– Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007)
This is one in a growing series of documentaries made with the involvement of – in this case, voice-over narrated by – Martin Scorsese (No Direction Home; The Last Waltz; A Personal Journey Through American Movies). Scorsese is passionate about film history from all periods, but seems to have an affinity for movies of the black-and-white era, especially “pulp” or “B’ movies. Hands-on producer Val Lewton gets the treatment here, and the narration takes a Freudian approach in its cinematic analysis (appropriately connecting the unconscious to the thriller/horror medium), while chronicling Lewton’s battles with the studio system, as well as his struggles to hone his artistic identity. If you have only seen Lewton’s 1942 Cat People (likely the most famous of his films), this documentary will have you adding other Lewton classics (I Walked With a Zombie; The Body Snatcher; Bedlam) to your rental queue. The doc is loaded with clips from Lewton films, and interviews with Lewton’s son, Val Jr.; auteur Roger Corman (who just received a Governors’ Award at the 2010 Academy Awards); and Robert Wise.
Here is a scene from the Robert Wise-directed The Body Snatcher (1945), featuring Boris Karloff and Henry Daniell: