Michael Felsher is a longtime producer of DVD/blu-ray extras, including some interesting feature-length work on films like The Monster Squad and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. He’s also got a strong connection with George Romero and his extended filmmaking family, having done extensive supplement-producing work on home video editions of new and old Romero projects. Just Desserts: The Making Of Creepshow combines both the feature-length and Romero-oriented threads of his career – and the results are some of his finest work.
As the title suggests, Just Desserts offers a look at the origin, production, release and legacy of Creepshow, a team up between Romero and writer Stephen King that represents the best of the post-’70s horror anthologies. This documentary starts with some background detail on the friendship that Romero and King formed while trying to get adaptations made for Salem’s Lot and The Stand. Romero got King to play the title role in the “Jordy Verrill” section of the film and there are plenty of interesting tales about King adjusting to the challenges of comic acting as well as some surprising challenges involved his makeup in the film.
Despite the stellar cast and the fact that Warner Brothers handled its U.S. distribution, Creepshow was a dyed-in-the-wool indie project like the rest of Romero’s pre-Monkey Shines work. That shines through in the interviews used for Just Desserts: Romero provides the centerpiece, marveling at his resources but revealing how he put it all together with his own homespun style of cinematic ingenuity. That aspect of his work is highlighted in Just Desserts, including neat sections on the lighting and editing techniques used to achieve a sense of comic book stylization as well as the production design challenges. Better yet, horror fans get treated to breakdowns of the different makeup effects by Tom Savini.
A number of Creepshow‘s cast members pop up here, calling attention to the film’s once-in-a-lifetime lineup of actors: Ed Harris talks about his infamous-but-beloved dance moves in one scene and Adrienne Barbeau talks about how her then-husband John Carpenter played a key role in getting her to take her role in Creepshow. Nick Tallo, a grip who worked on the film, also throws in some fun tales involving Hal Holbrook and E.G. Marshall. Periodic bits of on-set video footage add some extra star-related fun, the best being some priceless footage of Ted Danson clowning around in his aqua-zombie makeup.
Felsher weaves all these threads together with skill, not only maintaining a snappy pace but also giving the proceedings a stylistic shot in the arm by emulating Romero’s Creepshow style: there are fun comic book style panel-and-wipe transitions modeled on the film’s editing and the documentary’s score mixes atmospheric synth cues from the Creepshow score with the kind of amusing library music cues that Romero once leaned on in his films’ scores. Inspired touches like those will make longtime fans of the director grin.
Better yet, Felsher’s rapport with the extended Romero filmmaking family allows him to tap into the family vibe that made Creepshow so special to its creative team. In addition to Romero and Savini, there are appearances from editor Pasquale Buba, composer/1st A.D. John Harrison, key grip Nick Mastandrea and several others. Their tales illustrate how Romero was a boss who allowed his collaborators to learn on the job while having fun. They also give you a sense of the crew’s esprit de corps, even when they’re having to deal with thousands of roaches for one of Creepshow‘s key scenes (some of the funniest material in the documentary).
In short, Just Desserts: The Making Of Creepshow is not only a must-see for George Romero fans but one of Felsher’s most inspired film documentaries. Anyone who longs for the days of old-school American indie horror will find the tales unfolded here soul-satisfying.