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.
The Unrepentant Cinephile
Independently Published in 2017. 556 pages
By Jason Coffman
So what really is the purpose of a movie guide? I mean, after all, it’s just a collection of reviews by either one or a number of people that watch the films and review them, right. While that is true in its basic element, for me it really comes down to opening doors. Not just showing me some titles that I’ve never heard about, but when done correctly, makes me want to seek them out after reading about them. The reviewer’s thoughts and how they are written are a very important key here, as well as the reviewer themselves. I’ve come across many reviewers that I’ve found simply not getting what they are reviewing, or a few that seem like they haven’t even watched the movie they’re writing about. But when you come across a reviewer/writer that not only knows what he’s talking about, but just has a sheer love of cinema, you tend to take his words to heart, even above and beyond the ‘likes and dislikes’ they may have for a particular title. Jason Coffman is one of those. And this book does exactly what a film guide should do and that is to open the doors and should make your To-Watch list grow. A lot.
As a collector of movie themed books, nothing brings me back to my childhood than when you find a book that is not only dedicated to a single title, but one that covers it with so much detail that you literally can just fall right into the film as you’re slowly turning the pages, reading all about the making of the particular title while looking at the wonderful images therein. It’s really magical. Of course, it’s great when you can find one of these books on a movie that you absolutely adore. Or maybe it’s about a particular filmmaker. Or even better, a series of books on this same guy, who has continued to create some of the most beautiful cinematic features over the years. Of course, I’m talking about Guillermo del Toro and the amazing books that have been coming out over the last few years.
Over the last five years, there have been at least a half dozen titles that have come out, either from Harper Design and/or Insight Editions, all looking very similar to each other, but are just filled to the brim with tons of information. The first volume was called Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions, and was released by Harper Design in October of 2013. This book was a walk into the creative mind of del Toro and what a wonderful stroll it is to take. It covers the filmmakers early life, gives us a tour of Bleak House, as well as going through some of his movies. Filling the pages are images where your mind can be inspired, from the mind-blowing photos of his collection in Bleak House, to the illustrations and original sketches from the different films, all coming from his notebooks while he was developing these movies. This large hardcover was a bit pricy with the original retail at $60, but it really is a must for fans of his work. Here’s a video he made explaining what this book is all about. Better to hear it right from him, right?
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: