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Rating the movie documentaries

Rating the movie documentaries — See what we thought of the making of ‘”Days of Thunder,” ”Burden of Dreams,” and others

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Used for years as filler on network TV, ”making-of” movie shorts are no longer relegated to the hole between the end of an evening movie and the 11 o’clock news. From The Making of Death Wish III to The Making of Nightmare on Elm Street 4, dozens of product promos are now being marketed as movies in their own right on cassette. At the same time, tape has preserved a handful of brilliantly pointed documentaries about filmmaking. Here’s a sampler of both extremes:

The A List: * Buster Keaton Rides Again (1965, Video Yesteryear) An artful account of Keaton filming an artless Canadian Railways travelogue, The Railrodder. * Burden of Dreams (1982, Flower Films) German director Werner Herzog goes nearly mad filming Fitzcarraldo in Peruvian jungles. * Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1990, Paramount; in stores June 25) Francis Coppola seems to go really mad filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines.

The F List: * The Making of Invaders from Mars/The Making of Lifeforce (1986, Image laserdisc) Sixty minutes of dull chat about fake-looking Tinkertoy sets and zombie motivation. * The Making of Days of Thunder: NASCAR Goes Hollywood (1991, ESPN) A gassed-up blowout with too much blabbing by race-car drivers. * The Making of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Behind the Shells (1991, RCA/Columbia) Which, by comparison, makes the original movie look like genius.

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