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'Edgar G. Ulmer—The Man Off-Screen'

A bigger-than-life symbol: Ulmer
photo: Kino

"He had to take a rat and make Thanksgiving dinner out of it," says one fan in this well-wrought investigation of the often mysterious life of Edgar G. Ulmer, "King of the B's." An Austrian expat who began his career working for European greats like Murnau, Siodmak, and others, but ended up cranking out Depression-era double-bill filler for Hollywood's Poverty Row studios, Ulmer is today best known as one of the ultimate purveyors of seedy films noir and other cheapies. But his genre films—many shot for five-figure budgets, in mere days—are anything but generic: They include the enigmatic sci-fi pic The Man From Planet X, perverse shocker The Black Cat, and the hard-boiled, low-wattage masterwork Detour (all part of Anthology's concurrent Ulmer retro). Through interviews with his family and actors, as well as marquee-name admirers John Landis, Peter Bogdanovich, Wim Wenders, and Roger Corman, Palm reveals that Ulmer's most enigmatic fiction may have been his own life; biographers attest that the director's own accounts of his career never quite add up. Nevertheless, Ulmer emerges as the bigger-than-life symbol he probably desired to project: the brooding Old World artist, eternally frustrated with American market pressures, preferring to rule in Hell than serve in Hollywood.


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