This prestigious limited edition book showcases Bettie Page, Tinto Brass, Radley Metzger, and many more.

Featured Critic; St. Louis, MO

As cinema and moviegoing itself becomes increasingly niche, it could be observed that movies themselves, as we’ve always known and experienced them, are becoming cult experiences. "Cult," that is, as defined as a small group outside of the mainstream and unified in their devotion.

But, we’re not there yet. Even as movies themselves retreat slowly from mass popularity and into the shadows, we’ll find that there always will be and always have been certain films and types of films that flourish in the darkness.

Nico B, the bootstraps-pulled entrepreneur and filmmaker behind the home video distribution company Cult Epics, has amassed a library of such work. The most obscure of the obscure; movies you don’t watch with dear old mom. These are in no way the supposed “cult movies” in sheep’s clothing that pass for midnight movies these days (Monty Python films, Rocky Horror, even {shudder} Goonies). Nor are they even the undiluted “classic” cult movies, titles such as Videodrome, El Topo, or Eraserhead. No. Cult Epics is, and always has been nothing if not an authentic deep dive. Exploitation of any cinematic variety, generally (but not always) stopping just short of classically defined pornography and/or demented gore, Cult Epics has built a brand as the last refuge for the simultaneously persecuted and indulgence-hungry film buff.

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Spanning the fields of the forgotten, from coarsely trashed-out skin flicks (pretty much anything by Tinto Brass, of which there's plenty) to artier fare with cinema-worthy production values and reputable stars (Alberto Lattuada’s Stay as You Are, starring Marcello Mastroianni and Nastassja Kinski, Radley Metzger's The Lickerish Quartet), even Fernando Arrabal’s “family fantasy”, The Emperor of Peru, starring Mickey Rooney); from notorious gross-out repulsion (Abel Ferrari’s The Driller Killer, Jorg Buttgereit's Nekromantik and others) to umpteen pain/pleasure voyeurisms, and with no shortage of acknowledgement to the earliest of such efforts (collected on DVD with the “Vintage Erotica” series), Cult Epics has, for better or worse, run the gamut. All of it, as insanely diverse as it gets, can be filed under the header of “exploitation”; and almost all of it is international - an assortment that spans the globe.

Now, Nico B has turned to erecting another type of home library, one considered even more antiquated than film: good old printed books. Granted, this effort involves only one book, but what an impressively full and beautiful one it is. Cult Epics Comprehensive Guide to Cult Cinema, edited by Nico B, is a large format hardcover silver-edged full color compilation detailing a thorough history of the niche he's carved.

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A limited edition of 1000 copies, the book is divided into sections and subsections with individual essays on certain topics, films and filmmakers. Spotlighted directors include the recently departed Radley Metzger, Walerian Borowcyzk, Gerald Kargl, Agusti Villaronga, and the vintage Bettie Page-starring work of Irving Klaw, among many others. Ms. Page lands a healthy presence in the book, including material she wrote later in life specifically for Nico B’s releases. Clearly, she harbors a special place within the hearts at the center of Cult Epics.

When going through the book, though, it is the many, many choice film stills, promotional images, movie posters and DVD cover art reproductions that can’t help but truly catch one’s eye. Representing the entire sphere of Nico B’s Cult Epics’ distribution output, including commentary on his own forays into filmmaking (PIG, Bettie Page: Dark Angel, SIN), literally almost every page offers something of the eye-popping variety. Uncensored and straight-forward, the naked-bodies-per-page ratio is, by film compendium standards, particularly high. Almost all are women, and all are rarely beautiful, harkening back to whatever glory days they once took part in.

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But of course, like any self respecting movie fan, I read Cult Epics Comprehensive Guide to Cult Cinema for the articles. In this quickly escalating age of women speaking out and speaking up about poor sexual treatment, and finally being heard, some may question the existence of a sexualizing volume such as this one. Which is precisely why the high quality objective writings that occupy every part of the book are so vital. If Cult Epics wanted to simply put out a sleaze-filled book, that certainly could’ve been accomplished with a fraction of the effort. Here we have excellent, informative, and journalistically solid writings courtesy of reputable film critics Ian Jane, Nathaniel Thompson, Stephen Thrower, Heather Drain, Mark R. Hasan, and more. All should be thrilled to see their past work, most of which are previously published reviews of Cult Epics’ releases, get a second life in a prestigious volume such as this.

To be fair, even accurate, all film flourishes in the darkness. Movies can never truly go extinct as long as writers, critics, fans and distributors such as these are vigilantly weighing, hashing out and considering the merit of even the most obscure objects of desire captured to the moving image. With Cult Epics Comprehensive Guide to Cult Cinema, Nico B promotes just that, while celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Cult Epics label in fine style.

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Bettie PageCult EpicsCult Epics Comprehensive Guide to Cult Cinemaexploitation filmsNico B

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