Review (By Dave Capes for Lucha Reviews):
Wrestling with Shadows is a documentary that needs no introduction. If you know anything about wrestling, you know about the ‘Montreal Screw Job’, and if you know about the Montreal Screw Job, it’s because Paul Jay committed the event to film in Wrestling with Shadows. It is as simple as that, without this documentary, the incident in Montreal would have been just that, an incident, soon to be forgotten. This film made it a happening, and ensured it was never far from wrestling fan’s minds… or Bret Hart’s for that matter. Bret has revealed in recent interviews, that it was re-watching Wrestling with Shadows, which prevented him from returning to the WWE for so long. It was also a large contributor to the bitterness that would consume Bret’s life in the years following it.
This is the 10th anniversary release of Wrestling with Shadows. Originally released in the US in 2009, and delayed for its UK release, it’s closer to the 15th anniversary than the 10th. Release dates aside, is it worth the wait?
The main feature, the original documentary, is unchanged from its original release. It has not been re-edited or re-cut for the 10th anniversary edition. What we do have is a much better transfer to DVD, the picture is far clearer than on the original release. The documentary remains as excellent as ever, even 14 years after its initial release. Not only do we have a year in the life of Bret Hart; we have a documentary about (what would become known as) the ‘Montreal Screw Job’, an insight into the transition from the NEW WWF to the Attitude Era and a look at the history of the Hart Family. This really is an exceptional example of film making, and if there are any wrestling fans out there that haven’t seen it, I urge them to do so.
Looking back on the documentary with the wonderful power of hindsight is also an enjoyable experience. So much has been written and spoken about the Hart family since this was made, that we, as viewers, often have far more knowledge about a subject than the film reveals. To quote The Hitman in one section of the film: “Sunny; she’s very flirtatious, on and off screen, to me she’s just a good friend, and that’s all. Just a friend.” Anyone who has read Bret’s book, Hitman, will know that he experienced many ‘Sunny days’ in his WWF tenure. Hell, anyone reading my previous quote would know. Thou doth protest too much Mr. Hart.
As an additional extra to the original footage, on the second disc, we have two new interviews with Bret and the director, Paul Jay. Bret’s interview was clearly filmed before he had agreed to return to WWE (in 2009), as he talks about how proud he is the he hasn’t ‘sold out’ by returning to WWE, and assisting them to make money out of the incidents in Montreal. Good on you Bret, the last thing you would want to do is sell out, return to WWE and have a god awful match at Wrestlemania, oh wait…
The interview with Paul Jay is insightful. He is clearly on Bret’s side throughout the Wrestling with Shadows time frame, and constantly refers to McMahon as the bad guy. He also reveals problems he had with Vince following the Montreal Screw job which make for interesting viewing.
There isn’t a lot of new material in relation to the original film. There’s no question it is a better DVD transfer, but that alone is not reason to re-purchase this if you own the original. What may convince you to re-purchase this is lurking with the interviews on the second disc…
The Life & Death of Owen Hart is a near 50 minute documentary celebrating the life of Owen hart and discussing his tragic death. To be honest, I was sceptical about this, to say the least. I assumed it would be a hastily thrown together documentary, to boost sales of Wrestling with Shadows. I could not have been more wrong. This is an excellent film, featuring interviews with Owen Hart, key members of his family and many wrestling stars. The Honky Tonk Man, Harley Race, ‘Nasty Boy’ Brian Knobbs and Mick Foley all make appearances. Mick Foley in particular had a deep love and respect of Owen, and this shines through in his comments. He really is a worthy addition to the documentary.
Owen’s interviews make really interesting watching; surprisingly they discussed his match with Steve Austin in which he severely injured Austin’s neck. Owen came across as very ‘matter-of-fact’ when discussing the accident. Whether this was his way of dealing with the guilt, I don’t know, but I expected him to be more remorseful when talking about it.
I was going to say how much I enjoyed watching this documentary (and it is a big selling point of this set), but ‘enjoyed’ is the wrong word given the subject matter. While this does celebrate Owen’s life, for obvious reasons, a large portion of the film focuses on his death and it can be hard to watch at times. Although no footage of the incident is shown, they do have eerie reconstructions of Owen’s walk to the platform.
Owen’s death was without question, one of the most tragic events in professional wrestling history, and deserves far more remembrance than someone being ‘screwed’ in Canada. It makes me more than a little sad that this has been included as an extra on a Bret Hart DVD. Even after his death, Owen Hart is still playing second fiddle to his older brother.
Wrestling With Shadows
The Life & Death of Owen Hart
Nothing a Hart Can’t Overcome
To Wrestle, or Not?
More Important Things in Life
Return to the WWE
Owen the Trickster
The Best of Both Worlds
Life in the WWE changes
Owen vs. Steve Austin
Bret Leaves the WWE
Back to The Blue Blazer
Last Visit Home
Time to Prepare
Time for the Show
The Phone Rang
Someone Is At Fault
Knew Where We Were Going
– Interview with Director Paul Jay
– Interview with Bret Hart – 10 Years Later