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Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted June 21, 2009

This will be a short but positive review. Bottom line, get it and watch it, whether you buy it or rent it, even if you previously didn't know who Harlan was or you did but don't care for his writing. As with several of those interviewed for this film, I concur that Ellison should be required reading, at least in college courses. As with the man himself, his work is rarely pleasant, delving as it does into the deepest, darkest recesses of the human psyche, but it is always meaningful, touching and heart-felt.

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Produced and directed by Erik Nelson, Dreams With Sharp Teeth is a documentary newly released on DVD about one of the most colorful literary figures of the 20th (and early 21st) Century. I can't think of much more to say about the man himself that I haven't already, so I'll direct you to my main Ellison essay written nearly nine years ago shortly after this site was created. I reread it myself a couple of days ago and didn't think it needed any changes, only updates for things like this, or when he wins another award or (hopefully) someone adapts one of his stories for the big or small screen (and my biggest wish is that it will one day be his take on Asimov's I, Robot).

As expected, Harlan does a lot of talking here, both in interviews done specifically for this film and archived television shows and lecture appearances, but there are quite a few others who voice their opinion. First up is Robin Williams of all people (I suppose he is a close friend), as well as writers Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, Michael Cassutt, Connie Willis and Peter David, along with a few others not as familiar; Village Voice critic Carol Cooper and actor and childhood friend Stu Levin.

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Harlan also does readings from several of his short stories - "'Repent, Harlequin,' Said the Tick-Tock Man," "All the Lies That Are My Life," "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty," and from the novel Spider Kiss, among others. As caustic as his commentary is on other matters, it is apparent when he is talking about or reading his own work there is a genuine love for language in general and his words specifically. These segments are the best of the film, in my opinion.

I'll finish this with just one other thought. If for no other reason, you must watch this documentary to understand why the answer to the question of "who is Harlan's own favorite writer?"... is ... Naomi Campbell. :-)


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Erik Nelson

June 4, 2008

Full Credits at IMDb

Available on DVD

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