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

Book Review: The Lost One – A Life of Peter Lorre

The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre
Published by The University Press of Kentucky, 2005. 613 pages
By Stephen D. Youngkin.

I remember stumbling across this title at a Half Price Books and was so thrilled to have finally found a copy at a decent price. I had seen them on online at other places but the price was always a bit too high. I meant to dive into right away, but at over 600 pages, it is a pretty big dive. So I put it aside and figured I would get to it one of these days. That day finally came and I’m so glad too. It is always rewarding, if a bit sad at times, when you read the background of your favorite stars. You quickly realize that the life of a Hollywood star is not all the fame, fortune, and the glamour we tend to think it is. With this volume, author Youngkin shows us that, and so much more. Continue reading

Book Review: Hollywood Cauldron

Hollywood Cauldron: Thirteen Horror Films from the Genre’s Golden Age
Published by McFarland, 1994. 404 pages.
By Gregory William Mank

While this is not a new volume, originally published in ’94, and republished in soft cover format in 2001, it is one that I finally decided to dive into. The film covers 13 different titles from the “Golden Age”, from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) to Bedlam (1946). With each title, Mank covers the production facts, such as who’s in it and what jobs they had, then going through the plot of the film. The real beauty of this is the information given during the story and after it. Mank always brings so much more information about the different actors, the production itself, and little bits of trivia that makes his writing so interesting, as well as entertaining. Such as the paintings from The Picture of Dorian Gray. I knew Ivan Albright painted the “evil” painting of Gray, but had always thought he painted both “good” and “evil”. As it turns it out, his twin brother painted the “good” one, but it wasn’t used. The one used in the film was done by Henrique Medina. Shows you’re never too old to learn something!

I don’t need to really go into much more details because if you’re at all familiar with Mank and his work, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not familiar, then you need to fix that. His style of writing is one that gives you the facts, but presents them in ways that are interesting, easy to read, and I’m pretty sure you’ll come away with knowing much more than you did before hand.

If you’re a fan of the films of the golden era, then this really is a must.

Book Review: Modern Horror Movies from the ’60s and ’70s

Modern Horror Movies from the ’60s and ’70s
Self Published, 2019. 197 pages
By Laura Cremonini

Because I wanted to give this author a chance by looking at more than just one of her books, I purchased a second title, and I was happy to discover that it seems that this is actually original text and not lifted from any internet source. Or at least, not that I could find. What I did find though was something more interesting. It doesn’t seem she has improved on the formatting here, since some of the movie titles are in quotes and some are italicized. So on par with the previous book I reviewed, she is desperate need of a good editor.

The real strange part of this book is that she has decided to take on a particular slice of the horror genre, from the ’60s and ’70s, reviewing certain titles, which really is just stating the plot and then giving the reader’s a Catholic evaluation. What her affiliation with the Church is not known, so I’m assuming she is a devote follower that is giving us her interpretation of what the film means or represents to her. Sounds fair enough, since I’m always looking for different opinions on films.

Though… it doesn’t help when there are few errors or inconsistencies throughout the book. For example, she makes the comment that “Until 1962, horror movies produced by Hammer were directly exclusively by (Terence) Fisher.” Yes, while all of their major titles were directed by Fisher, there were more than a titles not directed by him, such as the first two Quatermass films by Val Guest, Taste of Fear by Seth Holt, The Shadow of the Cat by John Gilling, and a few more. Yes, this is just me being picky, but it does point out the lack of research to make such a claim. Continue reading