Dr. Film (2010) – By James L. Neibaur

It is unusual for me to receive an unsold pilot for a projected cable or indie series, but that is what I am reviewing here.

Dr. Film is a proposed series on which the title character is seen living a lonely existence in the confines of an editing room.  Beneath him is a veritable dungeon of 16mm and 35mm films where his partner, Anamorphia, keeps things organized.

Unlike the popular Mystery Science Theater 3000, Dr. Film does not show movies for the purpose of making fun of them.  Instead, early movies are discussed in a lighthearted-but-informative manner, and then are shown complete as examples.

For movie buffs (like me) this is all quite interesting and enjoyable.  Highlighting lesser known work by old stars like Bela Lugosi, James Cagney, and Boris Karloff; spotlighting the early special effects work of animators like Willis O’Brien and Charley Bowers; Dr. Film runs the gamut from entertainment pieces to celebrity interviews, to governmental propaganda films.  It really is quite enlightening and the Dr’s investigations into the dim recesses of cinema are captivating indeed.

But a pilot such as this would need some sort of mainstream appeal.  As the intro segment acknowedges, nobody under 50 is even aware of these old stars anymore, the interest in cinema’s history not having been truly popular with the masses since the 1970s.  Would mainstream audiences be open minded enough to want to learn more about cinema’s rich history?  Would Dr. Film’s bypaths away from the ordinary be worth venturing for those who stop at the New Release section at their local Blockbuster and never venture further?

For those of us who were around in the 60s and 70s and who had to wait for favorite films to show up on TV in scratchy prints that were riddled with commercial interruptions, the idea that DVDs allow for us to own the entire filmed output of nearly any great star or director is truly mind boggling.  Dr. Film goes one better.  He uses actual films — 16mm and 35mm source material — the best prints possible, and allows us to see areas of cinema’s history that are too often overlooked.

Would anyone be interested in running a show like Dr. Film?  One can only hope that an outlet to expand the cinematic knowledge and appreciation to any viewer would certainly interest cable or syndicated TV outlets.