Directed by Alan Smithee
Wellspring // Unrated // $24.98 // April 23, 2002
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted May 15, 2002
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Film buffs have known about the not-so-glorious career of Alan Smithee for some time. With over forty films and TV shows to his name since the late sixties, Smithee is a mystery to the unwitting. Anyway, he flat out doesn't exist. In fact, "Alan Smithee" is the pseudonym allowed by the Director's Guild of America for filmmakers whose projects have been sufficiently altered from their original intentions that they can no longer in good faith take the credit. According to Directed by Alan Smithee, a 50 minute long AMC documentary, the moniker was first used by famed director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) in 1969 when he felt his contribution to Death of a Gunfighter was not worthy of a credit. (Although the Internet Movie Database lists a couple of earlier TV movies credited to Smithee.) That film actually got decent reviews and Smithee became a respectable filmmaker. (The documentary quotes some reviews heralding Smithee's style, which is pretty damn funny.)

This is a pretty simple subject and there isn't really a whole lot to say about it, so Directed by Alan Smithee throws in a few stories about directors who DIDN'T get to use the name, like Martha Coolidge, whose National Lampoon's The Joy of Sex went out with her own name, or Tony Kaye's American History X, the story of which takes up about half the running time of Directed by Alan Smithee. The American History X fiasco shows grown men acting at their most childish and the fact that it was so highly publicized helped the DGA decide to stop using the name a few years later. (Director Arthur Hiller and "screenwriter" Joe Eszterhas making a fictional film about a director actually named Alan Smithee, which in real life turned into a Smithee film itself after Hiller saw the disaster that it became, probably didn't help either.)

Regardless, Directed by Alan Smithee is basically a one joke film. But it's a really good joke. The saga of Alan Smithee is a funny one and although this documentary isn't necessarily the finest piece of filmmaking itself, there is always something endearing about a director who'll take credit for anything but whose films no one will take credit for.

VIDEO:
The full-screen video is fine. It looks like an E! True Hollywood Story.

AUDIO:
The stereo audio is also fine, if unspectacular.

EXTRAS:
A filmography and web links.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Not necessarily something to own, Directed by Alan Smithee is worth a look by anyone interested in how Hollywood works. This peek behind the curtain at the silly grievances and complaints of the film community is an eye-opener on how movies get made.

Email Gil Jawetz at buskerdog@yahoo.com



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