Dreams with Sharp Teeth

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Creative Differences Productions/The Kilimanjaro Corporation

Fantasy writer Harlan Ellison has penned thousands of short stories and novels and innumerable TV episodes, but these achievements pale in comparison to his sheer orneriness. At least that's the impression one gets from "Dreams With Sharp Teeth," filmmaker Erik Nelson's impressionistic portrait, which recently received its U.S. theatrical premiere at NYC's Film Forum.

Now 74, Ellison emerges as a highly complex and deeply contrarian figure here, and is given ample opportunity to deliver his tirades against oddball fans, opportunistic studio executives, nitwit editors, and Republicans in general, among many other segments of the population.

Fortunately for the viewer, the writer is as eloquent and brutally funny as he is vituperative, so there's no small amount of entertainment value in his rants. Looking on with bemusement are such figures as his good friend Robin Williams, who describes Ellison as "like a skin graft on a leper."

Ellison comments extensively on his life and career, at times demonstrating a real sentimentality, especially when discussing his parents, along with his surliness. He's also seen reading extensively from his writings, with unnecessary swirling CGI graphics in the background.

He discusses in frank fashion both his career triumphs, such as his "City on the Edge of Forever" episode of "Star Trek" that is considered the series' best (he says it would have been even better if creator Gene Roddenberrry hadn't messed with it), and his sole disastrous excursion into screenwriting with "The Oscar."

Although the film could have benefited from more contextual analyzing of Ellison's work, it does serve as a handy and entertaining introduction to a fascinating writer who is too little known to the general public.

Producer/director: Erik Nelson; Executive producers: Amy Briamonte, Dave Harding; Director of photography: Wes Dorman; Music: Richard Thompson; Editor: Randall Boyd

No Rating, 96 min

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