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8/10
Even if you don't know a thing about him, it's funny and revealing of human nature
allegra-sloman22 August 2009
I had the privilege of watching this with two other people who saw Harlan Ellison with me at a now legendary appearance in the late 80's in Toronto, and we kept looking at each other and snickering. But even if you never saw him live, read any of his work, or had any familiarity with him at all, you can appreciate this documentary as being about a man WORTHY of a documentary. He's just that bloody entertaining.

The soundtrack - by Richard Thompson, the legendary Brit folkie - is amazing, by the way.

Some of the camera work is really amateurish, but most of the straight interview footage is well shot. The camera work and the parts that got left out of Ellison's bio - probably in deference to his storied litigiousness - are what knocked this down to 8 out of 10.

His initial 'interview' with Robin Williams is worth watching even if you can't spend the time on the rest of the movie. Within minutes we were all helplessly laughing.

If you're at all interested in SF, either literary or media, movies, have a love affair with the English language or just want to see what it's like to be a legendary, visionary, prolific, brilliant and uncompromising pain in the rear, see this film. I intend to watch it again as some of the dialogue went by so fast I missed it, and it was really, really funny.
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8/10
a mind with sharp teeth
Quinoa198425 May 2009
While Harlan Ellison might bite my head off for going off into self-indulgence in writing about whether or not I enjoyed Dreams with Sharp Teeth, I should mention how I came across him and why I had to seek out this documentary, for better or worse. The first was watching the adaptation of his short story, A Boy and His Dog, by LQ Jones from the mid-70s, a warped, outrageous, and yet insanely lucid fantasy satire that was the direct inspiration for Mad Max. It's still unlike few stories out there in terms of matching wit with real decrepit atmosphere fused with the cold-blooded non-ideal of living underground in a false utopia.

The second was reading Harlan Ellison's Watching, a collection of his film criticism from the mid 60s to the early 90s. For anyone looking to become anything of a writer about film or one who just wants to become more knowledgeable of Ellison's sardonic and ferocious pen need to check it out, as it is, in my opinion, on par if not more enjoyable than Pauline Kael. He brings personal experience into the work, as well as some imaginative leaps/flights of fancy (i.e. imagining the nimrods going at the mall to see Rambo: First Blood Part 2 opening weekend), and while it and his film writing get only passing mention here, it is something that should be mentioned at every turn. That, along with I would wager reading just one of his stories, will turn you on to him... or turn you off.

The documentary on Mr. Ellison and his successes, and his own personal anger at life and the world in general most days, is adoratory but not unaware of the man's tendencies to lunge out at people's throats (if only figuratively) any chance he gets. He's alive like few other writers (I'd say Hunter S. Thompson could take him, but that's about all that pops into the mind at first), and like all good writers knows that a legacy is legitimate only by the work left behind. As we see here, it is the work that is incredible, if only for the abundance of it: hundreds of short stories, loads of TV work, 8 Hugo awards, and a Master of Science Fiction award. Oh yeah, and apparently this 5'5 Jewish kid from Ohio was a super Ladie's man in his time, though we only get a hint of that and more-so the lovely, acerbic relationship with his current wife of twenty years, who seems to be the only one who can stand up to him when he goes off the rails.

If the filmmakers may take some choice clips that don't quite dig into all the crevices we might want (i.e. they brush over the fact, though make mention, of his lack of contact with a sister, and his personal life in general with his family), they do provide us an idea of his working relationship, maybe so much so that you wonder who could work with him. He's a professional, to be sure, but he'll also nail a gopher to a door of a publisher or go into a Three Stooges style stunt to give a big-time sock in the nose to someone he has a vendetta against, and never will a fool be treated kindly. What one takes away with in Dreams with Sharp Teeth, ultimately, is that whether or not you'll "like" this guy or even "like" the guys writing, he's alive. He won't be a zombie in the world, though he admits that he's thought once or twice it would be more convenient than waking up every morning angry as hell. You wouldn't want to walk down a dark alley and meet this guy's mind and not be ready to spar. If nothing else, the film does a fantastic job illuminating that and the man's career.
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8/10
The Man, The Myth, The Misanthrope...
cchase5 March 2010
If you are, or ever have been, an avid reader of fiction, especially the SF/Fantasy genre, you can probably recall at least one author whose work was so vivid, potent and visceral, it changed the way you looked at everything - not just reading, or writing, but your entire world view - for the rest of your life. I recall that very moment well: I wasn't even into my teens yet, when I picked up a copy of DEATHBIRD STORIES and read "The Whimper Of Whipped Dogs." Whatever sense of true naiveté I had gasped its last breath that day, when I read the last page of that story.

