Dima Ballin (director)
25 August 2019 (released)
25 August 2019
When Michael Reeves passed at just twenty-five years old he left a small legacy of three films and some shorts. He has however become an icon within the horror genre and in this documentary Dima Ballin tries to explain through contributions from Reeves friends and colleagues why. It’s a tricky task though even with the little material that Reeves left you do get a picture of a complex man driven by ambition and his demons.
It is fairly conventional in delving into privileged childhood, and inspirations. An avid film fan he was in the cinema as much as possible and deciding that he wanted to be film-maker was lucky enough to inherit enough money to enable him to fulfil his ambition.
That still meant work, so while making short films, and he pushed for jobs landing one in 1963’s The Long Ships as the 2nd director (the director was a family friend (he was a well-connected man)). It’s at this time that he developed a friendship with director Don Siegel who it seems became something of a mentor.
However, the film’s meat are the three features. The Revenge of the Blood Beast was made in Italy for very little money and it shows. His next film The Sorcerers harped back to the Universal classics only because its starred Boris Karloff. His final film is the undisputed classic Witchfinder General. This film’s merits, production and personal problems have been well documented. So, there isn’t that much here that’s new nevertheless it’s interesting to hear about the tussles with censors and the US attempt to add smash it into the Poe series.
What director Dima Ballin does is place them in the context of the times. Horror cinema was at a high-water mark in the late 60’s with the Poe adaptations in full flow, Hammer producing its classic films, and Italy growing in status. Which is interesting as we hear from contributors that Reeves wasn’t that much of a horror fan; his choice of projects were commercial decisions. That therefore opens up the speculation of what could have been.
And that is all we have as the film tracks his final sorry years, the poor scripts, drugs, mental health problems and eventual passing. The film probably could have explored his potential further as he was definitely looking beyond genre and his influence on Sam Peckinpah suggests that other avenues were opening.