SHOCK reviews Michael Felsher’s fantastic doc on the making of a Romero/King classic.
We’ve praised horror documentarian Michael Felsher’s sterling work before, on this particular horror news portal and in other outlets and the man has earned every accolade. Via his Red Shirt pictures imprint, Felsher has for years been refining the art of the DVD special feature, creating dozens upon dozens of edifying, expertly edited supplemental films to support a myriad catalog title releases on a handful of international labels.
He has no equal in the regard, really.
Which is why its a pleasure to see that Synapse have released Felsher’s JUST DESSERTS: THE MAKING OF CREEPSHOW (street date: July 12th), a project originally designed for a U.K. release charting the making of George A. Romero and Stephen King’s venerable cult classic anthology film. CREEPSHOW is one of those beloved horror movies that has yet to see a contemporary North American Blu-ray release (why, Warner Bros., why?) and, because of this demand, Felsher opted to take his meticulously detailed, stem-to-stern making of doc, dust it off and flip it into a feature in and of itself.
The result is this release, a stunning 90 minute love-letter to this marvelous, ingeniously designed one-shot Grand Guignol gem, a salute to the grisly morality and bleak humor found in the pages of the legendary EC comics and one made by a handful of brave men and women who were at the peak of their collective powers. The main feature is wonderful and Felsher has padded out the picture with a glut of features that serve to further enrich the CREEPSHOW experience.
JUST DESSERTS is divided into chapters, framed in the same way the film is, with Bernie Wrightson’s four-color horror comic art and John Harrison’s chilling Prophet synth and grand piano score.
On hand to discuss every inch of the production are, of course, Romero himself (Felsher has had a long, happy working relationship with the director) who serves as the center of the story and his right hand man, FX wizard Tom Savini who, as always, tells the best tales of making movie magic and breaking rules on a budget. As an aside, watching Savini speak on screen and seeing the incredible behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot itself, I am reminded about just how vital an artist and figure in horror and dark fantasy Tom was and remains. He’s a joy to watch and I think we take his legacy for granted sometimes. JUST DESSERTS honors him accordingly.
Also appearing in the film are Wrightson, Nick Tallo (whose Hal Holbrook story will have you laughing out loud), Adrienne Barbeau (who has aged like a fine wine), Tom Atkins (who, along with Savini convulse with laughter when remembering actor Leslie Nielson’s ‘fart machine’), Harrison and producer Richard P. Rubenstein, who comes off as warm and open, the opposite of the tyrant his reputation purports him to be.
Gelling it all together are acres of incredible behind the scenes footage and FX test reels that are a joy to behold. Most amusing among them are Gaylon Ross and Ted Danson getting dolled up in their “Something to Tide You Over” make-ups, cracking wise when doing their walk and especially the story about making the final tale, “They’re Creeping Up on You”, wherein Romero and Savini come up with revolting ways to make the exotic cockroaches burst forth from the dummy version of actor E.G. Marshall’s chest. It’s just as revolting as it is in the movie, but fascinating and a testament to old school innovation as opposed to big budget CGI cheats.
Conspicuously absent from the movie is King himself, who should have been here. It’s not easy to lock King, as this writer has found out time and time again and presumably Felsher gave it his all. But his presence is certainly felt and he’s warmly discussed by all.
On that note, if there any criticisms regarding JUST DESSERTS, it’s that it might be a accused of being a bit too “puff”. Not one tale of woe is presented. No one slams anyone else. No bodies are uncovered. But that’s not the point of the film and, really, it’s unlikely there WERE any bad stories to tell. Here were a bunch of craftsman in a transitional period, having a ball doing what they do: creating. Even if Felsher did uncover some muck, I’m glad it’s not here. This doc is a party and bad blood would be the turd in the punch-bowl.
Of equal note on Synapse’s Blu-ray release is the presence of the classic FANGORIA home video release, SCREAM GREATS VOLUME ONE, a magnificent artifact from the FANGO vaults in which a young Savini takes you deep into his weird world. It’s a jaw dropper, in fact. The ultimate portrait of the artist at this period. It’s also cute how animated Savini is; even his voice is higher.
If you love CREEPSHOW (and you should), this is an essential own. It’s the ultimate CREEPSHOW fan package and kudos to Felsher for persevering and ensuring that the faithful get the chance to own this marvelous work.