Dreams With Sharp Teeth Erik Nelson

Dreams With Sharp Teeth Erik Nelson
I didn’t know much about Harlan Ellison going into this film, other than the fact that he’s a very prolific author, a bit of a sci-fi hero who’s not nearly well known enough in the rest of the world.

Now a cantankerous old man with a quick wit and even quicker temper, Ellison talks at the camera about his work, his life, his failure to break into Hollywood and his passionate conviction that writers should get paid for what they do. The constant vitriol that spews from Ellison’s mouth is hilarious, to be sure, but in one of the film’s most touching moments he confesses to the camera that he wishes he could stop being so angry. Alas, it isn’t meant to be.

Footage of Ellison — present day and in old interviews and TV appearances — is inter-cut with scenes of friends, colleagues and other sci-fi greats talking about his life, work and legacy. At first, the only jarring thing about it is the appearance of Robin Williams (apparently a personal friend yet seemingly out of place in the literary context of Ellison’s life). But he blends in nicely — another over-the-top character in the life of a very over-the-top man.

This isn’t one of those feast-for-the-eyes, visual tour-de-force sort of documentaries. It’ll translate well to the small screen because it’s mostly talking heads but the lack of majestic landscapes or creative visuals takes nothing away from the story.

Ellison speaks about his life and his work with the same passion and imagination evident in his books, and watching him (at several points in the film) recite passages from his stories is a strange pleasure indeed. Even when he’s yelling over the phone or recounting a tale of attacking someone and breaking their pelvis, his charisma shines through and makes him seem charming.

This is an infinitely enjoyable profile of a prickly (but lovable) icon of the American literary landscape. (Creative Differences)