Monday, July 11, 2016

Ask JKM a Question: Movies about Movies?

A regular reader, Chuck, writes:

“Dear John,

Recently, I have noticed a trend in documentary film making that I want to call the “movie-about-a-movie.”

In other words, there are quite a lot of film makers who seem interested in documenting the history of a particular film or franchise.

For example, The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? (2015) is about a movie which, in this case, was never actually made. 

Back in Time (2015), on the other hand, goes into the history of the Back to the Future franchise. And while it may be a bit dated, I feel compelled to mention the HBO original film RKO 281 (1999), which was itself based on the documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1995)—in effect, a movie-about-a-movie-about-a-movie! 

Anyway, my question is really two-fold:

First, are there any planned productions of a so-called movie-about-a-movie you are looking forward to (I do hope Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s “The Fantastic Four” makes your list)?

Second (and perhaps more importantly), what particular film or franchise you would like see get the movie-about-a-movie treatment?

As always, thanks again for all the outstanding work you do on your blog!”

Chuck, thank you for the kind words about the blog. I always enjoy hearing from you, as well as the questions that you pose.

I also find these “movies about a movie” fascinating. 

I recently watched Electric Bugaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, and thought it was terrific.  It was informative, funny, and even generated a real sense of nostalgia for a bygone era in film history. I would give it my highest recommendation.

Some time back, I also enjoyed Best Worst Movie (2009) -- about Troll 2 -- which I reviewed here.

Frankly -- and perhaps selfishly -- I’ve always wished someone would make a dramatic movie, like RK0 281, out of my book, The Unseen Force (2004), which concerns, in part the making of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1983). There are so many fascinating characters, stories and events that go into the making of that film. I think it would make an inspirational and very funny movie.

I too have been intrigued by Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four for a good long time, and I’m definitely looking forward to that documentary!

What other ones would I like to see?

It’s not exactly a movie but I would absolutely love a documentary about the behind-the-scenes making of the 1973 science fiction series, The Starlost.  

That series started as a great concept from Harlan Ellison, and had the input of artists like Douglas Trumball, Keir Dullea, and Ben Bova, to start.  And then, things took a dramatic turn.  It’s a fascinating tale, and all the participants are still around, to appear in a documentary.

What other movies? Well, two of the most fascinating John Carpenter movies of the 1980s are eminently worthy of feature length documentaries: Prince of Darkness (1987) and They Live (1988).

I also feel that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) deserves a full-on, feature-length documentary (perhaps directed by William Shatner himself).  After all, it is the Star Trek film with the most unrealized potential, I feel.  We've seen footage of the failed Rock Man, and so on, but the great story there is about how William Shatner's serious tale about a fake religious messiah became a (not-so...) crowd-pleasing attempt at comedy, and how he had to keep compromising his vision, in large part because of the success of The Voyage Home (1986).

Thanks for a great question! 

Don't forget to ask me more questions at


  1. I would also enjoy documentaries about The Starlost and Star Trek V:The Final Frontier. What went wrong and might have been.


  2. Anonymous8:00 PM

    I'd enjoy a documentary on all those fun B-movies from Charles Band...from "Laserblast","The Day Time Stopped", "Dungeonmaster", to "RoboJox" and "Arena".

    I wish a documentary on "The Starlost" would have been included on the DVD set. At least, almost every Doctor Who ep has a mini-documentary on DVD. If only this could be done for more shows.

    I saw the "Best worst Movie" doc. If it wasn't for that, I probably would never have watched "Troll 2". It did make me view the movie in a more sympathetic light.

  3. The idea for a Star Trek V documentary is intriguing. I remember reading the "making of" book that Shatner's daughter wrote. I'm sure when the book was conceived, it was intended to be a fluff promotional piece about what was sure to be a big hit movie. Instead, it inadvertently turned into a Hollywood tale of political compromises that ruined the script, a director with no experience at directing a feature film, and special effects that were lackluster due to budget constraints, lack of resources, and limited by the pre-CGI era.

  4. I would love a documentary not about a film but about a film-maker. Ever since I read Cinefex's issue about Willis O'Brien, I thought it would make a fantastic film biography. He was a self-taught animator, was involved in essentially a shot-gun wedding with a woman who was unstable, fell out of favor in Hollywood but became a mentor and hero to a generation of stop motion animators and special effects artists.

    I would REALLY love to see a documentary about the period between The Animated Series and The Motion Picture. I know this has been covered in print but there seems to be so much that has not been seen (including the test footage on the Phase II sets that appear on the TMP Special Edition DVD as well as the Season 2 BluRay of The Next Generation. This documentary could also cover the unsold pilots Gene Roddenberry made during this time, from Genesis II to Spectre to the unmade Trek films.

    Finally, I too would love to see something about Starlost.