This edition of Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews focuses once more on Italian horror tom(b)es. There are three books featured here--from the best to the least. All three are good reads, but two in particular are serious must haves for readers and fans of Eurohorror. First up is a book on one of the great directors of Italian genre cinema...
BEYOND TERROR: THE FILMS OF LUCIO FULCI
By Stephen Thrower
Softcover/Hardcover (softcover reviewed); 311 pages; color & B/W
Stephen Throwers exhaustive, exemplary book on the entire career of Italian genre specialist, Lucio Fulci is a wonderful and fascinating read. Every film is covered here in perfect detail. It's truly the definitive volume on the celebrated and controversial director. As much as I have already sang the praises of FAB Press, this is yet another achievement from them. I ordered this book back when it was first made available. It's still around and at nearly twice its cover price used. Still, rabid Fulci fans should attempt to track down a copy.
Loaded to the gills with analytical dissections of Fulci's movies, it's also jam packed with over 800 illustrations and 40 pages in color. Fulci's daughter, Antonella has an introduction and all 52 Fulci films are covered. Fans of his "Zombie Quartet" will lap up the generous display of pictures and full page splashes of the films most famous scenes. There's also behind the scenes photos and various promotional materials including posters and lobby cards. As a lot of fans are already aware, Fulci had his hands in more movie genres than just horror pictures. He did many other types of films including comedies and westerns. The chapters are as follows...
INTRODUCTION TO THE FILMS OF LUCIO FULCI
BUILD MY GIALLOS HIGH!
THE GHOUL CAN'T HELP IT
GOTHIC HELLS, GRUESOME VISIONS
FULVIA FILM PROUDLY GOES TO FAR...
ADRIFT ON PERVERSION
CRAFT, PAIN AND INSPIRATION
There are also four appendices...
THE FILMS OF LUCIO FULCI: COMPLETE CREDITS
FULCI'S OTHER WORK
ACTOR AND ACTRESS FILMOGRAPHIES
SYNOPSES FOR UNREVIEWED FULCI FILMS
The book is quite large at 11.6 x 9.4. A good number of FAB Press's books are around this size and as per there usual volumes, it doesn't disappoint. Those looking for heaping amounts of background information may be a bit dissatisfied, but the sheer volume of pictures and interesting dissertations of the movies themselves makes this handsome package definitely one for the shelves.
Next up is another Pasta Land book on Italian horror and fantasy pictures. This one is an English tome written by two Italian authors....
SPAGHETTI NIGHTMARES: ITALIAN FANTASY-HORRORS AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF THEIR PROTAGONISTS
By Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta
softcover; 192 pages; color & B/W
This very interesting book on Eurocinema is a highly interesting look into the world of Italian genre cinema and the people that made them. It contains over two dozen interviews with stars, directors, effects artists as well as two very brief articles regarding Italian fantastic cinema and the Mondo movies.
It's not all Italian filmmakers and other personnel interviewed, there's also a conversation with American special effects ace, Tom Savini. His interview is probably the funniest. For years it's been "rumored" that Savini was involved in the FX from Romano Scavolini's NIGHTMARE (1980) aka NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN. Savini has repeatedly discounted this information yet in this book, there is a picture that clearly shows him involved in an effects sequence. Why he refuses to acknowledge his participation here is unknown.
As with most Italians in interviews who like to put their cult films on a pedestal much higher than the stature they truly attained, the authors do much the same thing here. Such is one humorous bit in the 'Violent Adventure' index. The entry for L' ULTIMO SQUALO (1980) aka THE LAST JAWS aka GREAT WHITE reads, "The film that was a real threat to the success of JAWS. Excellent production with just the right cast." While I agree with the last bit regarding the cast, the rest is a bit overblown. There's nothing at all excellent about the film, unless you count how successfully bad it is.
WHAT'S ON THE BACK COVER?
Still, the interviews are all very entertaining and enlightening. While the book covers an incredible amount of ground, it's far too much to be considered definitive. The reference section does a decent job of covering the many different genres and key films, but it's far from the "complete reference book" blurb on the front cover. Only the horror and fantasy related films are given extensive coverage.
The only negative about this book would be the way in which the films are indexed. They are listed by their original Italian titles only. Some of these will be familiar to fans, but then a great many of them may not. This can prove frustrating at times. The interviews are the following....
Fabrizio De Angelis
Gianetto de Rossi
An index (as mentioned above) covers all the other genres including Horror, Thrillers, Violent Adventure, Peplums and Science Fiction among some others. This highly recommended book is still available much cheaper (half off its cover price!) than I paid for it back in 1996. Fans of interviews and learning about technical information will no doubt lap up this piece. At its current price, easily one for the shelves.
This last book is a minor one, but no less interesting....
By Jim Harper
Softcover; 252 pages; B/W
Harper's book is a nice little starter kit for the unitiated, but still offers a bit of substance for others more familiar with the movies listed therein. Relegated strictly to the years between 1979 through 1994, it does Italian Horror a bit of a disservice by not including Eurohorror from years prior to those discussed here. It doesn't completely ignore the Golden Age of Italian horror cinema, but doesn't dwell on it, either.
The book itself is digest sized and includes a surprising amount of lesser known titles among the ones fans are more accustomed to. There's also just enough background information and critical analysis to satisfy those in need of a quick fix. All the reviews and dissertations are rather brief and that in itself will be attractive to less patient readers who want to simply "get on with it". There's also around 15 pages devoted to the filmmakers themselves and their accomplishments. Indexes of alternate titles and pseudonyms are the books additional attributes.
The major negative here are that the pictures are poorly produced on the paper stock utilized. Other than that, Harper's book is a nice edition, if a bit pricey. The rather hefty $25 price tag will figure into many fans minds as to whether this is one for their shelves, or not.
UNTIL NEXT TIME...