Color, 2014, 109 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Pete Schuermann
Starring Josh Phillips, Jodi Lynn Thomas, Bill LeVasseur, Brian McCulley
Synapse (Blu-ray & DVD) (USR0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.75:1) (16:9)

The The Creep Behind the Camera devotion to The Creep Behind the Camera"so bad it's good" movie discoveries that flourished in the '70s is still very much with us today thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its many offshoots, with low-budget oddities from around the world put in a spotlight and mocked for their many shortcomings. This approach has been very divisive over the years with many genuinely enjoying the sincere charms of films by the likes of Ed Wood and Ted V. Mikels, which are obviously many miles removed from traditional Hollywood fare and all the more fascinating for it. One strange film that shot to instant notoriety with the dawn of The Golden Turkey Awards and bad movie TV airings is The Creeping Terror, a very cheap 1964 monster movie shot in California by a mysterious filmmaker credited as A.J. Nelson, who also went by the name Vic Savage. Featuring a soundtrack comprised of awkward narration and dubbing, it's the threadbare tale of a small town under siege by a man-eating alien invader that looks a lot like some carpets stuck together with rubbery phallic suckers stuck to the top. Because that's exactly what it is.

The bizarre story of the film's cash-strapped director finally comes to light in cinematic form in 2014's The Creep behind the Camera, exploring how the man known as Vic Savage (Phillips), The Creep Behind the Cameraborn as Arthur "Art" Nelson White, went about making this film and made life a living hell due to some severe mental issues and personality disorders. We're introduced to him early on flexing naked in front of a mirror with a Hitler mustache, and things just get weirder and more extreme from there. Interviews with real people who knew him (both from the film and otherwise, including future Oscar-winning effects maestro Richard Edlund!) are The Creep Behind the Camerainterspersed with dramatic reenactments, and even a bit of animation, as the creation of the film (some of it on the Spahn Ranch before Manson notoriety) is contrasted with Nelson's real-life hell for both himself and others, especially his much-abused wife, Lois Wiseman (Thomas).

A real oddity that feels like one narrative film spliced together with a bunch of special features, this film reportedly started life as a straight-up doc about the making of The Creeping Terror but morphed considerably as stranger, seedier details about Nelson kept emerging. The strongest material comes from interviews with the actual people from his life, particularly the real Lois (who's also played quite well by Thomas) The Creep Behind the Cameraand the original film's screenwriter, Allan Silliphant, who was accidentally hired when Nelson mistook him for his more famous brother and would go on to 3-D immortality with The Stewardesses. The memories are alternately hilarious and utterly horrifying, crafting a story so bizarre there's no way anyone could make it up. The reenactments are boosted by a very strong, confident central performance by Phillips, who manages to skirt through tricky and sometimes questionable tonal changes as the story jerks back and forth between the domestic nightmare and the ludicrous film production that would become his minor claim to fame. It's clear that Tim Burton's Ed Wood was an inspiration here as the film adopts a similar The Creep Behind the Cameraretro-kitsch tone, albeit in vivid color, showing how a bizarre lifestyle can inform what ends up on the screen. (The bouncy, cocktail-friendly score by John Schuermann even resembles Howard Shore's work on Burton's film at times.) The difference here is that the subject is regarded with utter contempt, which is where things get wobbly; it's hard to smile and enjoy a crazy vision of cinematic scrappiness when the creator behind it is so reprehensible. On top of that you get some very condescending The Creep Behind the Cameracommentary from Golden Turkey pioneers Harry and Michael Medved, which knocks the tone further out of whack. It's a wild story well worth checking out, but be prepared to look past a few speed bumps along the way during the fairly indulgent running time.

Synapse Films brings this peculiar passion project to Blu-ray and DVD a couple of years after its festival run, looking as vibrant and sharp as you'd expect for a fairly recent digitally-lensed film that thankfully hasn't been subjected to a lot of fake grindhouse-style video effects. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix mainly allows the music to percolate around the front and rear speakers, which works well enough, and optional English SDH subtitles are provided. Director Pete Schuermann, producer Nancy Theken, and Phillips and Thomas appear in and out for a lighthearted audio commentary that charts the film's journey from intended doc to hybrid project, and a thorough making-of featurette (25m54s) covers both the film's premiere in Holland and the genesis and filming locations with most of the interview participants and the filmmakers chatting at various points. The Creep Behind the CameraSome fun audition footage and a look at the making of the carpet monster are undeniable highlights, too. "How to Build a Carpet Monster" (28m11s) goes into more depth with a video diary about the recreation of the infamous monster, involving what is like 500% more labor than what went into the The Creep Behind the Cameraoriginal one. "Breaking Down Art's Death Scene" (7m23s) - spoiler alert! - features behind-the-scenes footage and voiceover examining a pivotal transition effect created for the main character's final moments and the sorry fate of his remains, while "Monster Movie Homages" (50s) is a quick statement from the director about some classic movie nods peppered throughout the film including a musical Dr. Phibes nod. "One Mick to Another" (5m5s) with Byrd Holland and Allan Silliphant is a nice bit of outtake conversation following their interview segments, followed by a reel of minor deleted scenes (11m35s) and an alternate edit of the ending (1m48s). A Screamfest "Black Carpet Q&A" with Frank Conniff (18m45s) features some footage and photos of the arrivals and a screening interview with Thomas and the filmmakers, and both the standard and Screamfest promotional trailers are included as well. \

However, you'll notice from the cover that this is essentially a double feature since the original The Creeping Terror is included here as well in a fresh HD scan from "original vault materials," which in this case means a theatrical print in really good condition. There hasn't been a big restoration effort here but it's by far the best this has looked on home video, especially compared to the dire old tape master Rhino and BCI coughed up on a variety of DVD collections. The DTS-HD MA English audio for this is also much clearer than before, so you can savor every second of that narration like never before.

The Creep Behind the Camera The Creep Behind the Camera The Creep Behind the CameraThe Creep Behind the Camera
The Creep Behind the Camera
The Creep Behind the CameraThe Creep Behind the Camera

Reviewed on August 28, 2017.