Book Review: When Dracula Met Frankenstein

When Dracula Met Frankenstein: My Years Making Drive-In Movies with Al Adamson
Published by Murania Press, 2021. 377 pages
By Sam Sherman

You can’t be a fan of exploitation cinema of the ‘60s and ‘70s and not know of Sam Sherman, either by name or the multitude of film titles that he had his fingers in. Sherman only has 28 credits as a producer, many of them for films directed by his good friend Al Adamson, but his mark on the film world is so much greater. He was an ad man who could come up with some of the best titles, promotional ideas, gimmicks, and all the other ballyhoo so memorable, sometimes more than the films themselves!

He is also the man that was responsible for introducing Paul Naschy to the states, when his company, Independent International, picked up Naschy’s Mark of the Wolfman when they were looking for a Frankenstein picture that they had already promised distributors. It featured two wolfmen and two vampires, but definitely no Frankenstein or his creature. But somehow, due to the creative genius of Sherman, Mark of the Wolfman now became Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. If you don’t know the whole story already, then you’ll have to buy the book to find out!

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Book Review: We Are the Martians

We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale
Published by Electric Dreamhouse, 2017. 479 pages.
Edited by Neil Snowdon

I am a huge fan of the Quatermass films that Hammer Films gave us back in the late ‘50s, and the 3rd film, Quatermass and the Pit in the ‘60s. Eventually I was able to track down the original serial versions (or what was left of the first story) on an import DVD. The more I found out about its original creator, Nigel Kneale, the more I discover his other cinematic worlds that he had written, such as The Stone Tapes (1972), The Woman in Black (1989) and the Beasts series (1976). And the more I was impressed.

To say that Kneale was ahead of his time seems to be one of those comments thrown about certain Sci-Fi authors, writing about our future technology. But the difference with Kneale is that while he did do that to a degree, he also seemed to write about our future as human beings. Within those stories, he also could create some unbelievable terrors, without really showing much to the audiences. It made us think.

This book is a collection of essays that covers a wide range of subjects dealing with Kneale and his work. There is chapter by Tim Lucas that cover his lesser-known literary short stories, other ones on specific episodes of his TV shows or films that he created. Mark Chardbourn’s essay, The King of Hauntology sort of gives us a biography of Kneale, except that instead of a straight biography, it goes over different events going on around him at the time, giving possible influences that could have had on him, and his writings.

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Book Review: Tawdry Tales and Confessions

Tawdry Tales and Confessions from Horror’s Boy Next Door
Published by Dark Ink Books, 2021, 398 pages
By William Butler

Being an avid collector of horror movie reference books, when an actor from the genre publishes his autobiography, I’m going to pick it up. Now I knew who Mr. Butler was since being about the same age, I was growing up watching the horror films that he was in early on in his career. So, I knew him from TCM3 and Friday 7, and the rest. Or at least I thought I knew him. I was already reading another book when my copy of Tawdry Tales arrived, so I was going to just quickly read the intro before filing it away with the numerous other volumes that I hope to get to one day. The next thing I know, I’m 50-pages deep into this book!

This book is simply amazing. If you grew up watching horror movies in the ‘80s, then this is like a walk down memory lane, except it is from the other side of the movie screen, getting to hear stories from the making of the films we loved. I had no clue that Butler worked in the makeup field, and I’m embarrassed as hell to admit that, especially when he worked on some of my favorite films! This once again proves my point that the more you read about the business and those who work in it, the more you will discover and learn to appreciate the people involved that are sometimes more talented and more involved in it than you realized or ever give them credit for.

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Book Review: Taking Shape II: The Lost Halloween Sequels

Taking Shape II: The Lost Halloween Sequels
Published by Harker Press, 2020. 600 pages.
By Dustin McNeill & Travis Mullins

With all the information packed in their initial book, Taking Shape, how could authors McNeill and Mullins put out yet another massive 600 page book on this series that fans have been following for over 40 years? That’s just it… it’s not about the films that were made, it is about the films that were not made. In fact, Taking Shape II: The Lost Halloween Sequels covers 24 sequels(!!!) that never got off the ground for a variety of reasons. You get to read about each of these proposed storylines, with interviews with the people directly involved, like the writers and directors. You also get a good look at inside the studio systems and just how screwed up the industry can be, and the poor creatures that have to work in there! Imagine turning in a screenplay that is exactly what was asked for only to be told that another executive hated it and you’re now off the project. Or being notified (over the PA system, no less) that the whole project itself was now cancelled just weeks before shooting was to start. It shows that with multiple bosses / executives, guiding the writers and directors in different directors, at the same time, while others not even caring about anything but the potential box office receipts, the scariest part of these films were trying to get these films made. Continue reading

Book Review: Day of the Living Me

Day of the Living Me: Adventures of a Cult Filmmaker from the Golden Age
Self-Published, 2020. 192 pages
By Jeff Lieberman

I’ve always said that by reading more about a filmmaker, such as in a biography or even an autobiography, you will learn so much more about that person’s life and work, usually including a ton of information you didn’t know, which will undoubtedly make you see things in a different way. This book is another perfect example to prove that point. I knew of Lieberman’s work because I was always a big fan of Squirm (1976) and had the chance to meet him a couple of times at Cinema Wasteland over the years. I knew of his other films, such as Blue Sunshine (1977) and Just Before Dawn (1981), but figured that was about it. But reading through this recently published autobiography, not only did I learn much more about him, but he gives such a great insight into the world of filmmaking, from low-budget horror flicks, to working in Hollywood with some of the major players. Continue reading

Book Review: Making of The Deadly Spawn

Making the 1980s Science-Fiction / Horror Monster Cult Classic The Deadly Spawn
Independently Published, 2020. 136 pages
By Ted A. Bohus

If you grew up wandering the video store aisles, you will probably always remember the first time you came across the box for The Return of the Aliens Deadly Spawn, a big box case with one of the strangest monsters on the cover, one that is basically mouths and teeth! Then looking at the back cover shows the gory delights to found within. How could any young monster fan not immediately rent this, let alone forget that moment. This title still remains to be a fun little monster movie, with plenty of gore and the red stuff, and one of the most creative and never before seen style of monster.

