until he whipped out a bizarre voice he’d been working on that became the model for the Thermians’ unusual vocal inflections. Sigourney Weaver famously drops an F-bomb when Gwen and Jason encounter “the chompers” in the bowels of the Protector II. It was dubbed—badly, on purpose, so you can still read her lips—to be “Screw that!” in the theatrical release, in order to earn a more family-friendly PG rating.Jason, Gwen & AlexanderNever Surrender truly shines at revealing the complicated, often contentious process of filmmaking; honestly, it’s a miracle any films get made at all, never mind truly great ones that go on to become widespread beloved cultural touchstones like Galaxy Quest. Harold Ramis was originally hired to direct the film for Dreamworks but left the project due to creative differences (his vision was considerably more cheesy); Dean Parisot replaced him. The studio considered Robin Williams and Kevin Kline for the role of Jason/Taggart, since at the time Tim Allen was mostly known as a comedian and star of the just-cancelled Home Improvement sitcom. Dreamworks co-founder Steven Spielberg hated the octopus-like designs for the Thermians’ true native form, preferring a more classic “grey alien”—but it was too late to change it.  Any one of these would have resulted in a very different—and I would say, lesser—film. Apparently Dreamworks was shooting Gladiator at the same time and was too distracted to interfere much with Galaxy Quest.The crew gets a beryllium sphereSeveral Star Trek actors count themselves among the longstanding fans of Galaxy Quest, including Shatner, Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard, ST: TNG)—who pronounced it “brilliant”—Jonathan Frakes (Riker, ST: TNG), Tim Russ (Tuvok, ST: Voyager), and George Takei (Sulu on TOS). Two from Star Trek: The Next Generation offer their insights in Never Surrender: Brent Spiner, who played Data, and Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher. The film has also inspired an entire generation of filmmakers, as Damon Lindelof (Lost, Watchmen, the Star Trek 2009 film) points out. And it’s sweetly gratifying to watch Arrow and The Flash creator Greg Berlanti geek out over his favorite moments, pretty much proving Lindelof’s point.The Protector crewBest of all, the documentary celebrates the culture of fandom—specifically the positive, uplifting aspects, rather than the toxic cesspool of entitlement that online fandom can sometimes be today. The film devotes a significant amount of screen time to Galaxy Quest fans and cosplayers Harold and Roxanne Weir, who speak at length about what the film has meant to them and why they find their cosplay so fulfilling. In one of the most moving scenes, Harold—dressed as Mathesar—gets to meet his hero, Colantoni, who leans into the moment and poses with the entire group of Thermian cosplayers. Truly, as Spiner says, “The nerds have inherited the Earth.

 

REVIEW: SCREAM, QUEEN! MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019)

Featuring

Mark Patton (Amityville IV)
Cecil Baldwin (Gravity Falls)
Robert Englund (Freddy vs Jason)
Robert Rusler (Babylon 5)
Marshall Bell (Starship Troopers)
Kim Myers (Hellraiser: Bloodlines)
Clu Gulager (Feast)
JoAnn Willette (Real Genius)
Linnea Quigley (Graduation Day)
Jeffrey Marcus (Frozen)
Joshua Grannell (The Diary of a Teenage Girl)
Heather Langenkamp (New Nightmare)