Not necessarily a bad thing, either. So when I heard about this documentary all these years later, I had to know if the man responsible for that story and that book, was every bit as cynical, angry, vitriolic, nihilistic and insanely brilliant as the reputation that preceded him. I can now verify: he is that and so, so much more.

Perhaps it's most telling that at the opening of DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH, we are introduced to Harlan through the eyes, perception and quicksilver wit of one of the author's closest, long-time friends: Robin Williams. Harlan is at his calmest (if the word can be applied to him) and most amiable when he is in the company of like-minded, intelligent and especially famous people, many of whom chime in here to help tell his story: Neil Gaiman, Ron Moore, Dan Simmons and his own fifth wife, Susan among them (and she gets not nearly enough screen time, more's the pity.)

Through rare home movie footage, recited excerpts of his work, various rants, tirades, anecdotes and reveries, we get a sense of who the man is apart from the author, and it's certainly a complex, perplexing, funny and often times very sad picture. For long-time fans, it will be a validation of everything you've heard over these many years since he began writing pulp paperbacks under a pseudonym barely out of his teens.

If you're not a fan or haven't read a single thing by him, I would suggest you pick up an anthology like DANGEROUS VISIONS or even just a story or two if possible. That way, he'll look a lot less like just one more short, angry old man screaming "YOU KIDS GET THE F*** OFF MY LAWN!!!"
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8/10
Learn from the master
eggy-773649 October 2015
Harlan Ellison is hands down one of the most fascinating personalities of literature, and this documentary does him justice by just letting him talk about god (or his/her nonexistence) and the world. A lot of these monologues are rants, but they are so fascinating to listen to (and wildly entertaining) that you will enjoy this documentary greatly. I cannot judge how Ellison comes across in this film if you don't know his writing already, but one thing is sure: he doesn't care if you like him or not. In this age of political correctness, of hypocrisy, of dancing around important subjects out of fear of having any kind of stance or position Ellison is somebody you should listen to. Behind his facade of the angry old man spouting vulgarities is probably the most moral and ethical person you could ever meet on this planet. His views on subjects like intellectual property are enlightening and important, his critique of our superficial and anti-intellectual society is spot-on. As a film the parts that come across the weakest are some computer visualizations of Ellison's prose, but it's great to hear the man himself reciting excerpts from his stories. Neil Gaiman talks very sympathetically about his friend, as is Robin Williams (who comes across as endearingly vulnerable and warm-hearted, especially in hindsight of his suicide). Dan Simmons acknowledges that he owes his career to Ellison, as do many others. All in all a great an entertaining documentary that every budding writer should watch to learn one important lesson from the master himself: writing (and art) is not for sissies. You have to take a stance, and you should not be afraid of getting s***thrown at you. Ellison has gone through all that, and has remained true to himself all the way.
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8/10
Terrific documentary
Mr-Fusion24 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Rule #1 when making a documentary is to have an engaging subject. And few out there are more interesting than Harlan Ellison. Ellison is one of the most provocative, caustic, and opinionated voices in American history. He is also one of the most prolific writers of science fiction ever published. If you've never read his work, then chances are you've heard one of his vitriolic rants. Ellison is certainly not one to suffer fools gladly. And you certainly don't cross the man. Naturally, much of the humor of the documentary is derived from the cantankerousness of Ellison, himself (and there's plenty of amusement).

But there are unexpected moments of poignancy, as well. Ellison shows emotion while regaling the audience with tales of his growing up in Cleveland, Ohio (a frequent target for bullying). And even a bit of longing for his deceased parents. These moments (though brief) shed some humanity on Ellison the Personality.

Dreams with Sharp Teeth is a solid documentary, filled with infectious energy and sharp wit. The film pulls no punches in its portrayal of this in-your-face writer, and never fails to entertain.
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9/10
Solid Documentary
Bosch22 November 2009
DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH is a low-budget documentary about Ellison made by Erik Nelson that dates back to 1981, when Nelson interviewed Ellison for TV. Various friends and associates provide on-camera commentaries about Harlan Ellison's fiction, career, romances, personality, and how he affected their lives and world views. However, the majority of screen time is taken up by Ellison himself: reading passages from stories, telling jokes, relating childhood memories, showing us around his amazing house (nicknamed The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars), talking candidly about social issues and writing projects, or just bumming around Los Angeles. Even though there's about 60 clips of Ellison on YouTube, fans should grab DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH because it's a priceless distillation of the phenomenon that is Harlan Ellison, warts and all.

