Gods of Grindhouse
BearManor Media, 2013. 169 pages.
Edited by Andrew J. Rausch
I know everyone out there knows the name of Roger Corman. But what about Ted V. Mikels? Or Ray Dennis Steckler, Jack Hill, or Bill Rebane? These gentlemen, plus a few more, are the names covered in this very important book. The guys are from the filmmaking industry that I feel are much more important than the likes of Michael Bay. Why? Simple. There movies are something you will remember and will stand the test of time. Each generation will discover and be entertained by them. Without the talented craftsmen discussed in this volume, there would be no Quentin Tarentino. So while their movies may be the jest of places like MST3K, that doesn’t take away from what their films are about, as well as the people that struggled to get them made and distributed.
I know I preach over and over on this site about how important it is to know your history when it comes to the genres, but I wouldn’t keep saying it if I really didn’t believe it. So many younger filmmakers, such as the previous mentioned Tarantino, grew up watching the films from these guys, being inspired to make their own mark with their films. So yes, it is VERY important to know these guys and their work. And this book is a great way to start.
Grande Dame Guignol Cinema
Published by McFarland, 2009. 340 pages.
By Peter Shelley
Kudos to author Shelley for coming up with a great idea, highlighting some classics in horror cinema that some of them I feel tend to be left behind. Shelley writes in the preface, “for me the sign of good writing about films is that it compels one to see the movie under discussion. I hope my book does this for my readers.” Not only do I completely agree with that statement, but there are more than a few titles discussed in this book are now on my Need-to-Watch-AGAIN list.
Shelley does a great job in his introduction explaining the title of the book, and clearly defining what he means by it. This is a good way to stop people from asking “why did you leave this movie out?” … granted that will still probably happen. But at least going in, we are well aware of his point and what he is trying to accomplish with this book. With each title, he gives us a little background on the actress who is filling the role of the book’s title, and why they fit so well here. Once again, any book that sheds a little light on some horror history, I’m all for, and Shelley does an admirable job here.
Monster Squad: Celebrating the Artists Behind Cinema’s Most memorable Creatures
Published by BearManor Media, 2017. 430 pages.
By Heather A. Wixson
In the early ’80s, makeup artists that worked on horror movies were becoming real celebrities, just as if they were the main stars of the films they worked on. Seeing names like Savini, Baker, or Bottin in the credits would get fans to go see a film on their participation alone. So many young fans out there were so inspired by these names, that they dabbled on their own with latex, spirit gum, and greasepaint, some more successful than others. Like a lot of us fans during that time, the movies affected us more than most people watching them. Some wanted to be part of the world that were creating this magic. That passion is what drove them to never stop trying, never stop learning, and just never stopping. That era when rubber monsters and outrageous creatures ruled the genre is over three decades ago, with quite a bit being replaced with CGI. But that hasn’t stopped some of these guys from continuing with their craft, still fueled by that same passion to create magic on the screen.
The Thrill of Repulsion: Excursions into Horror Culture
Published by Schiffer Publishing LTD, 2016. 280 pages.
By William Burns
When I picked up this book from ebay, from the title I figured it would be another nice addition to my Psycho-Babble section in my library. But once I got it and started to browse through it, I was completely surprised at what this volume actually is about. What seemed to be moments later, I realized I had already read the first couple of chapters!
This tome is a couple of different kinds of books. The first part, which is on films, is what got my attention right away, is the lists. After a brief introduction, we get several chapters of the Top 13 lists, such as The 13 Most Disturbing Films That Aren’t Horror Movies, or The 13 Most Deranged Horror Director Debuts, or even The 13 Most Phantasmagorical Fantastique Films. In each of these chapters, the author lists the top 13 in that particular category that he feels are important and discusses them a bit. Now like with any list, there might be some arguments or discussions with the ones that Burns has come up with, but that is really what these kind of lists are for. But the other part is that possibly for more of novice fan, it gives you a little checklist to make sure you check the recommendations. Even more experienced fans might find a title or two they need to check out. I know I did. Even if you don’t agree with the titles mentioned in the lists, the author felt they were pretty important so they should be at least worth checking them out if you haven’t already. These little lists are a great way to add some titles to your “Need to Watch” list.
Laird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy
Published by McFarland, 2018. 329 pages
By Gregory William Mank
The reading goal that I have set for myself is to get through at least one book per month, and for the last couple of years, I’ve happily gone a little past that goal. But thanks to the wonderfully talented Mr. Mank, my average for this year just went up. It usually takes me 3-4 weeks to get through a book, mainly because I have to steal away time to read. But once I started this latest volume, on the actor Laird Cregar, I went through the first half of it in the first two days, finishing it off within a week. I just couldn’t put it down.
I have been a fan of Cregar’s since the very first time I watched The Lodger (1944). I was just amazed at not only how effective and well made the picture was, but also the amazing talent of Cregar. I immediately started to seek out other of his films, especially Hangover Square (1945), again being mesmerized by his performance. I started to read up on this seemingly unknown (to me at least) actor and his life in various books and online, only be to be depressed on how this brilliant performer was treated in his life, by others as well as how he treated himself. A couple of years ago, while talking to Mank at a Monster Bash conference, he mentioned Cregar was going to be the subject of an upcoming book, which I knew I would get the minute it came out. Which I did.
Published by McFarland, 2017. 316 pages
Written by Mike Bogue
Anybody who picks up this book thinking that it is just another book of reviews of our favorite giant and mutated monsters from the ’50 and ’60s will be sadly mistaken. Yes, there are plenty of reviews within these pages of movies like Tarantula, The Monster that Challenged the World, Them!, Godzilla, Mothra, and so many more. But there is so much more here, both at face value and much more at a deeper level to really make you think.
Bogue has done an incredible job here going over these movies that many of us love and hold dearly in our fandom. But he also shows how these movies came about, through the use of atomic and nuclear power and the effects that it has. Not just on the cinematic monsters, but what it had done to humanity, and more importantly, what it still does. Even the novice of fans knows about the connections between Godzilla and the bombs that were dropped on Japan in the ’40s. But Bogue goes deeper is how the cinematic influences were different between Japan and the US.
The British Horror Film: From the Silent to the Multiplex
Published by Fonthill Media, 2017. 222 pages
By Ian Fryer
I’m a sucker for any books on British horror films, especially when they are going to cover Hammer. But then there are still so many other great pictures and talented filmmakers that came out of the UK, so there is much more of a history than just Hammer. Whether it is a good thing or not, but Fryer spends more of the time covering the famous Studio that Dripped Blood. So it’s a toss-up to find that a complaint or not, because they were such a dominating force in that country’s horror film output.
He does do a decent job covering other entries, such as Amicus, Tony Tenser, Pete Walker and the likes, so it’s not just Hammer. Even when we get to the modern day, he mentions quite a few of the people making a name for the genre, like Neil Marshall, Christopher Smith, and Ben Wheatley.