Book Review – Fear: The Autobiography of Dario Argento

Fear Aregento AutobiographyFear: The Autobiography of Dario Argento
Published by FAB Press, 2019. 288 pages.
By Dario Argento

No matter what you have to say about Dario Argento, he is a powerful voice in cinema, with a staggering amount of pictures that will be discussed at length, at movie conventions and film schools alike, for many years to come. So when news of his autobiography, which was first published in Italy in 2014, was going to see its first English version thanks to FAB Press, I immediately pre-ordered a copy.

Autobiographies can be a bit tricky, especially coming from someone as high up as Argento is. Sometimes they can be very self-indulgent, filled with self-praise, or even though while entertaining, you question the legitimacy of some, if not all of the stories. So I went into this volume with a slight trepidation as to what I was going to get. What I did get was something that felt completely honest and written from the heart. If there is one thing that is filled within each and every page, it is passion. Even in the opening chapter, when he touches on his thoughts of suicide, you can tell he is not holding back with his stories. Continue reading

Book Review: The Encyclopedia of Hammer Films

Encyclopedia of Hammer FilmsThe Encyclopedia of Hammer Films
Published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2019. 589 pages.
By Chris Fellner

Being a die-hard fan of all things Hammer Films, I’m always ecstatic to learn of another book on one of my favorite studios coming out. Now before we get into the blood and guts of this release, we need to cover the obvious… the price. Retailing at $145 (though Amazon has it listed for just under $100), while this is a good size hardcover edition, at 589 pages, that is still a hefty price tag. Though with the recent release of Howard Maxford’s Hammer Complete, published by McFarland, it is impossible not to compare the two. Maxford’s book is 984 pages, a bit larger in size and has much smaller type, and retails at $95. What this means is you get just what the title says… Hammer Complete! So the cost alone would make the decision even easier if you only had to pick one volume.

Because of the huge scope of the film studio, it is difficult to cover everything and everyone, which is where Fellner’s book falls short. There were more than a few names missing having their own entries, such as John Carson, who appeared in three different Hammer titles and one appearance in one of their television series. Other notables excluded were talents such as Richard Wordsworth or George Woodbridge. These actors usually never played the main characters but were one of the many reasons these films stood out. Being wonderful character actors in the background, they filled out a scene as if it was a brilliant painting. Even Guy Rolfe, who played the title character in Mr. Sardonicus for William Castle, starred in The Stranglers of Bombay, does not have his own mention. But again, it is going to be a difficult task to include every single thing that has to do with Hammer. Except, Maxford’s book sort of does that. Continue reading

Book Review: Blood Circuits

BBlood Circuitslood Circuits: Contemporary Argentine Horror Cinema
Published by Suny Press, 2019. 248 pages.
By Jonathan Risner

I was hoping this book would be a real eye-opener to horror films from a country that I admittedly wasn’t that familiar with, which would be Argentine horror films. I hoped that I could come out of this with a list of titles that I need to seek out. While I did find a few titles to look for, unfortunately, it didn’t take me long after digging into this volume that it was not written for your average, run-of-the-mill reader, like myself. This is for academics. Very well read academics, in fact. Plus, while there are some movies discussed, it seems to more about the film business in Argentina, how the films are made and received, than the actual films themselves. This isn’t a criticism, but it wasn’t the book I was hoping for. I was really hoping to learn more about the films and the filmmakers instead of the actual industry. Continue reading

Book Review: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

TCM Film that Terrified a Rattled NationThe Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Film that Terrified a Rattled Nation
Published by Skyhorse, 2019. 304 pages.

By Joseph Lanza

For those that are thinking this is just another book about the Tobe Hooper classic, reading more tales of the notorious film, they are in for a big surprise. I grew up in the early ’70s but am surprised to read about all the stuff going on in the world that I was apparently oblivious too because I was so young. With all the chaos on in the world back then, I’m kind of glad I was too young to know or care about. So a good portion of this book is about just that, all the craziness throughout the world, from gas shortages, meat shortages, trouble overseas, different political scandals and nefarious deeds, serial killers, all coming from the decade of peace and love.

Lanza knows his history and lays it out for the reader to intake, setting the times that Hooper’s film was coming to life and how it was effecting the production, not just in Hooper, but the entire cast and crew. While this book is not going to fill you with more and more details about the actual making of it, you will read about the possible influences that had a hand in shaping this film, then you will find this book very intriguing. There are some things that might be taking a stretch when it comes to hidden subtext, such as the signage at the gas station/BBQ joint the cook runs. But there are more than a few things that seemed like it definitely was the reasoning behind it, such as when the cook is worried about making sure the lights are turned off to save electricity. Continue reading

Book Review: Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1980-1989

Italian Gothic Horror Films 1980-1989Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1980-1989
Published by McFarland, 2019. 232 pages.
By Roberto Curti

Being that this is the 3rd book in the series by Curti involving the gothic horror films of Italy, this latest one, covering the ’80s, it’s sort of a nice little walk down memory lane for me. The ’80s is when I started to become aware of these films. With the boom of VHS tapes, the horror section was filled with these flicks from Italy, promising (and usually delivering) the bloody and gory goods to us eager viewers. So getting to read several pages on some of my favorites, namely the ones from Argento, Bava, Fulci, and Soavi, there is plenty to be learned here.

Not only will you get to read about some of your favorite classic Italian horror flicks like Argento’s Inferno (1980) or Fulci’s City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond and House by the Cemetery (both 1981), as well as Claudio Fragasso’s Monster Dog (1985) and Luigi Cozzi’s Paganini Horror (1989), you will get so much insight and information that I bet you’re going to want to re-watch some of these if you haven’t seen them in a while. You’ll learn maybe why Monster Dog turned out like it did, which could make you give it (and Fragasso) a little more credit. Maybe. Continue reading

Book Review: “Twice the Thrills! Twice the Chills!”

Twice the Thrills“Twice the Thrills! Twice the Chills!”
Published by McFarland, 2019. 433 pages.
By Bryan Senn

The double feature was an interesting concept from the start. If you’re not aware of how it all started, then the beginning of the latest book from Senn will fill in all those historical details for you. In fact, I found that part of the book to be a very interesting history lesson, how the studios were reacting to what the TV market was doing to them. It shows that once again how things tend to change because of money, either due to an increase of it, or a decrease, and definitely in the film business. Continue reading

Book Review: 150 Movies You Should Die Before You See

150 Movies You Should Die Before You See150 Movies You Should Die Before You See
Published by Adams Media, 2010. 290 pages.
By Steve Miller

This one had me really confused, especially the title. I first picked it up because I thought it might give me a few ideas for some future Turkey Day viewing. But as I read through it, I became really confused at just what Miller was trying to do here.

Each film has a very short synopsis along with cast and crew listing. Then a paragraph under the Why It Sucks moniker, a ratings of how many Thumbs Down, then a Crappies Award for whatever he didn’t care for.

In his introduction, Miller writes that there is “something magical about bad movies. Something that makes them worth the sometimes considerable effort to sit through.” Now while I really don’t like the term “bad movies” when you’re talking about a film you enjoy watching (same goes with “guilty pleasure”), I’ll let it slide here because that is an discussion for another time. But if you’re talking about movies that you do enjoy watching, then why are you putting them in a book with the title telling people NOT to watch them? Continue reading