The only problem is that at 96 minutes, the documentary is too brief. Maybe that's a compliment? For example, the archive clips could have run a few minutes longer without tormenting people's bladders and taxing the film's editor. The US DVD includes snippets of story readings, footage of the premier in LA, and an extended chat with Neil Gaiman over pizza.
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10/10
Ellison's eloquence...
poe42626 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Many of my heroes have gone unheralded in their own lifetimes. How many people have ever heard of (let alone actually read) Robert E. Howard or Shirley Jackson or Charles Beaumont or Harlan Ellison? Edgar Allen Poe, though he died in a gutter, is still read (though not as extensively as one might think: besides THE TELL-TALE HEART, THE BLACK CAT and THE RAVEN, how many of his vastly varied tales truly "live on"?). If not for the efforts of friends and admirers, H.P. Lovecraft would be dead and long-forgotten by now. Richard Matheson is one of a select few whose outstanding craftsmanship and boundless imagination have elevated them to the level of a "Grand Master." Another is Harlan Ellison. Ellison, unlike any other writer I've encountered (I actually met him at a comic book convention in Charlotte, North Carolina about ten years ago), pulls no punches- on the page or off. He has his way with words, if you will. It's fun to listen to him dissemble about comics (THE MASTERS OF COMIC BOOK ART) or writing (DARK DREAMERS, Vol. II, in which he mentions his story TERRA COGNITA and how it came to be) or anything else. His undeniable passion for writing is in itself inspirational. (When members of my own writing group used to ask me where I got my ideas, I would simply tap my temple with my index finger. "In here," I would tell them: "It's all in here, just waiting for me to access it." Ellison's response to that question is much funnier than mine, by the way...) When I came across an issue of something called ROCKET'S BLAST COMIC COLLECTOR (or something like that) that showed Ellison Wonderland itself, I pored over the fotos like an archaeologist trying to decipher ancient hieroglyphics. I looked for clues to Genius. They're there, I'm sure... all I have to do is decipher them. Then apply them. In a college writing course, I came up with what I've always thought was an apt metaphor: "Writing is the God-like act of Creation." Amen.
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9/10
We Should All Aspire to This
Hitchcoc16 August 2020
There was a time in my life when I read so much science fiction. I approached it from a childish perspective. But I got to ingest some of the most creative writing I've had the joy to encounter. I knew from age 18, Harlan Ellison was the bad boy, the one knocking on the door of the inappropriate. He was often hard to read, but it was a kick in the pants to get through his works (sometimes after a second reading). This wonderful documentary gives us the man from every angle, and as acerbic as he is, I couldn't take my eyes off him. He sees the real world and confronts it. He points out that life is one battle after another. Rage against it. Don't listen to doubters and whiners. I don't read much science fiction any more because my meager knowledge of science makes it beyond my abilities. So be it. But Ellison gave me a gift a long time ago and it was nice to be reminded of that gift one more time.
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9/10
Great overview of Life & Work of imaginative speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison including his acerbic Wit and Chaotic wisdom.
Ed-from-HI18 May 2020
Warning: Spoilers
This is a truly fascinating and entertaining DVD documentary focusing on writer Harlan Ellison (originally produced/directed by Erik Nelson in 2008 a couple years after Harlan Ellison had won the 'Grand Master' Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Ellison unfortunately recently passed a couple years ago (circa 2018.) Erik Nelson's documentary gives great insight into the iconic speculative fiction rebel-writer who (as many have said before) was one of the unique few who could raise the act of belligerence to the rarefied heights of performance art in his prolific fiction writing, cogent essays on movies, TV and other cultural trends, and of course scorching interviews and talent locating writing-workshops.

In this documentary, many other successfully imaginative 'creators' like Neil Gaiman, Ronald D. Moore, Peter David, Dan Simmons, Josh Olson and especially Robin Williams (Ellison's close friend for many years) attest to how much Ellison made an indelible impression = his quick-wit and incendiary writing style influencing & amazing many (Richard Thompson founder of Fairport Convention provides a fantastically inventive Musical Score!)