Mark Patton in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)While there have been a few lengthy explorations of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series, “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” doesn’t have much interest in the screen wrath and pop culture influence of Freddy Krueger. Instead, filmmakers Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen quest to spotlight the life of Mark Patton, the star of 1985’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” who was set to hit the big time with his turn as Jesse, the boy tormented by the razor-fingered menace, only to find himself crucified by viewers for the gay overtones of the movie created by screenwriter David Chaskin. Patton was destroyed by the experience, erasing his desire to continue acting, but “Freddy’s Revenge” wouldn’t go away, growing in popularity and analysis as the years passed, giving the feature a second life, while Patton was singled out as the first male scream queen, complicating his relationship with a despised horror sequel he thought would rocket him to the big time.Mark Patton in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)Patton labels “Scream, Queen!” as a “testimony,” not journalism, permitting cameras to follow him as he embarks on a 2015 tour of horror conventions. Going around the country, Patton engages with fans, but these are people he never knew existed, as the actor elected to keep away from his grim reality in Hollywood, moving to Mexico to set up shop on a dusty road, finding peace far away from his past life. The Patton on display in the documentary is eager to be of service, taking the responsibility of these paid interactions seriously, greeting all sorts of “Fred Heads” who are quick to share their fandom and, most importantly, their gratitude. Amazingly, over the decades since the release of “Freddy’s Revenge,” Jesse has become a gay icon, with the saga of the meek, feminine boy possessed by the rage of a movie maniac becoming a beacon for LGBTQ viewers, with some experiencing the first stirrings of something special within while watching the feature.Kim Myers and Mark Patton in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)While film nerds and horror hounds have been aware of this resurgence of interest in “Freddy’s Revenge,” the news comes as a surprise to Patton, who experienced hellacious mockery and bullying for his portrayal of Jesse, exposed to the worst criticism and, later in life, the full blast of online ugliness, with fans singling him out as the element that ruined the hotly anticipated follow-up to “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” “Scream, Queen!” explores his reunion with “Freddy’s Revenge,” but Chimienti and Jensen aren’t making a movie documentary, instead using the event to dig deeper into Patton’s life, which was filled with promise before participation in the sequel. “Scream, Queen!” tracks Patton’s upbringing with his troubled family and his initial move to New York City, using his naivety to land an agent, soon embarking on a career in commercials and eventually scoring a role on Broadway, working with Cher on “Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” where he received his first taste of the fame he craved.Mark Patton in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)Patton was primed for the big time, but he was also a gay man in an industry that didn’t want to acknowledge such a thing, forcing him to lead two lives in a way. “Scream, Queen!” inspects his private life, falling in love with “Dallas” actor Timothy Patrick Murphy, and it also details the experience of AIDS in the 1980s, with the disease destroying the gay community, forcing professionals to experience agony in secret, including Patton, who couldn’t bear the extraordinary homophobia of the era. A surprising amount of screen time is devoted to an understanding of the AIDS crisis and Patton’s own battles during the decade, which turned him into an advocate while taking on his own health issues. While “Scream, Queen!” deals with “Freddy’s Revenge,” Chimienti and Jensen also have something to share about the personal struggles of gay men facing a dire future of illness and condemnation, with Patton emotionally recalling his survival during a harrowing time.Robert Englund and Mark Patton in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)“Scream, Queen!” returns to “Freddy’s Revenge,” highlighting its resurgence of popularity and critical examination, with the filmmakers visiting a college classroom and revival screenings to capture this newfound excitement over what’s now proudly considered to be classic by gay audiences, appreciated for its camp appeal (including Jesse’s awkward bedroom dance) and dark fantasies. If there’s a villain to be found in the documentary, it’s Chaskin, who for years blamed Patton for the erasure of his “subtext,” only to claim ownership of the material when the movie returned to prominence. Patton wants to confront the screenwriter, making the feature one long trip to this uneasy sit-down, which permits the actor a chance to share his complex feelings on the matter, purging himself of anger (director Jack Sholder coldly tells Patton to “get over it”). “Elm Street” fans are sure to enjoy this arc of the picture, which reunites Patton with his friendly co-stars (including Kim Myers and Robert Rusler), getting to the heart of issues surrounding “Freddy’s Revenge,” though curiously missing is Patton’s own assessment of the sequel. “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” packs a lot of material into its run time, following extreme highs and lows, but the helmers never lose sight of Patton and his intimate journey, with the actor coming to terms with his position as Jesse the Scream Queen, finding closure as he finally deals with the role that forever changed his life.

REVIEW: CURSED FILMS – SEASON 1

Cursed Films (2020)

Featuring

Linda Blair (The Exorcist)

Linda Blair and Max von Sydow in The Exorcist (1973)Some films develop a reputation for being cursed. Actors might have died on set, everything went wrong, or maybe they found real dead bodies on set. Whatever the case, certain films have a legacy behind them and a lot of baggage. The premise of Shudder’s new original documentary series, Cursed Films, covers the legacy of five iconic films — The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Omen, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and The Crow — and asks if these films truly were cursed or if the legacy far outshines the reality.Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist (1982)However, does the documentary series succeed? While this series is a great primer into the legacy of these cursed films, the information is limited by the short run-time of each episode. At thirty minutes, each episode can only cover the surface details of the supposed curses. And this results in episodes spending more time focused on the legacy and influence of said film.Brandon Lee in The Crow (1994)The series features a mix of interviews and archival footage from the time of the movie’s release, as well as, when needed, footage from the movies themselves. Every individual involved contributes incredibly interesting information, from Linda Blair recalling particularly traumatic moments from filming The Exorcist (or refusing to answer some questions because of how emotionally painful they are) to journalists recalling investigations correlated to the film. Most interesting of all, however, are the interviews with the people who first saw and experienced the film, contributing to the legacy of each cursed film. One of Cursed Films’ greatest strengths and weaknesses is the run-time of each episode. Because the episodes are so short, you hear a lot of information in a very brief period of time. While the series benefits from its concise and brief delivery, cramming a ton of information into a small package, part of you wishes each episode could further expand upon the information presented.Nancy Allen, Tom Skerritt, and Lara Flynn Boyle in Poltergeist III (1988)In the first episode, centered around The Exorcist, we hear about the harsh production of the film, thanks to director William Friedkin’s intense and violent directing style. While the film briefly touches upon the various deaths that occurred during filming (most notably, actors Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros), the most fascinating and in-depth research of the film’s production is done when they discuss and analyze a rumor that an actual murderer appears in the film — which turns out, remarkably, to be true.Brandon Lee and Laurence Mason in The Crow (1994)However, this series is less interested in discussing the actual curse of the film, so much as it is interested in discussing the legacy of a curse. The documentary series sees stories about curses as part of the film’s lore and legacy. The reason audiences look for curses in films is far more compelling material than merely saying the curse exists. There are old documentaries about the events that transpired behind the scenes on a film, including one E! True Hollywood Story documentary surrounding the Poltergeist Curse, that go into the specific events of the curse in far more detail. And this ultimately makes sense. Cursed Films isn’t interested in sensationalizing film curses. It’s interested in the very opposite: de-sensationalizing them. It is not here to feed into false narratives about demons dwelling in the celluloid of the film, but rather the straight-forward, rational reality surrounding films about demons, ghosts, and ghouls.Linda Blair and Max von Sydow in The Exorcist (1973)So you need to approach Cursed Films less as a detailed look into how a film is cursed. It’s more a documentary about how the public is fascinated by curses or how the “curse” adds to a film’s legacy. In this sense, Shudder’s documentary series is an absolute success. However, you need to know what sort of documentary it is before watching. If you approach Cursed Films expecting a detailed look at how a film is cursed, you will be disappointed. If you want something more about why we want to believe in cursed films, you will find something very informative.

