Ever since I saw Siskel & Ebert review FITZCARRALDO and BURDEN OF DREAMS (the documentary about the making of the film), they have been on my list of films to see. It took 20 years, but I finally fulfilled that, after seeing an episode of BOONDOCKS featuring Herzog as himself reminded me. Since then, there is a third film I had added to that list, Mein liebster Feind, Herzog's documentary about star Klaus Kinski after he died.
Unfortunately neither of the first two films had aged well. Fitzcarrado is much too long and takes itself way too seriously. The script is very weak. Although the characters are inherently interesting because they are all crazy, they all lack any range or development and are one-dimensional. The plot is very predictable except for the ending which makes no sense at all and is completely illogical and unbelievable. Kinski is a great actor but chews the scenery in several scenes, including the ending. I'd really like to see the aborted film with Jason Robards and Mick Jagger. Robards looks much more believable.
Burden (directed by Les Blank) is interesting in that it shows the making of the film, but Herzog comes off terribly, monologizing to the camera about insanely unrelated issues. He directs like a tyrant, and when he finally does one smart thing in the film (shooting with a mock-up instead of a real boat) he declares it cannot be good because the actors are not "real." You almost hope the film fails after seeing this doc.
Herzog redeems himself with age in Fiend. He doesn't even look like the same person. He seems to have gained a sense of humor, and freely discusses his plot to kill Kinski. Some of the footage in this film is from Burden; one must wonder why it wasn't in that film, it's better than anything in it. It shows the real Kinski, going crazy over craft services. Of the three films, this is by far the most watchable, but only if you have seen enough films by the two stars, Kinski and Herzog.
All three are worth watching, by Fiend is by far the best of the three.