James Ellroy: Demon Dog Of American Crime Fiction

  • 1993
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Biography, Documentary

If Son of Sam's voices had dictated feverish crime stories rather than sinister doggerel and murderous directives, David Berkowitz might have been James Ellroy. Odds are that most people know Ellroy through Curtis Hanson's film version of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, and through the critically acclaimed My Dark Places, Ellroy's searing, nonfiction investigation of...read more

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If Son of Sam's voices had dictated feverish crime stories rather than sinister doggerel and murderous directives, David Berkowitz might have been James Ellroy. Odds are that most people know Ellroy through Curtis Hanson's film version of L.A.

CONFIDENTIAL, and through the critically acclaimed My Dark Places, Ellroy's searing, nonfiction investigation of his mother's 1958 murder. This 1995 documentary -- which provides a glimpse behind the veil of fiction -- predates both, but it hardly matters: If it had been shot last week,

Ellroy's contemptuous rant about movie-industry sleazebags would have exempted Hanson alongside James B. Harris, who made Ellroy's Blood on the Moon into COP, but his contemptuous appraisal of the scum-sucking rabble would have remained the same. Austrian documentarian Reinhard Jud's

brilliant decision to film Ellroy cruising L.A. in a powder-blue muscle convertible is what saves viewers from drowning in Ellroy's vitriolic babble about detective fiction (it's bull), Joseph Wambaugh's cop novels (loves them) and sordid L.A. history (lives for it). Ellroy drives like a cabbie --

or a private detective -- frozen in a permanent forward hunch, eyes constantly scanning the road. He points out landmarks from his own life, like the clump of bushes where his mother's corpse was found and the houses he used to break into so he could smell girls' panties; famous crime scenes,

including the lot where Elizabeth Short, the notorious "Black Dahlia," was found bisected in 1947; and locations featured in his various novels. Ellroy's self-revelation is simultaneously merciless and carefully crafted, an integral part of his apocalyptic vision of a world spinning off into

violence and hallucinogenic insanity. "I wanted to give people crime fiction on an epic, transcendental scale," he says. Ellroy's rants are interspersed with dreamlike montages of L.A. street scenes accompanied by eerie jazz music; the effect is hallucinatory and oddly soothing.

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  • Released: 1993
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: If Son of Sam's voices had dictated feverish crime stories rather than sinister doggerel and murderous directives, David Berkowitz might have been James Ellroy. Odds are that most people know Ellroy through Curtis Hanson's film version of L.A. CONFIDENTIA… (more)

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