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July 1, 2017

Movie Review: The Creep Behind the Camera (2014)

Directed by Pete Schuermann

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

In cult film fandom, there exists an echelon of maverick filmmakers who get their outlandish projects done in spite of a lack of money and no real discernible talent. Far, far, far removed from the studio system, upstarts such as Herschel Gordon Lewis and Edward D. Wood Jr. whip up colorfully inept motions pictures that people still treasure to this day.

There is a dark side to all of this admirable gumption and verve, however. The making of any independent feature film, from Sundance favorite to shot-on-video zombie epic is fraught with broken promises and unpaid bills. Case in point: Friend and bad movie director extraordinaire Larry Buchanan, for all of his old school charm and gentility broke quite a few eggs to make his omelet. To this day, actors on his Grade-Z stinkers such as Curse of the Swamp Creature (1967) have quite a few horror stories to tell – unrelated to the horror stories the films themselves were trying to tell! Just ask actor Francine York, who starred in the aforementioned Swamp Creature  … but that is a story for another time.

This dynamic is illustrated profusely in the quasi-documentary Creep Behind the Camera, the story behind the many-named Arthur Nelson, the cracked auteur behind The Creeping Terror (1964). Imminently familiar to the readers of this Web site, The Creeping Terror is about a vaguely phallic walking carpet monster that eats a few people and disrupts a dance down at the union hall in a small Californian town. Atrocious as it gets, the entire soundtrack to The Creeping Terror consists of narration from Wham-O! Toy commercial pitchman Larry Burrell and canned music. While celebrated by bad movie fans, there's no denying the fact that The Creeping Terror is best left as a late-night sleeping aid.

To reiterate, the story of Arthur Nelson is far more frightening than the one in The Creeping Terror. Born in Connecticut, Nelson was a diminutive sociopath hell-bent on making it in the movies. With his blushing, unprepared bride Lois Wiseman under his arm, Nelson made his way to California, lying, stealing, and breaking at least nine of the Ten Commandments along the way. Sleeping in parks, Nelson would commit a series of petty crimes to keep going – gay male prostitution, theft, graft, and extortion. It was impressive that Nelson, for all of his meager means and lack of filmmaking experience that he would eventually produce and release the semi-noir cheapie Street-Fighter in 1959. That feature would get scattered play dates and inspired Nelson to make the monster movie to end all monster movies, The Creeping Terror!

Nelson did enough living for several lifetimes, living all of them quite poorly. Children, both legitimate and otherwise – former wife Lois puts the total number of Nelson' children at around 10, spread across the country – sprang from Nelson's loins during this period. Lois Wiseman has since gone on to publish a book on her misadventures with Nelson, “Hollywood Con Man,” and Wiseman had long left the scene before The Creeping Terror took shape! How the saga of a walking carpet monster came into being with chaos raging on both sides of the camera makes up The Creep Behind the Camera, and it is a story that needs to be told!

It must be noted that two of the driving forces behind the film, Wiseman and researcher Eric Hufstutler was disappointed with the result. According to them, they were led on to believe that The Creep Behind the Camera was going to be a straightforward documentary. The result is a series of re-enactments by actors, sometimes filmed at the actual places where the story occurred. Josh Phillips, as the titular “creep” Nelson is a bit on the hammy side, but he imbues the film with undeniable energy.

This writer thinks that the film is highly entertaining either way. One of the surprises I am going to let the potential viewer of this film find out is how Mr. “Helter Skelter” himself, Charles Manson fits into the story!

No DVD/Blu-Ray release is set as of yet, but The Creep Behind the Camera is making the film festival route across the country. Should it play near you – or when it does finally get a home video release, do yourself a favor and Creep on it posthaste. Above all else, The Creep Behind the Camera is an American success story. A very twisted one, but an American success story all the same ….

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