DVD, 4 disc set, $24.99
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
Anyone who loves horror and fantasy (fiction, art, movies, directors, actors, screenwriters, and special effects) is going to want the DVD set of Stanley Wiater’s Dark Dreamers. This is a four-disc collection of interviews that appeared on Canadian television from 2000 to 2001, which includes sit downs with Richard Matheson, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Douglas Clegg, Jack Ketchum, Harlan Ellison, the late, great Forrest J. Ackerman and Richard Laymon and Stan Winston, Bernie Wrightson, Wes Craven, John Landis, John Skipp & Craig Spector, Richard Christian Matheson, and another twenty people who are involved in the world of make-believe horror. Each disc has seven-to-ten interviews on it, and each segment of one-to-two interviews was geared toward a thirty minutes time slot. Some segments have only one interview on them such as those with Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Stan Winston, Sean S. Cunningham, Peter Straub, John Landis, while the others have two interviews, each at fifteen minutes with spaces for commercial breaks.
The quality of the filming is very low budget with most of the interviews taking place in the Los Angeles area, where most of the people seem to live. There are no bells and whistles in this set, nor are the interviews done with flash and circumstance. It’s simply a sit down between Stanley Wiater and the person being interviewed with a few questions being asked. Of course, it’s the interviews that are the most important aspects of this collection. In many ways, the interviews are priceless, especially since a number of the people are now dead. So with that stated, you know exactly what you’re getting when you buy this set, and believe me, it is worth the twenty dollars or so for the entire set. Much of what is said during these interviews is a treasure box full of information for would-be writers and directors following the path that was previously paved by these dark believers.
Here’s a small sampling of what you can expect to hear in many of the interviews.
- Clive Barker discusses his many projects from fiction to directing to painting and to writing poetry. He also still writes his novels in long hand, believing that this process forces you to get it right the first time.
- Richard Matheson talks about his personal experience with the late, great TV writer, Charles Beaumont, and how they were almost killed when driving through the Hollywood mountains after a golf match and a huge tractor-trailer truck got on their rear bumper for the entire stretch of the downward, curving highway. Matheson later used this experience to write his teleplay for the TV movie, Duel, which was Steven Speilberg’s first movie.
- Then, there’s Forrest J. Ackerman who created the legendary Famous Monsters of Filmland back during the early sixties. A thirteen-year-old boy named Stephen King, sent his first short story to Famous Monsters, but it was soundly rejected. Many years later, King autographed the story for Ackerman.
- Harlan Ellison, though older, hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still ranting and raving about everything, but with maybe just a touch of more humor mixed in with his satirical look at the plight of humanity. I have to admit that Ellison had me laughing out loud at numerous points in the interview.
- Peter Straub delves into his friendship with Stephen King. He talks about how King and his family moved to London for a year and how he and the master of horror gradually developed a close friendship that brought about the collaboration on The Talisman.
- The artist Bernie Wrightson tells the story of how Stephen King once called him during the day, and how he thought it was a prank being played by one of his friends. It wasn’t until George Romero got on the phone, too, that Bernie realized that he was talking to two great masters in the horror genre. King was calling because he wanted Bernie to do the artwork for the comic book adaptation of Creepshow, which was then being filmed by Romero.
- There’s also Del Howison, the owner of the Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank, California. He delves into his dream of creating a store where everyone interested in the horror genre (fiction, movies, screenplays, toys, and other paraphernalia) could come to visit, sharing the experience with others of like mind.
- Ah, but let us not forget the beautiful and sexy Julie Strain, who has made a career out of doing low budget B-horror movies. Smart and Amazonian in statue, Julie discusses her career and how difficult it’s been to make a living in Hollywood, though she was earning six figures a year, working almost non-stop. This is a lady who probably has as many male fans as Stephen King does, but for different reasons.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg with Dark Dreamers. The people being interviewed discuss much more than just those tidbits of information, plus there are all the individuals I didn’t mention. For true lovers of the horror genre, this is a must-have collection of some of the most famous people working in the many areas of the horror genre. I don’t know if there will ever be anything like this again, though I certainly hope so. There are other writers and directors out there who need to be interviewed so that their own knowledge of make-believe horror can be shared with those of who want to work in this industry. Check out this DVD set, and then buy it. You won’t be disappointed in these memorable moments by those who are dark believers and masters of their craft.