Friday, November 20, 2009

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Mandingo, Book & Film


By Paul Talbot

306 pages; softcover; B/W; first edition 2009

Fantastic volume on the Antebellum Era trash novel by Kyle Onstott (and its subsequent novels from other authors); and the two films that broke the chains of the printed page onto the silver screen in the mid-1970s. Hard to put down, Talbot's meticulous approach to his subject will easily enslave the reader's attention, allowing only to turn the page till the last of the paperback is reached.

In the late 50's, there began a titillating series of novels detailing the lurid, sexually charged, and violent circumstances occurring on slave breeding plantations in the pre-Civil War South. The entire series of scandalous books sold millions and led to one of the most controversial movies of the 1970's.

Paul Talbot (author of the likewise recommended BRONSON'S LOOSE! THE MAKING OF THE DEATH WISH FILMS) has taken up the arduous task of amassing virtually any and every piece of background information on both the provocative, sizzling novels--and everything you would ever want to know about the feature films, MANDINGO (1975) and its far more exploitative sequel, DRUM (1976).

Those involved in the production of the two films (both in front of, and behind the camera) reveal the controversy and the difficulties bringing the two films to the big screen. Talbot also goes the extra mile in detailing other cinematic entries in the salacious sub-genre of slavesploitation.

Over the course of its 306 info-filled pages, those with a taste for the exploitative and wild side of sinema will come away with a more enlightened sense of the popular (as well as critically revered and reviled) series of novels; and their shaping of a controversial film style during the era in which they were made.

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Two Tomes on Hammer Horror

HAMMER GLAMOUR: Classic Images From the Archives of Hammer Films

By Marcus Hearn

Hardcover; 160 pages; color & B/W

The author of the equally large coffee table tome, THE HAMMER STORY: The Authorized History of Hammer Films returns to British Gothic territory with this loving homage to those gorgeous ladies of of the famed production company. Filled with dozens of alluring pictures as well as behind the scenes and publicity shots of those beauties that stood alongside the beasts of Hammer's horror and fantasy film output.

With over 50 Hammer starlets as well as an appendix featuring many additional actresses, each entry discusses their careers (ever how brief many of them may have been); how they came to be discovered, their roles and what they went on to do after their tenure with Hammer was over. Trivial tidbits abound amongst the numerous and plentiful photos filling out the book.

The only negatives (which are terribly minor for the most part) is that some of the women get at least four pages while some others only get one and there's relatively few nude pics for those curious about them. Considering there are other books on Hammer with a handful of revealing photos, this book has relatively few. Also, where the hell is Dana Gillespie (THE LOST CONTINENT, Amicus' THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT)?

Nonetheless, HAMMER GLAMOUR is a highly recommended purchase. Any Hammer fan should have this book in their collection if only for the wealth of pictorials of the company's stable of beauties. It can be bought for under $20.

Next up is one of the most enticing and curious pieces of reference material on the British horror film company.

HAMMER FILMS: A LIFE IN PICTURES--The Visual Story of Hammer Films

By Wayne Kinsey

Hardcover; 224 pages; color & B/W; Limited to 2,500 copies

Wayne Kinsey, the author of the painstakingly mounted and exhaustively thorough HAMMER FILMS: THE BRAY YEARS and HAMMER FILMS: THE ELSTREE YEARS returns with even more unearthed goodies for Hammerheads to slaver over. Where those two aforementioned books featured many rare behind the scenes pictures, so does this hardback book feature hundreds of even more rare and unseen photos from the history of Hammer. One of the reasons that this book will be of interest to serious Hammer fans are the inclusion of rare photos from Hammer productions outside their more widely known horror realm.

There are 12 chapters and these are--

1. So, Who Was Hammer?
2. Hammer Noir
3. Frankenstein
4. Dracula
5. Horror
6. Science Fiction
7. Psychological Thrillers
8. Drama
9. War
10. Fantasy
11. Comedies
12. Swashbucklers

It should be stressed that, outside of the Introduction and the Foreword, the book is a massive collection of rare stills showcasing the actors and film technicians at work with captions detailing the scenes pictured.

Hammer fans will find much to enjoy here in visual form. Two examples are color behind the scenes shots of effects artists preparing the gruesome fate of the monster in FRANKENSTEIN & THE MONSTER FROM HELL. Another sees Chris Lee as Dracula rehearsing his manic stabbing of a mannequin standing in for Anouska Hempel from SCARS OF DRACULA.

There's really nothing bad to say about this book aside from it being rather costly at nearly $35.00. This magnificent manuscript is dominated by a plethora of pictures limited to only 2,500 copies and when they're gone, the price will only go up even further.

Like the above reviewed book, A LIFE IN PICTURES is another must own reference book for any serious Hammer fan as well as those that feel everything has been said (or seen) on the subject of the most famous British horror film company. On the inside jacket, there is a blurb for an upcoming book by the meticulous Mr. Kinsey entitled HAMMER FILMS-THE REAL STORY which features all new interviews with key players from Hammer including many detailing their accounts for the first time. This upcoming book promises to be a must buy as well and another winner for the enterprising Wayne Kinsey.

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