Producer: Gary Smart, Christopher Griffiths, Eastwood Allen, Michael Perez, John Campopiano, Adam Evans and Hank Starrs   Director: Gary Smart and Christopher Griffiths   Screenplay: Gary Smart and Neil Morris   Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Kane Hodder, Lance Henrikson, Tony Todd, Lin Shaye, Dennis Christopher, Andrew Divoff, Miko Hughes, Jill Schoelen Eli Roth, Adam Green, Bill Moseley, Peter Atkins, William Katt, Amanda Wyss, Monica Keena and Tammy Loren   Distributor: Cinedigm

Grade: B

Robert Englund is well aware, as he remarks in the film, that when it comes time for his obituary to be published, it will begin with a reference to his forty-year reign as Freddy Krueger, the child killer whose thirst for revenge was born with his death, in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series.  As Freddy, with his striped shirt, beat-up hat, knife-enhanced gloves and sardonic one-liners, Englund cut a figure (pun intended) that became no less a horror icon than Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster.  He invaded the dreams not only of his innumerable screen victims but of those who watched them get eviscerated.

But showing that Englund wasn’t a one-trick actor is the point of “Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares,” an engaging if overlong documentary that traces his career in exhaustive, sometimes exhausting, detail.  It’s largely an autobiographical monologue by Englund shot, along with the other new material, by Richard Jackson, segmented by archival stills and footage, clips from his many films, and appreciative observations by colleagues who have worked with him in front of the camera and behind it, as well as movie scholars, especially those specializing in the sort of genre fare he’s come to be associated with.

Englund is an accomplished raconteur, spinning remembrance after remembrance with endless exuberance.  He’s also a very positive guy; it’s difficult to point to many instances over the movie’s two-hour span when he has anything negative to say about anybody or anything.  (True, he is a mite rueful over his poorly-received 1989 version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” but his main criticism is about how one version of the poster made his Erik resemble Freddy.)  Mostly he’s thankful for the success he’s had—a success he attributes in great measure to luck—and for the people he’s worked with. 

Nor do any of the interviewees have anything bad to say about him.  He’s remarkably supportive of his fellow actors, even those just starting out (he recommended Mark Hamill for “Star Wars”), and treats fans with courtesy and good humor.  He faces long makeup sessions with equanimity.  When a problem pops up that could scuttle one of the low-budget pictures he was making, he would come up with solutions to save the day.  And though his first, early marriage ended in divorce, his second has been a long, genuine love story.

In other words, you can call this a “warts and all” portrait only if you assume there are no warts to speak of.  Perhaps there aren’t. 

Where there are warts—or cinematic blemishes—are in Englund’s filmography, long but not full of titles of great distinction.  Nevertheless the actor will find something good—and usually something rapturous—about any picture that come up in the conversation, and for many viewers it will feel like almost none of them, however obscure, goes unmentioned, from the first—1974’s “Buster and Billie”—to some of the most recent.  A great deal of time is spent, for example, on the television mini-series “V,” in which Englund was cast as one of the lizard aliens disguised as humans, and its subsequent weekly series.  But one has the nagging feeling that the international stardom it supposedly brought him was not quite so massive as is suggested.

Of course in the end the emphasis is put on the “Elm Street” series, and though much has been written about it already (and lengthy documentaries made on the phenomenon as well), fans will undoubtedly enjoy what’s said of it here.  Englund’s admission that he said yes to a TV spin-off, “Freddy’s Nightmares,” because it was so lucrative is an example of his straightforwardness, and his observation about the public’s disappointing reaction to the last of the films, the meta-ish “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”—that the direction in which the Craven was moving would be vindicated by the enormous success, not long afterward, of “Scream”—has a certain validity. 

A casual viewer may feel that the film is too much of a good thing, and that editors Griffiths and Peter Appleyard could have been a bit more selective about what to include. But fans of Englund and the genre he’s come to represent will probably think otherwise.  With an attractive score by Sean Schafer Hennessy, “Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares” is a worthy tribute to an actor who could never have been a conventional leading man but, like Karloff, became an unconventional one.