Book Review: Perverse Titillation

perverse titillationPerverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960-1980
Published by McFarland, 2011. 346 pages.
By Danny Shipka

“To all those who have received grief for their entertainment choices and who see the study of weird and wacky films as important to understanding popular culture.”

That is the little dedication in the beginning of the book, which I immediately felt a kindred spirit with the author, since, like many fans of cult cinema, have had to try and explain and/or defend their love of this genre. For someone who is new to this type of films, especially from the three countries covered here, this would be a great introduction. This is not an in-depth or critical study or college thesis where the author is trying to come up with some outrageous theory, but an general overview of the films, filmmakers, and what was going on in those countries during this time. As a newcomer to this, you will find quite a few titles to add to your “To-Watch” list, which honestly, is the best thing a reference book can do for the reader, making them want to seek out and watch the films that are discussed. And with that, author Shipka does a great job.

With each section, Shipka discusses some of the films, giving a synopsis of some, with a more detailed filmography and coverage at the end of the chapter. Most of the films he covers, I have seen, some once, others more than a few, so I didn’t pick up on any errors really, other than when he mentions that Richard Johnson plays Tisa Farrow’s father in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (1979). When he covers a film’s synopsis at the end of each chapter, I skimmed through them because I already knew them for the most part, or if I hadn’t seen them, I didn’t want any spoilers. But when we got to the Spain section of the book, specifically the films of Paul Naschy, that’s where the problems started. I don’t expect any author to be experts on what they are writing about, but if they are discussing a film, they should have at least seen it. And from the errors in the plots when talking about more than a few of Naschy films, it doesn’t seem like Shipka had seen them.

When going over Naschy’s Hunchback of the Morgue (1973), he writes “Realizing that he is being used and horrified that his reanimated love of his life is now a monster, Gotho kills himself and his love in an acid pit.” So….not only is his love not reanimated at any point in the movie, he does not kill her in the acid pit, but unsuccessfully tries to stop her dead body from being throw into acid pit. This also has nothing to do with the monster in the film.

He makes several mistakes when writing about Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973), mainly claiming that the main villain, Alaric de Marnac (played by Naschy), “is defeated in the end by a modern-day hero (Naschy again, in a dual role)”. Yeah…Naschy does play a modern day character but he is actually killed off and does not win a battle with his evil ancestor.

For describing Night of the Werewolf (1981) and how the werewolf is revived, Shipka writes “three stupid archeologists decide to pull the cross out of his body.” Anybody who has seen this movie knows that is not even close to what happens in the movie. I could get even more anal about his coverage when he refers to Patty Shepard’s character in Werewolf Shadow as Elizabeth Bathory. Yes, she was based on that person, but here she is actually the Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy. Sure, a little picky, but again, let’s get our facts right.

These little errors made me start to think that maybe some of the other synopsis that I had skip might contain these same kind of mistakes. That is the problem I have with these kind of errors, when the author doesn’t even get the simply story correct, it leads the reader to question any facts in the book.

All this aside, I would still recommend this book if you are a beginner to this cinema from these countries. Within the entire book, almost half of it deals with the Italian films, which makes sense since it was the bigger producer of them during this time period. Covering Spain gets a little more than half of what Italy got, then France gets a little more than half of what Spain gets.  It will give you plenty of films to look into, as well as the people behind them. But if you are more experienced with these, then you’re probably not to learn that much, and even get a little irritated at some of the errors.

You can order this book directly from McFarland’s website (www.mcfarlandbooks.com) or by calling them direct at 1-800-253-2187.

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