You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Docurama’ tag.

…and it definitely holds up as being both one of the most amazingly thorough and addictive documentaries ever produced.

I don’t want to give away any details, but the short of it is this: Clocking in at six hours, “The Staircase” follows the entire time line of events in the 2001 death of Kathleen Peterson and the roller-coaster murder trial of Kathleen’s widow, Michael Peterson.

Directly after the death of Kathleen Peterson, director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade meticulously followed around all of the involved parties for months–from the accused and his family members, to the defense attorneys and the prosecutors–cataloging over 600 hours of footage in the process.

The result is one of the best documentary films I’ve ever seen. Here’s proof: Documentaries typically have very little replay value. Even if it’s a quality one, if you’ve seen it once you pretty much don’t need to watch it again. But I’ve held on to this two-disc set for years now and have watched it in its entirety at least four times now. And keep in mind that I’m talking about a six-hour documentary here. It’s seriously that good.

So if you have Netflix, click here. If you have Blockbuster, click here. And if you don’t have either of them, run on out to your local video store and rent it. I swear you won’t be disappointed.

Freda Black is a real-life Disney villain,

-Shady

Wanna win some free stuff? Don’t we all.

This contest is for items from Docurama Films, a video label dedicated to the production and distribution of quality documentary films.

"Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth"

The prize pack includes:

– One (1) “Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth” DVD

Five winners will be selected randomly from all entries. Each winner will receive one full prize pack.

To enter, email me here with your name, age and address. Winners will be notified. Losers won’t. Heh.

Ain’t no Harland Williams,

-Shady

…and one Blu-ray review, right here:

“The Man Who Walked Between The Towers” (Scholastic)
I admit, I’m a sucker for these Scholastic video collections, mostly because they remind me of “Reading Rainbow” and LeVar Burton. Oh, Levar…. Anyway, this collection of four children’s book tales begins with “The Man Who Walked Between The Towers.” Based on the true story of French street performer Philippe Petit, this story might ring a bell because the documentary about Petit, “Man On Wire,” recently won an Oscar. In August of 1974, Petit snuck into the World Trade Center and rigged a tightrope between the two buildings, eventually walking back and forth between the North and South Tower for over an hour. Because Petit’s actions were clearly illegal, I feared that the children’s version of this story might get watered down. But the entire story is surprisingly here, including his arrest after the event. And, as if that weren’t cool enough, the whole thing is narrated by Donnie Darko! Perfect for kids! The disc also features “The Pot That Juan Built” and “Miss Rumphius,” but my favorite out of the whole batch is “Snowflake Bentley” which tells the true story of Willie Bentley, a photographer who was the first to master the art of photographing snowflakes. The story mixes animation with live action clips which was a bit distracting at first, but the fact that they included some of Bentley’s actual photographs made up for it. The other stories feature narrations from Mikey Walsh, Juliet, and the crazy guy who kept throwing firecrackers at Marky Mark in “Boogie Nights.” And if you get all of those references, you’re the man, dog!

“The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany” (Docurama)
A little over a year ago, some friends and I visited Auschwitz in Poland. Ever since then, I’ve had this desire to learn as much as I can about World War II and the events that led up to it. So a documentary about German citizens who rebelled against the power of the Nazi Regime definitely had my attention from the get-go. Originally released in 1992, this film collects rare footage of German court trials in 1944 for average citizens who conspired to have Adolf Hitler killed. Of course, the outcome is what you’d expect, but just the fact that these types of people existed in a country that had so blindly followed Hitler is amazing. It’s a feature-length documentary, coming in at just under two hours, and it held my interest from beginning to end. The only problem I have with it is that it appears to be a direct transfer from a VHS tape with little or no clean-up consideration. It’s not a big deal, and yes, I know we’re spoiled with our HDTVs and iPhones and toaster-ovens and whatnot, but there was a tiny part of me that kept thinking, “This looks so nineties.” And we all remember how terrifying that was, right?

“Two Evil Eyes” (Blue Underground)
Two hour-long horror shorts inspired by the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, written and directed by two huge names in the horror genre: George Romero and Dario Argento. Surprisingly, at least to me, Romero’s “The Facts In The Case Of Mr. Valdemar” is the weaker of the two stories, telling the tale of a smelly pirate hooker named Jessica Valdemar (as played by Adrienne Barbeau) who tries to swindle her dying husband out of a fortune. It’s okay, but Barbeau is just laughable. Argento’s “The Black Cat,” on the other hand, stars Harvey Keitel who is scary as shit even in his most normal state. Keitel plays Roderick Usher, a crime scene photographer who is driven to murder by his girlfriend’s pet cat. Yes, you read that correctly. The special effects were handled by Tom Savini, and the extras on the disc include a behind-the-scenes featurette on his make-up and effects. Also, this is a Blu-ray release, so all of the blood and gore that was filmed nearly two decades ago now is bright and crystal clear. Just the way I like my horror!

-Shady

…right here:

“Black Is… Black Ain’t” (Docurama) – The last film from director Marlon Riggs before succumbing to AIDS, this project is more of a personal journey than it is a documentary. Started in the early nineties, the film would eventually sit dormant for years after Riggs’ death in 1994. Eventually, the film would be finished by Riggs’ friends and colleagues during the late nineties. Serving as both an identity-searching diary entry for Riggs as well as a documentation of African-American culture throughout the 20th century, this movie captures both the struggles and triumphs of what it means to be black in America. And while I appreciate its insightful narration from prominent black intellectuals like Angela Davis and Cornel West, some of the film’s segments suffer from being a little longer than they have to be. Still, it’s encouraging to see a man’s final artistic vision being kept alive nearly two decades later because its message is just as important today as it was then.

“Adam Clayton Powell” (Docurama) – Long before Malcolm Little became Malcolm X, flamboyant pastor and politician Adam Clayton Powell was busy serving as the first African-American to be elected to Congress. This re-release of the 1989 documentary about Powell talks about his historic rise to power, as well as his shameful (and sometimes painfully embarrassing) fall from grace. Serving in the United States House of Representatives from 1945 to 1971, Powell lived his politician/playboy lifestyle out in front of the cameras, practically thriving on the attention. Eventually, both the media and his own people would turn on him, pushing him to live in a self-imposed exile on the island of Bimini. And that’s exactly what I like about this documentary: Powell is both hero and villain, antagonist and victim, and the film shows it all. He fought for the equal rights of African-Americans, yet had the worst attendance record of anyone in the House at the time. He worked for the same causes of Martin Luther King, Jr. but was openly jealous of the man and would refer to him as “Martin Loser King, Jr.” in interviews. Typically, when a biographical documentary is being made they tend to trim out even the tiniest negatives, instead concentrating solely on the squeaky-clean icon the person has become after their passing. This documentary doesn’t do that. They concentrate on Powell the political maverick as well as Powell the huge prick, and for that I give them credit.

-Shady

Old Poop!