A sweet little treat for us old-school sci-fi fans, Paul Davids' The Sci-Fi Boys is a warm and winning homage to the genre's finest men, movies, and memories. It's a little rough around the edges -- and more than a little fawning -- but this indie doco has got its heart in the right place ... and it's got very good taste in movies.
Basically an 80-minute recap of American fantasy cinema from the original King Kong to the early 1970s, The Sci-Fi Boys takes great enthusiasm in applauding the works and accomplisments of Ray Harryhausen, George Pal, Forrest J. Ackerman, William Castle, Willis O'Brien, and several others. (Indeed, this is a subject that Ken Burns could probably expand into a 6-hour series.)
Much of the focus is paid to Harryhausen and Ackerman, and the ways in which their work inspired a whole new generation of sci-fi enthusiasts -- many of whom grew up to win six or seven Oscars. (Several old "homemade" movies are included, most of which are quite quaintly amusing.) Davids is to be commended for inviting a wide variety of craftsman in for interviews. Those who grew up on this stuff will undoubtedly be interested in the thoughts, ruminations, and anecdotes of:
Forrest J. Ackerman (the original sci-fi movie geek and editor of the beloved Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine)
Rick Baker (6-time Oscar-winning makeup FX master: An American Werewolf in London, Men in Black, etc.)
Ray Bradbury (author of Fahrenheit 451 and a whole lot more)
Bob Burns (noted genre historian and collector)
Roger Corman (producer of about 400 movies, of which a good portion dabbled in horror, sci-fi, and fantasy)
Ray Harryhausen (FX genius: Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad flicks, etc.)
Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong)
Steve Johnson (FX creator: Spider-Man 2, Species, War of the Worlds)
John Landis (director of An American Werewolf in London and a bunch more)
Leonard Maltin (noted movie critic, film historian, and old-school movie geek)
Dennis Muren (7-time Oscar Winning FX guru: E.T., T2, Jurassic Park, etc.)
Stephen Sommers (director of The Mummy, Van Helsing, etc.)
Short and sweet and packed with a real affection for classic sci-fi movie-makers, The Sci-Fi Boys should be a treat to anyone who adores the genre. True that this indie-doc only manages to scratch the surface of a massively colorful topic, but it's a lot of good fun all the same -- and if all it stands for is a sweet cinematic Thank You to Ackerman, Bradbury, Harryhausen, and Pal ... well, that's just fine by me.
Video: Full-frame. Picture quality varies, since we're talking about a low-budget documentary that also houses a bunch of grungy-looking old home-movie footage -- but the flick looks pretty good, all things considered.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, with optional subtitles in English and French.
The main feature barely runs 80 minutes, but the additional scenes section delivers another solid hour of sci-fi geekiness. The extra scenes are described as follows:
-Forrest J. Ackerman and Ray Bradbury at the L.A. Screening of King Kong (2005)
-Rick Baker on the Evolution of Effects Makeup Techniques
-Ray Harryhausen's Academy Award (Gordon E. Sawyer Sci-Tech Award, 1992)
-Fred Barton: The Robot Man
-Fred Barton and Bob Burns on the Original George Pal Time Machine
-Fred Barton's Childhood 8MM Film "2002: A Space Catastrophe"
-The Tin-Can Man: Paul Davids, Jeff Tinsley, and Bill Goodwin
-The $40 Film That Went Over Budget to $54
-What's a Hobbit -- and Who Cares?
-Donald F. Glut's Childhood Film "Son of Tor," Inspired by "King Kong"
-Bob Burns First Childhood Makeup Experience
-Bob Burns on his Friendship with 1950's Creature Creator Paul Blaisdell
-"The Monster" by Bob Burns at Age 17 -- A Childhood Production Inspired by "Frankenstein"
-Steve Johnson Loses His Childhood Movies
-Steve Johnson Meets Rick Baker in Texas
-Steve Johnson on His Inspirations, Techniques and Inspiration
-Forrest J. Ackerman Interview Filmed and Edited by James Gunn, 1970 University of Kansas Center for the Study of Science Fiction
-Ray Bradbury on Forrest J. Ackerman's Influence and Their Friendship with Ray Harryhausen (2005)
-Forrest J. Ackerman (2005) on the Founder of Universal Pictures - Carl Laemmle
-Dennis Muren: Trust Your Hobby
-Dennis Muren: The Challenge of "The Empire Strikes Back" and the Revolution of Motion Control and CGI
-Dennis Muren: The Founding and Growth of Industrial Light & Magic and Pixar
-Dennis Muren's Philosophy About His Moment in Time
-Peter Jackson on "The Valley," Which He Produced at Age 15
-Peter Jackson on Collecting Old Famous Monsters Magazines and "The Sci-Fi Boys"
Also included is a photo and document gallery, which contains At the Ackermansion 1985, At Universal's Pre-Golden Globe Party 2000, Founder of Universal Pictures, Carl Laemmle's 1931 Letters to Forrest J. Ackerman, and Paul Davids' Childhood Monsters.
If you grew up fascinated with all the Famous Monsters of Filmland, then consider this indie doco Highly Recommended. It might not aspire to be the world's most encyclopedic sci-fi chronicle, but it's still a lot of fun.