Halliwell’s has long been a sore point for me. The reviews (as they are) don’t add up to much, being so brief, and the viewpoint that all horror films are shit niggles at me. I want to respect the views, but damn… The reviewers make it so hard to take the books seriously. I have a couple of editions, yet I don’t look at them very often. They are excellent for information on pre-1930s cinema, but for modern films are less than useless.
Not much more useful, though containing far more informative reviews, is Virgin’s Film Guide. I have an old edition, yet don’t feel the urge to upgrade to a more recent version, so that says something about the amount of times I really use it. Time Out on the other hand, is one of the guides that I feel the need to keep on buying. The books have changed and evolved over the years, and it is interesting to see what gets bumped and what gets expanded upon.
Good Movie Guide by David Parkinson falls between all those big guides, but has its own niche due to the indexing throughout the main body of the text. It has driven my direction to films I would never have thought of watching, and I thank Parkinson profusely for the publication. The cover is bland and uninteresting, but the contents within are well worth trying to track this sucker down. I don’t know if many people have really paid it much attention, but I really like the book.
Roger Ebert’s Video Companion (1997 Edition) doesn’t contain many reviews, but I kept a hold of it for the honest and excitable way in which some lesser films are extolled. There are more of his reviews online now, and looking for other (newer) editions doesn’t seem worth the hassle. I like Ebert, unlike some readers who have complained about his style, but the act of reviewing takes a personal touch. I kinda miss the video era, and this is a final hurrah for the format before the digital revolution stole away my grubby pre-’84 copies of horror films.
The Film Yearbook and Film Review books from the eighties which listed every release of the year are still kicking around, though I seem to look at them less as time goes by. I’ve gone off a lot of eighties product, though looking back I realize that the Buckaroo Banzai coverage was woefully inept. How could so many people ignore an instant classic? Roger Rabbit got endless coverage in some books, and this goes some way to explaining the success of The Matrix. People like innovation.
The how, why and where is unknown, but at some point in the last couple of decades I managed to get my hands on The International Film Guide 1968 (edited by Peter Cowie) which is filled to the brim with information on obscure European short films and actors who most people would be hard pressed to name. I really like dipping into this every now and again to remind myself that there have been more films made than I have ever even heard of. It is an immensely humbling experience reading this.
Ten geek points for anyone who has heard of Jerzy Skolimowski.
Film guides might seem to dominate my cinema book collection, if you have read this far, but they go hand in hand with the film scripts I seem to collect. And novelizations. Whenever I find a film that says something interesting and has an interesting character I try to learn more about the film, hence the increasingly eccentric books as I delve deeper into the stacks of books.
The Action Movie A-Z by Marshall Julius
The DVD Stack ed. Nick Bradshaw & Tim Robey
Film Facts by Patrick Robertson
Illuminating Shadows – The Mythic Power Of Film by Geoffrey Hill
Incredibly Strange Films edited by V. Vale & Andrea Juno
National Heroes – British Cinema In The Seventies And Eighties by Alexander Walker
That’s Sexploitation! – The Forbidden World Of Adults Only Cinema ed. Muller & Faris
The Ultimate DVD Guide ed. Andy McDermott
The Rough Guide To Cult Movies covers much the same ground as Incredibly Strange Film does, but in less detail with added films. It rattles through the twentieth centuries most offbeat and obscure directors and their output, with as much love for Herschell Gordon Lewis and Fellini alike. Nobody is pushed to the sideline as the bottom of the barrel (where some glittering gems have settled) is scraped with the intention of finding gold.
The BFI book Ultimate Film is a Top 100 book I actually don’t hate so much. I know that people are getting fed up with my twenty-minute-long rant when I’m asked on my opinion of the Top 100 television shows that run every so often, but this book serves a purpose, and it is filled with info on the films covered. The BFI Film Classics series (of which I have a couple) are focused on single films, so the coverage is much more in-depth than I get elsewhere. I really like these.
The Bonnie & Clyde Book ed. Sandra Wake & Nicola Hayden is one of the few books that I bought merely upon seeing the cover. I love the silvery quality of the cover, and – despite thinking the film was a bit overcooked – I have actually found the book informative and not as slanted in viewpoint as it could have been. Blockbuster, Tom Schone’s look at the summer hits and the people who make them, is a subject I find endlessly fascinating.
I’m gonna say it again and again, because people don’t understand my reaction to the large summer films – 99.99999% of blockbusters are unmitigated, totally-irredeemable shit. This includes a lot of films I actually own on DVD, so I completely understand if people want to disagree. The braindead, simplistic, brash spectacles with little (or no) sense of logic and plot are a viable commodity in Hollywood, and at least I have one book which covers that aspect of film.
One last mention, before I wrap this up, must go to The Making Of Taxi Driver by Geofrey McNab. I know there are a dozen or more similarly-themed books on the making of the film, but this is – for me at any rate – the best of the bunch. Feel free to disagree, complain, recommend and – I know this is coming – try to get me to pick up your books because y’all are a bunch of geniuses and I’m shockingly behind the times in not acknowledging you as such…