James Ellroy: Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction (1998) Poster

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9/10
Terrific documentary about the hard-boiled author
EdwardRolls8 May 2006
Hard to find, but well worth it. This documentary was made in the early 90s, before the big-screen success of L.A. Confidential. Ellroy is a mesmerizing chronicler of crime and corruption in Los Angeles.

He touches on his obsession with the Black Dahlia, his mother's murder, and his own past as a drunk and petty criminal. Though his pitch is often wild, Ellroy comes off as astonishingly candid when discussing his mixed feelings about his mother's murder, or how he feels estranged from modern Los Angeles. Between the Ellroy segments, the film ispadded with lots of grainy atmospheric montages of LA life.

For fans of the author, especially those who have never seen him in person, this is a must-see documentary.
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This Austrian documentary leaves too much "confidential"
Richard_Harland_Smith15 February 2000
Reinhard Jud's portrait of James Ellroy was already five years old when it played the American art house circuit in 1998 - and looks in on Ellroy before his international recognition as the author of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Although Ellroy is a fascinating, beguiling character, Jud's documentary is too fannish and impressed with itself to really hit the mark. Ellroy is allowed to do his City of Angels spiel and poke fun at himself, but none of his more interesting allegations - such as that Los Angeles has become "uglier, darker and more violent in every conceivable way." Nothing we are shown supports this view - despite the fact that Jud's crew turns its camera on Los Angeles nightlife for as long as six interrupted minutes - although this is likely a bid to beef up the film's running time to feature length. JAMES ELLROY: DEMON DOG OF AMERICAN CRIME FICTION isn't a bad movie (Ellroy is part coroner, part carnival barker), but it's a crummy documentary.
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10/10
A Must See For All Ellroy Fans
chasswaffield24 November 2006
This is not a question and answer type documentary. It is Ellroy, in his own words, guiding us, often from behind the steering wheel of his car, through the LA of his childhood and early adulthood up to '93, when the film was made. We see the settings for many of his early books and explore those areas of LA poignant to his own personal life: places he lived in growing up, the scene of his mother's death ( where Ellroy elaborates on what he thought happened pre My Dark Places), the Dahlia murder scene, the parks where Ellroy slept rough in his early adult years, the dosshouses he stayed in, the villas in Hancock Park which Ellroy broke into to indulge his dark curiosities and Ellroy in his writing studio, talking about his motivations and writing ambitions. The film has a wonderful 'roving eye' feel to it. 'It's grey, it's overcast; it feels good. It might not look like it, but it has the feel of an old LA day,' says Ellroy, from behind the wheel. Palm trees blow in the breeze, hookers walk by, montages of cheap motel signs and the milieu of LA by night, played out to jazz; there is echoes of Travis Bickle's journey through the underside of New York in this film. I found it both illuminating and stimulating to watch and would thoroughly recommend it to any Ellroy fans out there.
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Great Writer, Poor Documentary
monsterpee7 July 2000
James Ellroy, a great writer and interesting personality, I would have liked to learn more about him. Unfortunately this documentary, by Reinhard Jud, seems to only glaze over the man and show us a well-staged facade. Jud follows Ellroy around Los Angeles while Ellroy gives us tidbits of information about his life and some of that city's most interesting history and crimes.

These vignettes serve only to get us interested more in Ellroy, yet they do nearly nothing to tell us about the real man. Even when Ellroy visits the site of his mother's unsolved murder we feel a little empty and cheated. If Jud got to know Ellroy it doesn't show here. We feel as if we're on a tour bus with Ellroy as the guide, wishing he was somewhere else.

There are some good moments in the film. Most of them involve Ellroy speaking about his youth and taking us through the neighborhoods that he used to haunt as a young man. These moments, sadly, are few and the rest of the film is filled with seemingly endless footage of L.A.

We get the impression that Jud could only get a minimal amount of footage with Ellroy, and had to beef up the film so it could reach a feature length status. This makes one believe that Jud should have attempted to spend more time with Ellroy, to do as any good documentary film-maker would do: get to know the subject intimately. Sadly, this wasn't the case.

I wish that the same amount of care and research that went into the excellent documentary "American Movie" could be invested in James Ellroy. He's a complex and interesting personality, and worthy of more than this film offers.
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This Austrian documentary leaves too much "confidential"
Richard_Harland_Smith15 February 2000
Reinhard Jud's portrait of James Ellroy was already five years old when it played the American art house circuit in 1998 - and looks in on Ellroy before his international recognition as the author of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Although Ellroy is a fascinating, beguiling character, Jud's documentary is too fannish and impressed with itself to really hit the mark. Ellroy is allowed to do his City of Angels spiel and poke fun at himself, but none of his more interesting allegations - such as that Los Angeles has become "uglier, darker and more violent in every conceivable way" are challenged (and nothing we are shown supports this view - despite the fact that Jud's crew turns its camera on Los Angeles nightlife for as long as six interrupted minutes - although this is likely a bid to beef up the film's running time to feature length.) JAMES ELLROY: DEMON DOG OF AMERICAN CRIME FICTION isn't a bad movie (Ellroy is part coroner, part carnival barker), but it's a crummy documentary.
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