We don't often get cool film-related books here at Screen Anarchy to review, but now and then, we come across a tome worth mentioning. (Besides, let's face it, we're so strapped for time in this modern age that reading has become more of a luxury and less of a necessity. Lament over.)
Anyway, I hold here in my hands a copy of Michael Vaugn's The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema, from Schiffer Publishing. Looking at it and within its pages, I can only surmise how long this book must have taken to put together. There are 352 pages of insanity within, chock full of three hundred entries. There are often full-color stills to go along with the film capsules, too, but not always, which is understandable due to the amount of time and the price this effort would have taken. Including a still for every film could easily have doubled the price of this (currently) $34.99 USD book.
Yes, it seems like the book is labor of love for sure, which is why it's unfortunate that there are often grammatical issues and misuses of the proper words --- "too" instead of "two," "there" instead of "their," etc. However, Vaughn's writing comes through as gleeful; almost infectiously so. You can tell that he really enjoys writing about the weirdest films he's ever seen, so if the sometimes-slipshod copy editing of this book doesn't bother you, you'll quite likely enjoy The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema. (I beg this publisher to hire a good copy editor for the next printing, because this book deserves it. Seeing "Printed in the China" on the inner back cover, however, leads me to believe that this is a wider issue within the company.)
The book consists of an introduction, an index, and eight chapters of genres within weird film: action/adventure; cars, trucks, and choppers; comedy; crime/thrillers; drama; fantasy; horror; and sci-fi. The horror chapter is probably the largest chapter in the book, and that's not a complaint from me --- it's my favorite genre, and I always enjoy reading about horror films. This chapter is also the only one in the book broken down by country. It was great to read up on batches of films from the United Kingdom, switch to Canada, then the U.S., and see what kind of madness Hong Kong, Germany, and Italy had to offer. Man, those Category III Hong Kong films (there's a few mentioned here) --- Ebola Syndrome, Doctor Lamb, Devil Fetus --- are insane.
Reading through, it was fun to discover just how many weird films I haven't seen. You could live your entire life and never see all the films you'd want to see. It was also fun to see what Vaughn had to say about more well-known films like Mulholland Drive, Heavenly Creatures, Peeping Tom, and The Neon Demon.
It was fun to re-visit odd, old favorite films as well as read up on films I either never got aroung to watching or didn't know existed. The experience reminded me of long-gone thrill of the hunt for hidden gems in the days of video stores.
In short, if you're a connoiseur of weird film, you'll really dig this coffee table book that digs through some of the strangest annals of genre cinema. You may find that if you have a few minute of spare time, you'll flip through this book and read a few entries instead of staring at your smart phone.
Check out more info on The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema at Schiffer Publishing's site here.