For those not familiar with Harlan Ellison's classic speculative fiction book compilations/anthologies, award winning short-stories and novellas and numerous cogently critical essays, you might have at least been aware that he had written the teleplay for what many consider to be the single finest episode of Classic Star Trek, from the first season titled: 'City on the Edge of Forever' (voted as Best, in many SF fan polls), or you might have seen his name listed as a 'story consultant/advisor' on the series 'Babylon 5' or 1985 revitalized 'Twilight Zone'

For a time Ellison was certainly one of the most brilliant & imaginative writers associated with the Science Fiction (his preferred term 'Speculative Fiction') New Wave, from about the mid-late sixties onward (also including Robert Silverberg, Michael Moorcock and J. G. Ballard from England, Ursula K. Le Guin and others).

Ellison's inherent rebelliousness, and constant striving for 'integrity' with regards to preserving an artist/ author's original vision, put him at odds with Hollywood producers (even though he had great early success there with the aforementioned Star Trek, and many other highly acclaimed episodes of other futuristic/ speculative series, especially the exceptionally fine, and incredibly original (for their time) Outer Limits Episodes: 'Demon with a Glass Hand' and 'Soldier'. I was either too young, or not even born when these Classic series were first-run (but have seen them subsequently in re-runs, or on DVD and was amazed at both the high quality of script writing, and even more so by the sheer imaginative power behind them! Ellison came back to Hollywood (briefly) in the mid-1980's to re-launch the 'Twilight Zone' (the show of course, originally created by Rod Serling.) Ellison created/ wrote the new 1980's version parameters/ guidelines, i.e. show 'bible' and was integral to its successful (at least initially) re-launch, and even wrote a number of the best first-season episodes (but alas, another controversy and battle with Network censors over writer's original story 'integrity' caused him to resign, mid-way and the show lost some of its kinetic energy and momentum after that although it did hang on another season and a little more in syndication).

The mid-1970s film, 'A Boy and His Dog' (about after-effects of devastating Nuclear War), was also based on an award winning Ellison story, another controversial but immensely interesting film hampered a bit by an ultra-low budget - a follow-up for main characters Vic & Blood has also been done in 'Graphic novel' form.

But the bulk of Harlan Ellison's genius was exhibited thru his brilliant & masterful book writing (mostly his imaginative & insightful short stories, that have won numerous prestigious awards), and also by way of his ground-breaking work as an editor of the watershed speculative story anthologies (that broke much new ground, at the time): 'Dangerous Visions; and 'Again, Dangerous Visions' and perpetually 'in the works' D-Visions 3 that was never released in Ellison's lifetime. He also produced very fine critique/commentary on popular culture, Movies, and Television. But, most unfortunately, for many years, much of the evidence of his certified 'genius' was out-of-print.

Thankfully, over the last 10 years or so much has become available again. The two Dangerous Visions collections are worth the price just for Ellison's cogent and thoroughly entertaining (and often insightful) essays introducing each of the selected stories describing the eccentric & imaginative authors who created them. Ellison's, original story collections like "Deathbird Stories' 'Shatterday' 'Angry Candy' 'Slippage' are also must reads.

If you are currently unfamiliar with Ellison's Works, watch this fantastic DVD first = it will be a good initial guide to Harlan Ellison's Best output and his inimitably irascible yet exceedingly entertaining personality appreciated especially by hyper-imaginative speculative fiction fans while he briefly inhabited our pale blue Earth.
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10/10
The Man You Rarely See But Always Wanted To
kanajlo4 August 2010
If this little doc does nothing but make you curious enough about the work of Ellison to go out a read a few of his short stories, it will be worth your time. Imagine how curious you would be if Mark Twain were still alive and could be interviewed. Yeah, it's just like that. And Ellison writes as well as Twain did.

Actually, there are some parallels and stark contrasts between Sam Clemens and Ellison. Twain's _Tom Sawyer_ was the first novel written on a typewriter. Ellison has a typewriter, which he pecks on with two fingers, but never used a computer or word-processing program. Clemens and Twain were irascible and fearless when it came to declaiming what they believed to be true. Both were highly ethical, but cared little for religion. Both writers were prolific. Twain did _not_ have a Jewish mother. Oy. Both were spellbinding on the lecture circuit. Both of them will be read as long as the English language exists. If you have any interest in fantasy or fiction or science fiction, Ellison's genius and sharp wit are unsurpassed. Clemens is long gone, but thank God I lived to read --and see-- Ellison!
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10/10
Interesting, informative.. also funny!
patrickjcareyiii14 January 2011
I've only read a couple of Ellison's stories ("'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", and "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream", maybe one or two more that I don't remember). I wasn't interested in this documentary because I'm a fan. I have a family connection to an editor of sci-fi work from the period where Ellison was living in and publishing out of New York, and I was curious about whether that connection was mentioned at all. That is the sole, presumptuous, and completely narcissistic reason I watched this film.

