15 Awesomely Nerdy Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries You Can Watch for Free Right Now

Monday, August 26, 2013 at 6:00 am

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In July 2010, YouTube increased the time limit for videos posted by the common folk from the long-standing 10 minutes to a whopping 15. By that December, they announced that they were removing the time limits altogether, without announcing what the upper cap might be. My personal favorite of the ultra-long videos is the 24 hours of the Enterprise-D's ambient engine hum. It doesn't work any longer - at least, YouTube breaks into tears every time I try to play it. But I'm glad that, for a while, it was a thing that worked.

And, for as much as YouTube was making a big deal about how bitchen their ContentID system was and how it would keep copyright safe 'n secure, there are vast amounts of highly copyrighted material still up - including my favorite genre, the documentary. And they're mostly full-length and in good high quality, too, so you don't have to contend with huge pixels or loading a new video every 10 minutes.



Many of them are DVD special features, which are likely becoming a thing of the past as physical media is kicked out the virtual door. In the Josh Johnson's new VHS-culture documentary Rewind This!, the owner and operator of Synapse Films (which will soon be distributing the Manos: The Hands of Fate restoration) admits that from a business standpoint, the move to streaming will be a relief to an extent because they won't have to produce bonus features like documentaries anymore. Someone else in the documentary observes that once content became cheaper and easier to consume online, it became apparent that public doesn't care about optimum quality and/or bonus features - only the collector's market cares about such things.

Which makes me a collector, it should seem. Here are some of the best out there that you can watch right now. And I'm going to keep a track of just how much TOTALLY FREE ENTERTAINMENT I'm selflessly giving you. (Also, to answer the inevitable question: I'm very familiar with Red Letter Media, love the Plinkett reviews, and consider Half in the Bag to be some of the best film criticism out there. But you already know about them, and thus they don't need to be mentioned here. So forget I mentioned them.)

1. The Beast Within: The Making of Alien

Total: 178 minutes.

A three-hour documentary, originally released in the 2005 Alien Quadrilogy, one of the very best box sets. It's divided here into two 90-minute chunks, and part two begins with how they did the scene of the android's head getting knocked off. I was way too young when I first saw Alien, and that scene probably traumatized me more than any other. I didn't understand any of the sexual or biological ramifications of the monster, but that guy suddenly spurting out milk and turning out to be full of white spaghetti? Ewwwwwwwwwww. I think I'm still processing that trauma.

2. Superior Firepower: Making Aliens

Total: 363 minutes.

Another three-hour extravaganza, this time with 100% more Cameron. By the way, when Prometheus came out last year, I did a roundup of Mad Magazine's parodies of the various Alien movies for SF Weekly. Check it out when you're done watching all these videos.

3. American Scary

Total: 454 minutes.

Not a bonus feature, but a feature in its own right, released to DVD in 2006 and now made available to watch for free on YouTube by the filmmakers. American Scary is a documentary about horror hosts -- and if you don't know what a horror host is, or think that it all begins and ends with Elvira, then you really need to watch this. It's an important (and fun) aspect of nerd history.

4. Master of Cinema: John Carpenter

Total: 514 minutes.

As near as I can tell, this is from a British production company called CreaTVty that made documentaries about directors such as Dario Argento and Sergio Leone, but this one appears to be unfinished; there are no subtitles identifying the talking heads, and it doesn't appear on the director or executive producer's IDMB pages. Even the title seems incomplete, and as such, I'm not entirely certain what it's called. But this 2000 documentary is interesting nonetheless, focusing mostly on his seventies triumphs, using Escape From L.A. when talking about Escape from New York, and surprisingly skipping Big Trouble in Little China entirely.

5. Tales from the Mist: Inside the Fog

Total: 542 minutes.

One of the most common kinds of DVD commentaries, a mere slip of a half-hour, but still solid making-of for one of John Carpenter's spookiest and most underrated early films movies.

6. Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight - The Legend Reborn


Total: 572 minutes.

Another half-hour, this time part of a six-part series spread out through the 2005 special editions of the first four Batman movies. This is a look back on both the actual nuts-and-bolts of the making of the first film, as well as its huge impact at the time. Also, it gives me an excuse to post this, from Rolling Stone in June of '89, which seems newly relevant for some reason.

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