 

REVIEW: THE UNAUTHORISED STAR WARS STORY

CAST
Carrie Fisher (Family Guy)
Harrison Ford (Blade Runner)
Kenny Baker (Labyrinth)
Jeremy Bulloch (The Spy Who Loved Me)
Michael Carter (The illusionist)
Anthony Daniels (Droids)
Garrick Hagon (Red 2)
Mark Hamill (The Flash)
Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft)
Peter Mayhew (Killer Ink)
Ewan McGregor (Mortdecai)
 
The year was 1999. With the first new Star Wars film in 16 years on the verge of being released, Star Wars hype reached a crescendo of Star Destroyer like proportions. Amongst all the officially licensed merchandise this little documentary slipped right through Lucasfilm’s fingers. It’s so unauthorized, there aren’t even any credits. Just a bunch of stars and some music meant to invoke John Williams. Either this was an oversight or else they ran out of money, for there is a distinct lack of captions all the way through.
Most of the interviews here are drawn from press junkets held for the release of the Star Wars Special Editions in 1997.
Not only did they get access to George Lucas, Luke, Han and Princess Leia but also Threepio, Artoo, Chewie and Rick McCallum. All of this material looks very professional (although they had to blur out all the posters in the background for copyright reasons). Unfortunately it is interspersed with some interviews the documentary makers shot themselves, on video and without any prior knowledge of lighting direction. These include talks with head of publicity and former Lucas classmate Charles Lippincott and the actors who portrayed Biggs Darklighter, Boba Fett (sat at his home computer) and Bib Fortuna. The difference in quality between the press material and these home movies is enormous.
 

Obviously they could not use any shots from the beloved trilogy itself, but they did get permission to show bits of the 1930’s Flash Gordon serials, the ‘Forbidden Planet’ trailer and some amusing British and Japanese news items from 1977. Add to this some holiday movies from the filming locations in Tunisia and a few misty shots of San Fransico and Mann’s Chinese Theater in L.A. They even took a trip to Lucas’ Home town of Modesto (where they interview all his old neighbors) and at one point use a couple of lame computer animations of our own solar system. Everything is accompanied by silly wipes that resemble (but don’t sound like) Lightsabers and once, sliding Death Star doors. The lowest point comes when they attempt to illustrate behind the scenes stories by using a bunch of monster masks and the remote for some sort of toy car.Lets face it: this one is strictly for Star Wars collectors who positively have to have everything saga-connected in their possession.

REVIEW: EMPIRE OF DREAMS

This special starts before the original Star Wars, and after introducing Lucas and setting the scene for the time period, it takes us through the entire trilogy, with clips, interviews and behind the scenes footage en masse.Star-Wars-Episode-7-Original-CastEach main member of the cast, including Kenny Baker(R2D2), and Anthony Daniels(C3PO) – who sounds a lot like his character even when he’s just speaking normally – and Peter Mayhew(Chewbacca). It has a good pace throughout, the version I watched was 90 minutes, and it never grew stale. It is edited expertly throughout. There is a solid flow to the documentary. It holds a lot of information, and the right amount of time is spent on it. The fun factor of this is achieved nicely, and without overshadowing what it is presenting.About the only person not brought in for an interview is David Proswe.There is perhaps a bit of patting on the back going on, as the special mentions just *how many* nominations and wins the films got, and how important it was, and so on and so forth, but this doesn’t keep it from being worth watching. I recommend this to any fan of the original trilogy.