Monday, February 22, 2010
Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Horror Of the Late Night Monsters On 42nd Street
This entry of Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews is going for a grindhouse slant. A naughty and nasty tour through the slimier side of sinema as well as a detour into the weird and wild world of exploitation movies. There will also be a bonus book review not too far from the theme of today's entry.
With all the LAST HOUSE slamming going on in the 'Wes Craven' debate over at the Horror Blogger Alliance, I thought it fitting to plug the 'Making Of' book of the controversial classic(k).
WES CRAVEN'S LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT: THE MAKING OF A CULT CLASSIC
By David A. Szulkin
Softcover; 216 pages; color & B/W
This exhaustive and painstaking revised 2000 edition of Szulkin's amazing 1997 volume on Craven's most notorious movie is a fascinating read that fans and curiosity seekers alike will simply not want to put down. Every aspect of the films production, its release, the controversy and backlash as well as the plethora of lost footage is discussed in detail. Any fan of the film simply must own this book.
Not only is it a document on the making of one of the most villified cinematic endeavors of all time, but it's told in the words of those in front of, and behind the camera. There's a great many stories told by the technicians and participants in addition to a boatload of rare behind the scenes photos and posters as well as a chapter devoted to a slew of LAST HOUSE clones.
Everything there is to know about this production is uncovered and bared to the reader. It adds an additional appreciation for this incendiary exercise in angry and low budget filmmaking. To add to the whole sleazy aura, an appendix lists other films released by Hallmark Releasing accompanied by those films posters. The Table of Contents is as follows....
To Avoid Fainting, Keep Repeating: It's Only A movie...Only A Movie...Only A Movie...
Planning The Sex Crime of the Century
Babes In The Woods: A Crash Course In Guerrilla Filmmaking
Cutting, Slashing, Slicing And Dicing
Krug Plays A Mean Guitar: The Musical Score
The Launch Of A Thousand Lunches
Now You See It, Now You Don't: In Search Of The Uncensored
Rip Offs And Rehashes
Last Thoughts On The House
Appendix 1: Selected Filmographies
Appendix 2: The Shooting Schedule
Appendix 3: The Ballad
Appendix 4: Props And Equipment List For Night Of Vengeance Shoot
Szulkin's extraordinary and authoritative book is must-read material for horror fans. Those who hate the film may find much of interest here as well. From FAB Press, the best film reference publisher, keep repeating to yourself, it's only a book...only a book...only a book....
Following that class act is another wonderful trip down to the bowels of the sleaze pit barrel. This time it's a book from the founder of the 80's exploitation magazine, Sleazoid Express....
SLEAZOID EXPRESS: A MIND TWISTING TOUR THROUGH THE GRINDHOUSE CINEMA OF TIMES SQUARE!
By Bill Landis & Michelle Clifford
Softcover; 315 pages; B/W
The late Bill Landis and his wife, Michelle Clifford put together the ultimate love letter to a bygone timeperiod, a "dark time" in American history. For someone who only got to experience 42nd Street when it was being torn down, this book does a magnificent job of detailing what it was like to have been (un)lucky enough to have experienced it first hand.
Friends of mine have divulged just how scary it was to attend the infamous gutter trash New York movie theaters and the sheer adrenaline rush it was to be right in the middle of the action whilst watching whatever misbegotten celluloid filth was unspooling onscreen. More about the experience than the actual films themselves, SLEAZOID EXPRESS makes a connection with the reader placing you right there in the Deuce, or the Rialto. You get the feeling you are there experiencing it with the authors.
However, one shouldn't go into this volume expecting movie reviews and plot synopsis'. This book is all about the experience first and the films second. It does cover a wide range of genre garbage including a wide range of exploitation, porn, race hate movies, horror both homegrown and from Europe and kung fu movies are among the genres discussed. Another highly recommended book for those interested in New York's original 42nd Street; a time period captured onscreen in such films as TAXI DRIVER (1976) and BASKET CASE (1982).
Moving on we stop off at one of the most celebrated movie review books of all time....
THE PSYCHOTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM
By Michael Weldon
Softcover; 815 pages; B/W
This is Weldon's original and overwhelmingly massive 1983 review book. It's a milestone in film reference and particularly film review books. There's so much information presented here including many wonderful photos and poster artwork from all manner of exploitation, horror, monster movies and everything in between.
Weldon followed up this comprehensive ode to exploitation cinema with another, slightly smaller volume entitled PSYCHOTRONIC VIDEO GUIDE in 1996. Even with its dated year of release, Weldon's book is a prime read for those who wax nostalgic about catching such wild and wooley films on weekends and on late night television. The reviews themselves are somewhat brief, but contain a lot of interesting trivia for those who already know the films themselves.
This volume is an exceptional read despite its age and is a great coffee table book for those with a passion for all manner of movies with an accent towards the tasteless and the tacky.
And now for the bonus books. These are two of my favorites. One of them is probably the first movie review book I ever bought as a kid....
THE CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE
By John Stanley
Softcover; 304 pages; B/W
Stanley, the host of the California television program, Creature Features, writes this excellent and witty review book on horror, sci fi and monster flicks. This is the updated and revised 1984 edition. It was in this tome that I became interested in learning about any and every monster movie I could lay my eyes on. I would fervently peruse the TV Guide seeking out monster flicks then grab my copy of Creature Features and read what Stanley had to say about it. One of my single favorite books in my collection, Stanley struck again several more times such as below with....
CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE STRIKES AGAIN
By John Stanley
Softcover; 454 pages; B/W
This fourth edition contains even more entries and some new takes on some old favorites. Sadly, Stanley omits some titles found in previous editions. However, the same witty style returns for more monster goodness. It's another great read, but not as good as the previous Stanley volume, possibly for nostalgic reasons. There has been at least one more version in a much smaller edition.