Book Review: The Lady from the Black Lagoon

Lady from the Black LagoonThe Lady from the Black Lagoon
Published by Hanover Square Press, 2019. 368 pages.
By Mallory O’Meara

As a horror historian (sounds such more impressive than horror fan, doesn’t it?), anytime some light can be shed on someone important in the genre, especially when that light was purposely taken away from them, then I’m all for it.

If you were to just go by the screen credits in those classic movies, you’d never know about some of the thousands of people that actually worked on them. This isn’t anything new either, since a LOT of people go without given due credit. That’s just the business. But when that business included someone taking credit for someone else’s work, even getting rid of said person because they were starting to get their deserved credit, then that that error needs to be fixed,  especially when we’re talking about the creation of one of the famous Universal Monsters. Helping do that is author Mallory O’Meara with this new book on Milicent Patrick, the woman who actually designed the Gill Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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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.

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Book Review: Hammer Complete

Hammer CompleteHammer Complete: The Films, the Personal, the Company
Published by McFarland, 2018. 992 pages.
By Howard Maxford

Wow.

It’s really hard to be not excited when a book comes out on one of your favorite studios that is just a few pages shy of a 1000! Sure, some of you that ask, “do we really need another book on Hammer Films?” Well if it is as massive and thorough as this one, then that would be a definite yes! I have been waiting on this book to come out since McFarland announced it well over a year ago, but had no idea how colossal of a tome this would be. Maxford states in his introduction that it has taken over 15 years to complete this and it looks like it.

I’ve been reading and researching and learning about Hammer Studios and the people behind it for somewhere around three decades, but there is always still more to learn. That was proven once again as I started browsing through this before I read some little tidbits that I didn’t know about. Such as that Jimmy Hanley, who played the friendly bartender in The Lost Continent (1968), is actually the father of Jenny Hanley, who appeared in Scars of Dracula (1970)! Sure, it’s just a little bit of trivia, but that is a sign of a good reference book.

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Book Review: Scored to Death

Scored to DeathScored to Death: Conversations with some of Horror’s Greatest Composers
Published by Silman-James Press, 2016. 356 pages.
By J. Blake Fichera

There is something to be said about film scores, something that I think most don’t know, don’t recognize, or even worse, don’t even think about. And that is the effect they have on the viewer. Sometimes a very powerful effect. The first time I can remember a film score having an effect on me was John Williams’ score for Jaws (1975), which I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. While it did bring up the tension and scare factor, I don’t think I made the full connection between the music and emotion it caused. That changed when Star Wars (1977) came out. Then it hit me how powerful of an impact a score can make. Star Wars was the first soundtrack I every purchased and I listened to it over and over. Each time, I could visualize the different parts of the film in my head and it would give me the same emotional reaction as if I was watching the film. It was at that point, I started to become more aware of a film score.

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Book Review: Horror in Space

Horror in SpaceHorror in Space
Published by McFarland, 2018. 248 pages.
Edited by Michele Brittany

The book’s subtitle is “Critical Essays on a Film Subgenre” and boy howdy, it sure is. If you’re looking for an easy read, one that might bring up some easy but not-too-deep thinking ideas about these movies that we love, then you might want to look for another book. When you have the words “Critical Essays” in the book’s title, that is a big hint at the kind of writing that you’ll find within those pages. The collection of authors that have been gathered here for this volume are all very intelligent scholars, from sociology teachers, doctoral candidates, to professors, so they know their stuff. So please don’t let my comments about their opinions and theories seem like I’m trying to say they are uneducated. That is not the point I’m trying to make.

Like a lot of these theory essay books, I’d make a guess that some of these are from a collage thesis or part of a future book. But I still stand by my own theory that sometimes a duck is just a duck. I know there are some films where the creators are weaving different subtext within the story, such as any version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But I feel a lot of these scholars take a subject matter and form into something that then fits a particular movie or sub-genre.

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Book Review: Screaming for Pleasure

Screaming for PleasureScreaming for Pleasure
Published by Coal Cracker Press, 2018. 290 pages.
By S.A. Bradley

Full disclosure here, folks. I’ve known Mr. Bradley for three years now, ever since he happened upon of few friends doing our usual after-hours get-together at conventions to talk about horror movies. At the Flashback Weekend in Chicago in 2015, a group of friends were gathered in the lobby like we usually do and talk shop. Usually it is about what we’ve seen lately, though we do venture off on other topics. All of a sudden, here comes this guy, wearing a kilt no less, and stops and asks if we’re talking about horror movies and can he join in? No problem! Now, I’ll admit right off the bat that I tend to throw some comments/questions out there to see just how much this newbie might know. Needless to say, I was blown away at not just how much Scott knew about the genre, such as the movies that he’s seen, but even more so the way he could intelligently explain his opinions and thoughts, enough to make the toughest of critics step back and think “Damn…he’s got something there!”. Now three years later, after already creating and amazing podcast, Hellbent for Horror, Scott has taken this same approach and created a must-read book for any and all horror fans.

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Book Review: The Dr. Phibes Companion

Dr Phibes CompanionThe Dr. Phibes Companion
Published by BearManor Media, 2018. 274 pages
By Justin Humphreys

One of the first movies I rented when I bought my very own VCR was one of my all time favorite films, The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), starring the amazing Vincent Price, and it still remains the same to this day. How could you not love this movie about this evil genius who sets out to get revenge of those who he believes caused the death of his wife, each one in a very creative way? It’s one of my favorite character’s that Price brought to life and is always a treat to watch. So when I first read about the news that there was going to a book dedicated to the Phibes films, I was more than a little excited.

With contributions by Mark Ferelli, Sam Irvin, and David Taylor, and a forward by Phibes co-screenwriter William Goldstein, author Humphreys has compiled so much information about the first Phibes movie, its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), as well as the many proposed sequels that never got off the ground. Humphreys has done an amazing job compiling information about these titles from the original screenplays, letting us know the differences between them and the final product, finding and hiring the director, the art direction, casting, makeup, the score, and just about everything you could want to know about them! As a Phibes Phan, you’ll learn more here than you thought you could.

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