Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Martin Scorsese Presents Val Lewton - The Man in the Shadows|
Actors: Martin Scorsese, Elias Koteas, Roger Corman, Dr. Glen Gabbard, Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Director: Kent Jones
Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 01/29/2008 Run time: 87 minutes
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Val Lewton Renaissance Continues
Doug - Haydn Fan | California | 02/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fine production covering Val Lewton's life and career as a producer through a wonderful selection of stills and film scenes. This same DVD can also be purchased with a newly reissued version of last year's box set, the thought being that the Scorsese name might have some additional sales appeal.
Scorsese, always keenly aware of the immigrant experience, leads the viewer back into Lewton's beginnings in Russia, on the sunny seaside resort town of Yalta on the Crimea. A beautiful mother, troubled by an impossible marriage, takes the extreme step of leaving the country with her two children. Eventually they emigrate to the United States, where their original name, Leventon, is altered to Lewton. Related to the fabulous and world famous American movie star, Nazimova, (Lewton's aunt) Lewton's boyhood world was largely dominated by strong, extraordinary women. This background is nicely discussed through narration and still films, with a few snippets of Nazimova's silent screen work.
Unfortunately, no film exits of Lewton, and stills are used throughout the 87 minute documentary to capture Lewton himself. Following his early years much of the discussion focuses on apprentice years as a writer and novelist - he wrote a best-seller - before finding his true metier as producer. There is a short cursory discussion of his work as a novelist -Lewton's pulp work then leading into his extended mentoring under the aegis of none other than Hollywood's great independent producer, David O. Selznick. Lewton during this period learns his craft, and this section of his career is well-presented during the documentary, with script examples and film scenes, such as from a Tale of Two Cities. (Not shown is that film's marvelous ending shot, conceived by Lewton.) We learn that it was Lewton who came up with the unforgettable scene set at the Atlanta Depot, where Scarlet tries to give comfort to the wounded as she wanders through the thousands of Confederate soldiers all the while the camera is pulling back further and further to expose the scale of the tragedy. The documentary notes how Lewton, who worked on the script for "Gone With the Wind", (and who didn't?) never imagined Selznick would shoot such an elaborate and frightfully expensive scene.
At this point the story moves to Lewton's big chance, his job offer with RKO to lead and produce a series of low-budget horror films. We find out that rather than getting angry at Lewton, Selznick went to bat for him and acted as agent! Complex person, David O. Selznick.
The remainder of the DVD is given over to a chronological overview of Lewton's career as producer. Here the Lewton produced films move center stage, with many short scenes and a few stills detailing each film. RKO's savage rejection of Orson Welles comes up, for the huge staircase from "The Magnificent Ambersons" appears in Lewton's first film for RKO, "The Cat People." Lewton's emphasis on blocking out of shots before shooting is discussed, along with his use of the best talents he could call up from his days with Selznick. This long meat of the documentary, the coverage of the great films, is smoothly intercut with cogent observations, taken from archives, by Tourneur, the director on Lewton's first three films. Other contemporary commentary is included from modern filmakers, writers, and actors who worked with Lewton, such as the young girl now grown up who starred in "The Curse of the Cat People". Lewton's son also makes several pertinent observations along the way. Overall this section does a very effective job, particularly in showcasing Lewton's marvelous evocation of mood, the astonishing ability to create moments of sudden cinematic ephiphany, and his insistence on intelligent, original scripts in contrast to the schlock turned out by Universal's Horror team.
The conclusion briefly sums up Lewton's tragic end.
This documentary can be watched by anyone who has seen the films. If you have not seen the films, or most of them, it might be best to watch the movies first.
DON'T FORGET: This DVD documentary now is attached to the Val Lewton box set and is a freebie when you purchase this latest release of the box set.
Mad Dog | Canada | 02/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Believe it or not there was a time when cinema didn't sprout fully formed and "auteured" from the heads of directors. Once upon a time it was a Producer who put a package together (actors, director, screenwriter and story), steered the development, and defended it from the front office.
In the ten years he worked as a producer Val Lewton left a mark as idiosyncratic and as individual as Hitchcock, or Ford, or Welles -- and did it on budgets that lesser talent would find humiliating.
Kent Jones has written and directed a beautifully insightful documentary. Scorsese delivers his usual quietly empathetic narration, and this DVD makes an excellent companion to his "A Personal Journey".