It was, regardless of the lack of mention of my niece's grandfather, thoroughly entertaining and informative. Ellison has a knack for storytelling even when he's not telling stories. It's worth watching... for those two or three people wondering whether to watch it or not.
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As sharp as Ellison's own writing
gortx24 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Even if you only know Ellison as the guy who wrote CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER on the original TREK (and he's in the middle of a lawsuit over it right now, 40+ years on!), this is a highly enjoyable documentary. Ellison, of course, is the star of his own film, but guests interviewed are also informative on Ellison's life and work. This is isn't a, "he was born in X, then he did Y and then...." kind of doc. Ellison does readings from his work and there are clips going back to the 60s with interviews on Tom Snyder, The Today Show etc. Visually, this is no great shakes, but definitely worth seeking out. The DVD is supposed to be out in June.

After the screening, Ellison took the stage with Josh Olson (screenwriter of Cronenberg's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, and co-writer with Ellison of a Masters of Science Fiction episode a couple of summers back). Of course Olson didn't get a word in edgewise as Ellison was just so - HARLAN - as he went on for well over an hour. At times, it seemed like the documentary hadn't ended - it was still going on Live! Ellison was wise, profane and even touching. He could segue from talking in EXCRUCIATING detail about BOTH times he had crabs, and then talk with deep emotion about his father. But, then it's back to bragging about his sexual exploits - with his wife, Susan, standing 10 feet away! Of course, not only has she heard it all before, but she can dish it back!
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9/10
Lovable curmudgeon, brilliant writer
jellopuke29 June 2018
You get a bit of everything here; looks at cranky Harlan, rants, and book excerpts. While it'd be nice to have some more in depth analysis of his work, his personality is just so big that it overpowers it all. Super entertaining movie.
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10/10
They broke the mold...
MrGKB28 May 2018
...after Harlan Ellison was born, simple as that, and the world will be a lesser place once he is gone. Fortunately, though, his writing will survive, and that's good enough for me. In my pantheon of cultural heroes, he remains at or near the top, depending on my situation at the time; he has spoken to me and for me throughout my lifetime of reading more than any other author, almost as though he were a second father, or perhaps an older brother to be worshiped from afar. I will weep at his passing.

No one who is at all literate can remain unaware of Ellison's work, and very likely unaware of his reputation. Mercurial, iconoclastic, savage, unrelenting; a thesaurus can barely contain all the descriptives that apply to Ellison and his voluminous output.

My sole encounter with him occurred decades ago, when I was lucky enough to attend one of his speaking gigs at a nearby college. I brought several spoken word LPs he had recorded, prizes of my collection, in hopes of an autograph or two, and when I made it to the front of the line and was face to face with the man himself, all I could think to say beyond the obvious sycophantic pleasantries was that I had read everything he'd ever written. He looked at me askance, and said something along the lines of, "Really?" and then signed my LPs. I fled, chastened, grateful that I had been spared further ignominy. My love for the man and his work now knows no bounds.

"Dreams with Sharp Teeth" is a must-see for all Ellison devotees, and neophytes as well.
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6/10
Solid
Cosmoeticadotcom7 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Ellison, despite his artistic shortcomings, is an entertaining figure….for about 20 minutes; not the film's whole 96 minutes. He simply has little of depth to say: he does not like this, he does not like that, he revels in tales of his supposed bravado with fans, studio executives, and other writers, but we have all known people like this, and they are bores, and boors. The only reason no one seems to tell this to Ellison is because, well, he's rich and famous, and pointing this out to someone rich and famous is decidedly un-American.

If anything of Ellison is remembered in a few centuries, it may likely only be this film, in some large archive of formerly important subjects for anthropological purposes, for, as a film, and as an exploration of an artist, it fails. Here's hoping director Nelson's next three decades are a bit more rewarding, to him and us.
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