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Martin Scorsese Presents Val Lewton - The Man in the Shadows

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Though hardly a household name producer Val Lewton helped bring to the screen some of horror's most influential films. Among them are Jacques Tourneur's innovative CAT PEOPLE eerie I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and Robert Wise's atmospheric THE BODY SNATCHER. Under tight budgets limited time and pre-selected titles Lewton managed to create distinctive films that stand today as exemplars of psychological terror. Narrated and produced by Martin Scorsese this documentary recounts Val Lewton's life in film and continuing legacy.System Requirements:Running Time: 87 minutesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: DOCUMENTARIES/BIOGRAPHY Rating: NR UPC: 012569798366 Manufacturer No: 79836


One of the great and mysterious figures in Hollywood history is revealed in Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows, a fine profile narrated and "presented" by Martin Scorsese. Lewton was the producer whose low-budget unit at RKO in the forties displayed "the most sensitive movie intelligence in Hollywood," according to the esteemed critic James Agee. He served his apprenticeship as David O. Selznick's assistant, and even suggested the famous scene at the Atlanta depot in Gone With the Wind (although Lewton actually assumed Selznick would never shoot such an elaborate scene). At RKO, Lewton achieved greatness despite his imposed restriction: the studio would give him vulgar, exploitable titles--Cat People, say, or I Walked with a Zombie--and then Lewton and his crew would make smart, visually gorgeous movies out of them. Lewton doesn't seem to have left behind a huge amount of colorful biographical anecdotes (or even that many photographs), but writer-director Kent Jones has done a splendid job of blending biographical info with film appreciation. Copious and well-chosen clips give eloquent evidence of the poetry in Lewton's approach (aided and abetted by such talented collaborators as directors Jacques Tourneur and Robert Wise, and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca). These sorts of documentaries invariably have a few spoilers contained within, and anyway you'll enjoy it more if you've already seen Lewton's movies. After you've seen The Seventh Victim and Curse of the Cat People, movies that shimmer with a grown-up sense of mystery, check out this movie to look even deeper into the shadows. It's available as an individual title, and as part of the essential set, The Val Lewton Horror Collection. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Martin Scorsese, Elias Koteas, Orson Welles, Val E. Lewton, Alexander Nemerov
  • Directors: Kent Jones
  • Writers: Kent Jones
  • Producers: Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Margaret Bodde, Mikaela Beardsley, Tom Brown
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Full Screen, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 77 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000W4D94S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,633 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Martin Scorsese Presents Val Lewton - The Man in the Shadows" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard Ryberg Adams on January 31, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I consider myself something of a Val Lewton devotee as I've seen all his films dozens of times and I suspect I've read just about every book and article that's ever been published on the great producer. I was very excited to learn last year that Martin Scorsese (of all people!) was producing a documentary on Lewton knowing the quality and passion he would bring to the project. Well, I watched it last night and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed. This is a very loving and informed documentary that is as arresting to watch as it is interesting to hear. Credit must be shared between Scorsese (the producer and narrator) and the actual writer and director of the film, Kent Jones, who covers Lewton's life and all his films while at the same time uncovering many facts and photos that I've not encountered before. This is not a talking head documentary and all comments are kept brief and were obviously carefully selected as each comment is substantive and specific. Scorsese is the very passionate narrator and you know while he may not have written his text, he obviously agrees with every word. My only complaint about this documentary is that it's too short - at least for me. I credit Jones and Scorsese for keeping things moving but I wish there had been time for more commentary on some of Lewton's lesser known films. The fact that "Youth Runs Wild" and "Mademoiselle Fifi" are mentioned at all is further tribute to Jones's and Scorsese's devotion to the topic. Special attention is given to those films that I suspect are particular favorites of Jones and Scorsese including my favorite, "Curse of the Cat People". How wonderful that they were able to track down Ann Carter Newton and how amazingly youthful she still looks. Again, I wish there had been more of her commentary provided.Read more ›
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a fine production covering Val Lewton's life and career as a producer through a wonderful selection of stills and film scenes. This same DVD can also be purchased with a newly reissued version of last year's box set, the thought being that the Scorsese name might have some additional sales appeal.

Scorsese, always keenly aware of the immigrant experience, leads the viewer back into Lewton's beginnings in Russia, on the sunny seaside resort town of Yalta on the Crimea. A beautiful mother, troubled by an impossible marriage, takes the extreme step of leaving the country with her two children. Eventually they emigrate to the United States, where their original name, Leventon, is altered to Lewton. Related to the fabulous and world famous American movie star, Nazimova, (Lewton's aunt) Lewton's boyhood world was largely dominated by strong, extraordinary women. This background is nicely discussed through narration and still films, with a few snippets of Nazimova's silent screen work.

Unfortunately, no film exits of Lewton, and stills are used throughout the 87 minute documentary to capture Lewton himself. Following his early years much of the discussion focuses on apprentice years as a writer and novelist - he wrote a best-seller - before finding his true metier as producer. There is a short cursory discussion of his work as a novelist -Lewton's pulp work then leading into his extended mentoring under the aegis of none other than Hollywood's great independent producer, David O. Selznick. Lewton during this period learns his craft, and this section of his career is well-presented during the documentary, with script examples and film scenes, such as from a Tale of Two Cities. (Not shown is that film's marvelous ending shot, conceived by Lewton.
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Format: DVD
I just finished watching all 9 of Val Lewton's B Horror films he did for RKO Studios in the 1940's. What an amazing man with an incredible story. Martin Scorsese narrates this insightful look into the short but profound life of Val Lewton. Using interviews and film clips, THE MAN IN THE SHADOWS takes us through the life of Val Lewton from his birth in Yalta to his minor triumph in Hollywood. Through luck and talent, Lewton found himself working for studio mogul David O. Selznick. It seems Selnick took the credit for Lewton's genius. Lewton was lured to RKO to help save the struggling studio, almost bankrupt after Orson Welles' financial distrous but acclaimed CITIZEN KANE and the MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS.
Universal was one of the top studios in Hollywood after a string of highly profitable Monster and Horror films. Lewton was called to bring that profitable genre to RKO by making low budge B horror films at roughly 1/3 the cost of an A movie. Amazingly, Lewton created a somewhat different form of a horror film that was more thriller and suspense and didn't rely on monsters but rather on our fear of the unknown. With a a creative team around him and RKO's contract players, Lewton created a miracle.
The studio gave him a title and it was up to him to create a script and a movie from that title. The first title? CAT PEOPLE. RKO may have been hoping for a cat monster like universal's WEREWOLF. Instead, they got something much different that turned out to be a huge financial success.
Lewton was given another title I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and again the story was his to take.
Val Lewton was as humble as he was a genius. Several of today's famous directs and writers, such as Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman acknowlege the inspiration Val Lewton's movies have given them.
Film students should watch this film and see how an amazing man created beautiful works of art on a tiny budget and how his "B" movies often overshadow most "A" movies in quality and story.
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