Before you get your blockbuster on this summer, take 80 minutes (and a few extra for the bonus features) to catch The Sci-Fi Boys, a straight-to-DVD documentary distributed by Universal about the generation of special effects and makeup artists that revolutionized the business in the 1970s and ’80s. Visual-effects supervisor Dennis Muren (E.T., War of the Worlds) and makeup artist Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London), joined by Peter Jackson, John Landis, Roger Corman and a slew of other above- and below-the-liners, lead the reminiscing about getting turned on to movie effects by the spectacle of the original King Kong, the cheap thrills of William Castle and the unabashed fandom of Forrest J. Ackerman. Writer-producer-director Paul Davids begins his genealogy of influence with Ackerman, publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and the crucial link between movie-mad kids in the 1950s and the earlier classic-effects era of Willis O’Brien, Fritz Lang and James Whale. Ackerman’s always luridly illustrated fanzine also became the heart of an amateur filmmaking community of teenage oddballs determined to re-create in their back yards the creature effects they saw onscreen in the films of Castle, Corman and the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Davids includes ample footage of early efforts by his interview subjects (including himself) that underscores the self-taught, handcrafted artistry that made such industry-changing films as Star Wars possible. Inevitably, The Sci-Fi Boys concludes on an ambiguous note, as these same artists reflect on the fading of that tradition in the age of CGI.
Other recommended new releases: Tennessee Williams Film Collection: Baby Doll, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Deluxe Edition, The Night of the Iguana, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, A Streetcar Named Desire: Two-Disc Special Edition, Sweet Bird of Youth (DVD); Two Films by Otar Iosseliani: Farewell, Home Sweet Home, Monday Morning (DVD).
Also released this week: VHS-DVD: The Family Stone; DVD: Delicatessen; Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons; Flight 93; Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 9: Pain and Lust; Hoodwinked; I Love Lucy: The Complete Sixth Season; King of the Hill: Complete Season 6; Last Holiday; Leave It to Beaver: The Complete Second Season; Life in the Undergrowth; The Lucy & Desi Collection: Forever, Darling, The Long Long Trailer, Too Many Girls; The Nanny: The Complete Second Season; Red Dwarf: Series 8; Steve Harvey: Don’t Trip . . . He Ain’t Through With Me Yet!; 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 4.