The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema
Published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2017. 352 pages.
By Michael Vaughn
In his introduction, author Vaughn writes, “…it’s hard to reproduce the feel of a real book in your hands, and I refuse to believe printed material is dead.” Okay…so it’s kind of hard to criticize an author when he has the same feelings on books as I do. But none the less, I started to dig into this volume with the same quizzical interest that I do every I review. Will he mention the right kind of titles here, or just rehash the same old “cult” films that are so common you’ll find t-shirts of them at your local Hot Topic. It didn’t take me long to realize that Vaughn has done something special here.
Just quickly paging through this, I was enthusiastic to see so many great little titles being covered, from some more common titles to some that I haven’t thought of in decades, as well as mentioning plenty of titles that are now written down in my Need-To-See list! That is the real beauty of this volume is that it is going to bring some that are in that deserve some much needed attention, hoping to breath a little life again to these new fans reading this book. Vaughn covers titles from around the world and in a variety of different genres. Not just the usual horror & sci-fi entries, but also dramas, comedies, crime/thrillers, and even one chapter entitled Cars, Trucks, and Choppers, but that all still fit inside the strange world of cult cineam. How cool is that?
With as many titles that I add to my library each and every year, if I don’t force myself some rules, I’ll never get through some of these. Back in 2015, I’ve set myself a goal to get through at least one book per month. That year I almost made it, getting through eleven. Then last year, I devoured fourteen titles! Then this year I did even one better and made it to fifteen titles. Trust me, I wish I had the time to double that number since when you have over a thousand titles in your library, and are constantly adding new ones, it is a never ending quest. But one I that I just love. Just like my Best Of movie lists, these are not titles that came out this last year, but ones that I finally got around to. Out of those fifteen, here are the top five that I would recommend the most:
Interviews Too Shocking to Print!
Published by BearManor Media, 2014. 332 pages.
By Justin Humphreys
Right off the bat, let me say that if you’re expecting a but of unedited and sorid tales of Hollywood that couldn’t be printed before, you will be disappointed. The title of the book refers to the old fashion ballyhoo that B-movies used to use in hopes to draw a crowd. That being said, I think this book should draw the crowd because it is simply a must read for anybody interested in the horror and sci-fi genre and the people behind them.
I have quite a few “interview” books in my library and at least half of them cover the usual suspects in the movie industry. Not saying that is a bad thing, but we tend to read the same stories, as well as the people being covered are ones that we are usually very familiar with. But what Humphreys does with this book is put the spotlight on more than a few names that have made huge strides in the industry, but are names that you don’t typically hear being brought up, which is a damn shame. Thankfully, with this book, hopefully that can change.
Humphreys started interviewing some of these talents at the early age of 15 years of age, so right away it shows his diehard passion for these kind of films. Throughout his career, he befriended a lot of these people in the industry and is now trying to give them the credit they most assuredly deserves. And even if quite a few of them that are covered here have already passed away, learning about them and their work is the best way to keep them alive. And Humphreys has done a wonderful job doing just that.
Universal Terrors, 1951-1955: Eight Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Films
Published by McFarland, 2017. 440 pages.
By Tom Weaver, with David Schecter, Robert J. Kiss, and Steve Kronenberg
Anytime I do research on an older classic, if I’m looking for quotes, interviews, or anything type of information, going through the many volumes of books I have from Tom Weaver is one place that I always start. The reason for that is that his books are always so informative, giving a ton of details about the movies and their production, as well as the people that worked on it, from the directors and writers to the actors. Since he’s interviewed so many of these people over the years, the details he’s getting comes first hand. When news of a new book Weaver was working on that covered some of Universal’s films of the ’50s, since I’m a huge fan of that era, I couldn’t wait for it to come out so I could dig into it.
It Came from the Video Aisle!
Published by Schiffer Publishing, 2017. 480 pages.
By Dave Jay, William S. Wilson, & Torsten Dewi
You couldn’t have grown up in the video store era of the late ’80s/early ’90s, and not know who Full Moon Entertainment was. In fact, their product was usually all over the shelves in the horror section. They really were a staple of the horror market back then. Sure, it didn’t matter if most of the films weren’t any good, there were sure enough of them to make you hope that maybe the one you were currently holding in your hands would be one of the good ones! All seriousness aside, we all know the quality of the end result in a majority of Full Moon titles are, but no matter what, you have to give them, and Charles Band, credit for what they were continuing to do, which was making low budget features the old fashion way…a lot of work and a lot of ballyhoo. There are more than a few of Full Moon’s titles that I actually enjoy, but nowhere near is that a high percentage. But just as started into this new book on the company and the man behind it, I was amazed at how it drew me in more and more into the world of Full Moon, and those fighting for the cause of low budget filmmaking.
Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1970-1979
Published by McFarland, 2017. 256 pages
By Roberto Curti
Here is yet another prime example of why I love horror reference books. I’d say that I’ve seen my share of Italian horror films in the last 30 years and could pretty much hold my own in a conversation about said topic. But reading through Curti’s book, it showed me a couple of things. First, I don’t know as much as I thought I did! Not even close. Just a few pages in and I was reading about films that I had either never heard, had forgotten about, and never seen. Probably the first. But it also showed me just how great the genre is because even after all these years, there are still plenty of more titles out there just waiting for me to explore.
Curti definitely knows his stuff. With each entry, he gives us not only the usual items, like cast, crew, and synopsis, but also a plethora of information about the film and the people involved with it. While only covering a decade of cinema, it was a great time frame for Italian horror. Listed within these pages are more than a few of some of my favorites, like The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973), Night of the Devil (1972), or even entertaining trash like Werewolf Woman (1976) or Lady Frankenstein (1971), and many others. It will give you plenty of titles that you’re going to want to seek out for the first time, and many that you’ve seen before but now want to revisit once again.
By Matthew Edwards
Published by McFarland, 2017. 280 pages
There are more than a few of these types of “interview” books, where the author has sat down with a variety of people involved in movies, getting their opinions, thoughts, and feelings towards their craft and the movies they’ve worked on. So what makes Twisted Visions different from all of those? A couple of different reasons, really. Edwards not only knows the history of the subjects being interviewed, but also really knows the films being discussed. And the group of underrated filmmakers chosen for this book are probably unknown to most of the mainstream genre fans, but are more than worthy of having their chance to talk about their career. But most importantly, the great thing about this book is that you are going to learn. That’s right…didn’t think you’d find that while reading an interview with the guy that made Nightmares in a Damaged Brain or Combat Shock, did you? But you will.
In his introduction, Edwards writes “In Hollywood, the marketing of the movie has become more important than the quality of the film.” So true, and so sad. Thankfully, the filmmakers covered in this book were not anywhere close to Hollywood and that is a good thing. Edwards has picked a great selection of talent and talks with real passion and respect for them, as well as seeing a lot more here than your average fan. In other words, the guy knows what he’s talking about!