The most effective documentaries about filmmaking make you run to the video store (or the Netflix queue) to rent the movies you’ve just learned about. Martin Scorsese Presents: Val Lewton — The Man in the Shadows (produced and narrated by Scorsese and directed by Kent Jones) is one of those documentaries.
Lewton wasn’t a director; he was the head of the low-budget-horror unit at RKO in the 1940s. Like his mentor, David O. Selznick, Lewton believed the producer was a movie’s primary force, and so he dictated every detail of his movies to achieve his singular vision — horror that was never seen, but was implied by shadows, shapes, suspense, and sound. The results include the unsettling masterpieces Cat People and I Walked With a Zombie, movies that, according to Scorsese, “created a new type of cinematic beauty.”
Val Lewton — The Man in the Shadows is being released as part of a Lewton box set. But you can see the documentary (and a marathon of his movies the documentary makes you want to see) on TCM beginning January 14.
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