SXSW Movie Review: Dreams with Sharp Teeth

Director Erik Nelson’s engaging doc serves as a great introduction to the crazy world of author Harlan Ellison. [Grade: B]
By  · Published on March 15th, 2008

With each film festival I attend, I always seem to find at least one documentary that leaves me feeling ashamed of my own uncultured life. At Sundance it was Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, which left be with the sad realization that I was completely unfamiliar with Hunter S. Thompson, a man considered to be one of the greatest and most impactful journalists of the modern era.

This year’s SXSW Film Festival has given me a movie that has left me in a similar situation, completely ashamed that I was only aware of the genius that is Harlan Ellison. Dreams with Sharp Teeth is a well-constructed, respectful but honest look at Ellison’s eccentricities and his immensely successful career as a science fiction writer. Directed by Erik Nelson, who has served as a producer on films such as Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man and Grizzly Man, Dreams is a very engaging look at an infinitely brilliant and constantly angry man. Combining archival footage from Harlan’s life with recent interviews from both Ellison and other celebs (Robin Williams and Neil Gaiman to name a few), the doc shows us the origins of Ellison’s fame and walks us into his later life, where he is still as controversial and polarizing as ever.

For those unfamiliar with Harlan Ellison’s life, this film will serve as a great starter, an interesting 96 minute account of his world and his rise to fame. But for hardcore Ellison fans, it might not be sufficient. That isn’t to say that one movie could completely encompass the vast brilliance that is Harlan Ellison — I believe that such a movie could not really exist. Though for fans and close Ellison admirers, they may be left wanting a little bit more.

Dreams with Sharp Teeth is the feature documentary directorial debut of Erik Nelson and features interviews with Harlan Ellison, Robin Williams and Neil Gaiman. It features an original score composed and performed by Richard Thompson. It made its World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival on Marth 8, 2008. For more, visit the film’s official site.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)