In the world of film, you will have icons that appear with a few manufactured into something better than they are. The Net and the Hollywood star system of the past do that today with some questionable ability and content on both sides of the camera being hailed as something special. The icons of the horror genre rise to the top like Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing. Their names are often above titles of films even reduced to the use of the surname as in Karloff and Lugosi without losing box office appeal. Entering this realm is the feature documentary of actor Robert Englund simply called Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story.
I honestly was not a huge Freddy fan towards the end of the A Nightmare On Elm Street series of films because for me the stories became set pieces for effects. The actors and the story became second to what was on the screen even to the point of Freddy himself serving as more of a verbal introduction to what was going to happen.
Throughout this lavishly produced documentary, Robert Englund speaks of the process of acting, and how he found Freddy Krueger within himself. Like most genre actors Englund was lucky he was at the right place at the right time like Boris Karloff. Lucky in that the character he created with some sincerity turned into a not planned (Who does plan?) star and film franchise.
The filmmakers take an interest in Englund’s private life. From learning he was in the stage version of Pinocchio. The Documentary goes on to show lovely behind-the-scenes footage of favourites and conversations with friends, filmmakers and most importantly his wife Nancy Englund. Eli Roth, and Adam Green, Tony Todd, Lance Henriksen, Heather Langenkamp, Lin Shaye, Bill Moseley, Doug Bradley, and Kane Hodder.
Robert was a classically trained actor which to me shows the inadequacies of many performing today in the genre or non-genre. The theatre was where one learned character, diction, action, movement, and most of all ‘Truth’ sadly lacking in many people on screen. Acting styles and stories change but ‘Truth’ never will even if audience expectation does. Which at times can be non-critical or so hateful it dooms something before it has a chance to find an audience.
Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story is fast-moving, edited with attractive animations that show you what it takes to create something lasting often by the seat of one’s pants not knowing what you are doing. The test of any actor like Robert Englund in roles especially those done after A Nightmare On Elm Street such as Erik in The Phantom Of The Opera (1989) shows a need to challenge and grow your art. Mr Englund showed you can say the most ludicrous dialogue in a situation with conviction and it becomes believable as an escape. The great ones like Peter Cushing, Boris Karloff, and some today do this well which is the make of the professional with respect for their art. Throughout the years Robert Englund tried to do this yet he will always have that striped sweater in his closet.
The documentary is I suggest an overly long love letter (134 mins) to an actor much loved by many. One gets the feeling in places it would have been better or perhaps it was a series of Extras for a physical release. The picture will make you smile and think and perhaps give you inspiration to become part of the industry. It is a strong portrait of the man whom I have had a chance to briefly interact with at conventions. Self-effacing, being lucky, has ‘the look’ for the time. Even when around him in the flesh you get the feeling, that he embraces the fame as he does in the film yet always looking for something else to do.