Ted A. Bohus was the man behind The Deadly Spawn (the actual title), producer and co-writer, he was the one that got this beast started and worked all the way through to get it released to the world. The book is packed filled with some incredible photos, from behind-the-scenes shots, a ton of different images of VHS & DVD releases, poster art, lobby cards, and plenty of art interpretations of the creature. Bohus goes very quickly through the genesis of the project, going through the people involved, and a lot of the roadblocks along the way, which are great points for up and coming low budget filmmakers. There are some great stories within these pages, some that will amaze you how great things turned out, and even more so when you read about some of those “challenges” filmmakers are hit with. Continue reading

Book Review: Texas Schlock

Texas Schlock: B-Movie Sci-Fi and Horror from the Lone Star State
Published by LECR Press, 2018. 272 pages.
By Bret McCormick

There are two things really special about this book. First, I love it when someone focuses on a specific region of filmmakers that you wouldn’t think spawned that many, such as Texas! Secondly, I also love when the spotlight is put on some names that might not be as familiar as their bigger counterparts to the west, such as Tom Moore, S.F. Brownrigg, and yes, even Larry Buchanan. When I found out Buchanan was covered here, I knew it was going to be a must read. And it is!

The author, a low-budget independent filmmaker (or schlockmeister as he calls it) himself, is probably best known for his 1986 film Abomination. In fact, he’s made several of these types thoughout his career. But within these pages, he wanted to show the filmmakers that inspired him to get into the business, and came up with the idea for this book, which he calls a “labor of love”. That’s the thing about these kind of movies, that they are made with that same passion. None of the people covered within these pages made the big time, but continued on because they had the passion. So no matter what the end result is, there has to be some commendations. Continue reading

Book Review: Assault on the System – The Nonconformist Cinema of John Carpenter

Assault on the System: The Nonconformist Cinema of John Carpenter
Published by WK Books, 2020. 460 pages.
By Troy Howarth

The latest volume from our buddy Troy Howarth is on one of my favorite directors. Next to Romero, you’d find at least two John Carpenter’s films in my top 15 films of all time. So how could I not dive into this once I got it? Yes, Mr. Howarth is a friend of mine, full disclosure here, but I think you know me by now not to pull any punches, no matter what I’m reviewing. But honestly, I never have to worry about that with his books because they are always so enjoyable to read, always feeling like a conversation with an old friend. Filled with wonderful stories, great information, and just an easy-going way of telling us this information that it just sinks in.

After a couple of chapters introducing us to Carpenter, giving us his upbringing and background (which really shows the impact on his later life, with his love of film and music), we start to go over his film career. Starting off when he is in film school in California, we do get a lot of information about each of the projects, while Howarth throws in other information about other things that are going on at the same time. It doesn’t just cover the films he directed but the scripts that he wrote, as well as the films he almost made or was even the slightest involved with. It really does show the range that Carpenter had in the different projects that “could have been”. Continue reading

Book Review: Horror Express

Midnight Movie Monographs: Horror Express
Published by Electric Dreamhouse, 2018. 137 pages
By John Connolly

This is another one that I just don’t know where to start. I came across this publisher about a month ago when they were having a Black Friday sale. I thought about ordering a few of their titles but being from the UK, it would have been a bit pricy. Out of all the titles, this is the one that had my interests the most, so I just ordered it from Amazon. Now, at a book that is only 6″ x 8″, and priced at $29, AND is only 137 pages, makes you wonder if it would be worth it. In this particular case, I would have to say no.

This is a strange one, since being so short, you’d think the author would dive right into the thick of it, but we go 30 pages before the author even starts to write about the movie! That’s almost a quarter of the book?!?! We read about traveling on trains, about the Spanish film market, the British film market, with some details that really have no bearing on the subject at hand. Now maybe if this volume was several hundred pages long, this information would fit in, but it’s not. So why waste precious pages on subjects that have only a distant connection with the movie? There is even a paragraph where the author states that at this point in his writing, he hasn’t seen the movie since he first saw it as a kid! Again, why waste space for that? Continue reading

Book Review: Jaws Unmade

Jaws Unmade
Published by Bicep Books, 2020. 341 pages
By John LeMay

One only needs to look at all the rip-offs and inspired titles from a particular film to really know how successful it was. Granted, for Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws, it might have some to do with the box office profits as well. As we all know, movie monsters only die at the box office, which means if it made money, there will be a sequel. Or two. Or more, until the cash cow, or shark as the case may be, is completely dead and resting at the bottom of the ocean. Now we have to remember that in the mid ’70s, sequel-itis hadn’t really spread in Hollywood, but the money Jaws made was just too much to leave well enough alone, so we got Jaws 2 in 1978. Now the story of that production is enough for a book on its own. In fact, there is! Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel, by Louis R. Pisano & Michael A. Smith, is essential for any fan of the Jaws series, not only because it’s on the sequel, but you get a real insight of how much the producers have control of what the final movie is going to be. And Pisano and Smith books gives plenty of info. Continue reading