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:
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.
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!
Women in Horror Films, 1930’s
By Gregory William Mank
Published by McFarland & Co, 415 pages.
Along with Tom Weaver, Greg Mank is one of the leading writers who I think is doing amazing work keeping the memory and stories of some of our favorite actors and actresses alive, through their hard work and research. We can learn so much about our favorite horror stars because of them. And this book is a prime example of that.
Each chapter of the book is dedicated to one of the stars from the ’30’s, including names like Elsa Lanchester, Gloria Stuart, Frances Drake, and many more. In fact, there are 21 different actresses cover in this book. With each name, we are given a lot of information about the them, their early life and career. There are a lot of interesting stories within these pages, most of them told directly to the author himself from the many interviews that he conducted over the years. So kudos to him for keeping these memories alive and remembered.
While wandering through the dealer room on Saturday before the show opened, I came upon an art print that blew me away. It was a collage of all the different creatures/monsters that were created by low budget monster maker Paul Blaisdell, which even included a couple of images of Blaisdell himself. If you’re not familiar with highly underrated talent then you have some homework to do! He created a bunch of different creatures for the low budget AIP features back in the ’50s, with very little time and money. But he always came up with some interesting monsters and aliens, like we’ve never seen before. He worked on titles like It Conquered the World, Invasion of the Saucer Men, The She-Creature, and a few more. So to see him and his work highlighted in this beautiful piece of art made my heart swell. I can now proudly say that it is now framed and hanging in my office. The artist is Scott Jackson and has been doing this kind of work for quite some time. He had some other great prints for sale, including a stunning one from The Picture of Dorian Gray, with him standing in front of is decayed portrait. Definitely will be picking that one up from him in the future. You can check out his work at his site HERE.
This year’s Monster Bash, held once again in Mars, PA, was their 20th Anniversary show. I can’t express how sad I am that I had only started coming to this show a few years ago. For years, I put some serious thought into setting up as a vendor there, but I always talked myself out of it because of the distance being too far and if it would really be worth it. Now, with this show becoming one of my favorite stops on our Kryptic World Tour, I realize just how I wrong I was.
This time out, I would be making the 500 mile journey to the show on my own, since my wife Dawn is taking care of her father. It sucks having to do the show alone, but there are certain things in life that are way more important, and family is one of them. It’s only a couple of hours past where we go for Wasteland, so it should be that bad. Though, looking at the weather in the area for that Friday, it was calling for rain…all…day…long! I’ve never had to unload for a show in the rain and was not looking forward to it. I decided to leave after work on Thursday, drive to Cleveland area and then stop for a few hours of sleep, then drive the last couple of hours the next morning to be there by 8am for set up.