Edgar G. Ulmer - The Man Off-screen (2004) Poster

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Enjoyable, but not great look at one of the movies' great, but unknown, directors
dbborroughs4 December 2006
Documentary portrait of the King of the B's. Ulmer worked primarily in the poverty row studios in America, after a starting in Europe in the 1920's. The work he turned out usually was looked better and played better than the rest of the films that the studios he worked for turned out. This is the man who gave us Detour (a Noir classic), The Man from Planet X (a scifi classic), Bluebeard (John Carridines best film role) and more than 50 other films that are more often than not better than they should be.

This is a portrait of the man and not so much an over view of his career. If you want to know about of his films you'll have to use this merely as a start since the amount of information contained isn't a lot.

The story is told by the people who knew him, his daughter, and the actors and actresses who worked with him; as well as those who admired him directors Wim Wenders,Roger Corman, Joe Dante and John Landis, and his biographers including Peter Bogdanovich. Its an good portrait of the man as a workaholic trying to turn out enough work for hire to get by. You also get a sense of the mystery of the man. Here's a man who may or may not have reinvented his early film career, and told Bogdanovich and others how he was simply happy making films his way, all the while trying to get back into the big studios (Ulmer appears to have been blacklisted almost at the start for running off with the wife of one of the heads of Universal Studios). The style of the film has almost everyone riding or pretending to ride in a car while being interviewed. Its done in such away as to make it look like several of the people interviewed are talking to each other, so its cut so that Dante and Landis are in the same car, talking to each other. I'm not sure the interviews were done that way but it does create some interesting imaginary conversations.

I liked the film a great deal and it caused me to bring out some of Ulmer's movies to take a look at them once again.

Worth a look for film fans and people who just want to know a bit about one of the movies unsung heroes.
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A Life Less Ordinary
BaronBl00d22 December 2006
I did not know much about the life of director Edgar G. Ulmer save he directed one of my favourite Universal horror films - The Black Cat. I loved the way he set that film up, shot the interiors, and cluttered the film with all kinds of symbolically rich images, not to mention coaxing two great performances out of Karloff and Lugosi. This documentary, a labour of love in a way from his daughter Arianne Ulmer, looks more at Ulmer the man than Ulmer the director. There are lots of interviews by family friends, Ulmer's daughter, actors that worked for Ulmer, and other genre directors and historians that share their ideas about Ulmer's legacy to film. Opening the documentary are two genre historians, Tom Weaver and Gregory Mank, and their informal discussion really sets the way the whole documentary works: conversations with directors in cars(in the U.S. and Germany no less - the dialog between Joe Dante and John Landis was a real hoot), looks at sets of a bygone era(replicated), candid discussions about Ulmer's problems as well as successes, etc... Ulmer's life never rose really above the B picture level, and this documentary tries to explore why. It delves into Ulmer's Jewish films and Black films of the 40s(I didn't know anything about either of these). The interviews are a bit shorter than I would have liked, but most are very candid - not everyone showering Ulmer with praise. My biggest complaint about the documentary is that it tends to assume a bit much of the viewer. Not everyone is as familiar with Ulmer's work as the producers must have felt. I would also have liked more exposition on the films. They are only briefly examined. I did want to see some of his work after watching the DVD. I guess that shows that it did indeed succeed in its initial purpose of reminding everyone of a director that many of us have forgotten.
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This documentary, Edgar G. Ulmer - The Man Off-screen, should prove of interest to his fans
tavm1 June 2008
When I went to my local library recently, I looked for something on DVD that was a bit different from the mainstream and the usual classics. This documentary of a director known as "King of the B's" certainly caught my eye. Here, we get interviews of people like Joe Dante, John Landis, Roger Corman, and Wim Wenders who learned many of their methods of making low-budget films entertaining from him. There's also Peter Bogdanovich who interviewed Ulmer and got his stories of working with various immigrant German filmmakers, that may be or not be completely true, into the public eye. Then there's many actors who worked for him like William Schallert, Jimmy Lydon, Ann Savage from Detour-perhaps Ulmer's best known work, and, from his last work The Cavern, John Saxon and Peter Marshall. Many of these people are riding in cars and may or not be conversing with each other. There's also scenes of a funeral near Paramount that many famous movie people like Hitchcock are buried as well as of a shopping center where the lowest of the "poverty row" studios, PRC, that Ulmer once worked for had resided. And then there's reenactment of some of the director's movie scenes that add to the partly eerie atmosphere concerning Edgar's frustrations with "poverty row" and the studio system. It's especially fascinating seeing his daughter Arianne offering her comments. All in all, Edgar G. Ulmer - The Man Off-screen is a fine tribute to someone who once worried all his work would be destroyed and forgotten after he departed. P.S. The Kino International DVD has added Isle of Forgotten Sins, which doesn't have a clip in the docu, as an extra attraction.
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An interesting and illuminating documentary
Woodyanders16 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This 75-minute doc covers a lot of engrossing and illuminating ground on the life and career of notorious B-movie maverick Edgar G. Ulmer. Among the folks interviewed are directors Roger Corman, Wim Wenders, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Peter Bogdonovich, film historians Tom Weaver and Gregory W. Mank, actors John Saxon and William Schallert, actress Ann Savage, and Ulmer's daughter Arianne, who has some especially poignant comments to make about her father (for example, she reveals that she saw her dad the most on film sets). Among the things we learn about Ulmer was that he was a nomad from the beginning, that he had a tendency to wildly embellish on the facts concerning his work in cinema, he made ethnic movies in New York City in the 1930's, he was at his happiest working for the low-budget outfit PRC, his films often have displaced figures as the main characters, his last picture "The Cavern" took fifteen years to get made, Ulmer had aspirations of being a big studio director, and he was paralyzed for the last five years of his life. Recommended viewing for Edgar Ulmer fans.
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Michael_Elliott29 February 2008
Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off Camera (2004)

** (out of 4)

After having its Turner Classic Movie premiere canceled for some reason, this documentary is finally seeing the light of day through Kino. I'm not sure why it was canceled but the thing comes as a major disappointment. Greg Mank, Tom Weaver, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Wim Winders, John Saxon, Peter Bogdanovich and other discuss the "B" movie director who many consider a genius. I'm not that big of a fan of Ulmer so I was hoping this documentary would show me what I was missing but it certainly didn't do that. All of those giving interviews seem to not know what to say and for the most part they don't say a thing. We get clips from films like The Black Cat, The Man From Planet X and various others but that's about it. I'm sure Mank and Weaver had stuff to say about these films but they give comments like "that was creepy". Bogdanovich has a taped interview with Ulmer, which gets played some throughout the documentary but not enough because what he says is a lot more interesting than anything else here.
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