In the early 1960s independent director/actor Arthur Nelson, better known as "Vic Savage," created a contender for the worst sci-fi / horror film ever made, THE CREEPING TERROR (1964). THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA (2015) is a semi-documentary attempt to explain the movie and creator Savage, by all accounts an abusive man plagued by multiple addictions and multivalent sexuality who had no business making movies. Hustler that he was, Savage raised money by unwisely borrowing from the mob and selling amphetamines (red "Bennies") to associates. (This may be the only American movie since 1915 to have been financed by envelopes full of cash.) Without any significant acting experience, Savage nonetheless cast himself in the lead role as a small-town deputy sheriff charged with catching the monster after his boss dies at the hands (or mouth) of a space alien, who was played by a man in an unconvincing rubber suit.
Although Savage left this earth in 1975 at age 41 with only CREEPING and one prior bad movie to his credit, his survivors are with us still, and they talk freely. We hear about Savage's alcoholism, his temper tantrums, his abuse of his crew and his wife, and his ever-ready willingness to compromise his art to the point where Lake Tahoe was replaced by a fishing hole on Simi Valley's Spahn Ranch and a casino chorus line full of leggy girls for the monster's consideration by some leggy would-be starlets at a community "hop." I enjoyed these talking-heads segments with the survivors (in black and white), but have reservations about the use of the color segments with contemporary actors meant to represent the "you are there" of filmmaking. For one thing, those segments are too full of snark, too fish-eyed and overdone, to lend the right tone to this film. (The makers of THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA may have been inspired by such louche but very entertaining movies about movie directors as ED WOOD and GODS AND MONSTERS (James Whale), but if so they overdid the attitude.) What's worse is that at some point, a "documentary" ceases to be a documentary when too many fictions are indulged in, as in the assumption that Charles Manson lived on Spahn Ranch in 1963, when he actually didn't until 1968. Those who have seen THE CREEPING MONSTER, whether plain or riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000, may benefit from understanding the background of the director and the poor making-of decisions that went into the movie: why the horrible monster costume was replaced by an even worse one, for example. I for one would have been happier if the talking-heads segments had predominated and THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA had emerged much shorter than its nearly two-hour run time.