Book Reviews By Skizz Cyzyk & Mike White. Profoundly Disturbing by Joe Bob Briggs (ISBN: 0789308444)
Cinema doesn’t have to be stodgy, even during serious discussion...
Profoundly Disturbing by Joe Bob Briggs (ISBN: 0789308444)
Cinema doesn’t have to be stodgy, even during serious discussion. After reading books of dry film theory and tepid reviews, Joe Bob Briggs’s Profoundly Disturbing was a cool drink of water. Hyperbolically subtitled "Shocking Movies That Changed History," Briggs covers fifteen films that made a significant dent in the side panels of cinema. Presented in chronological order, the book chronicles cinematic mavericks from The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari to Crash.
While the chapters on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist may feel a little light, Briggs delves deep into Mom & Dad, And God Created Women, and The Curse of Frankenstein. Standout reviews include Blood Feast, Shaft, and Reservoir Dogs. Always close to my heart, Briggs’s take on Reservoir Dogs managed to be fresh, giving equal time to both the film’s production and the ire raised by its controversial director. After having read everything on the film that I could lay my sweaty paws on, that Briggs managed to break new ground for me is quite a feat.
Briggs gives even the schlockiest film the respect it deserves while keeping his wit razor sharp. His mix of levity and earnestness is always a welcome contrast to the dour self-serious cineastes that glut the bookshelves.MW
Terry Gilliam Interviews Edited by David Sterritt and Lucille Rhodes (ISBN: 1578066247)
This book is a collection of 19 interviews with Terry Gilliam, spanning most of his feature-directing career, and placed in chronological order. For hardcore Gilliam fans, this isn’t the first of such books (Ian Christie’s Gilliam On Gilliam comes to mind), but the interviews included in this book are (mostly) very well chosen and likely to appeal most to fans. For non-fans, the book is a good introduction to a unique filmmaker. Beginning with a 1981 interview about Time Bandits and concluding with a 2002 interview about Lost in La Mancha, the book gives plenty of insight into Gilliam’s career, and by the end of the book, I felt like I knew him personally. I also felt like I had a much better understanding of his career, from his battle to make Brazil to the discrepancy regarding the writing credits in Fear and Loathing in Last Vegas. Even though the earliest interview in the book is from 1981, there is still plenty of conversation about his upbringing and pre-Monty Python career, as well as his Python involvement. Python fans will appreciate his touching comments regarding the private life and passing of Graham Chapman. My only complaint with the book is the inclusion of Paul Wells’s 1997 interview, "On Being an Impish God," from Art and Design Profile. It’s not so much an interview as it is an excessively boring article with occasional long quotes from Gilliam. It is written like a snooty textbook. Skip that chapter, and the rest of the book won’t feel like a college reading assignment.SC
The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made by David Hughes (ISBN: 1556524498)
After reading Chris Gore’s disappointing and disheveled The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made (see CdC #10), I had nothing but high hopes that David Hughes would be able to overcome the hurdles which tripped up Gore’s earlier work, especially by limiting his scope to one genre rather than all of cinema. Alas, while Hughes’s work is head and shoulders above Gore’s, it remains lacking.
Fans of Cashiers du Cinemart’s articles such as "The Metamorphoses of Alien III" (CdC #12), or "Only The Strong Travel This Deep" (CdC #13), might be tempted to pick up a copy of Hughes’s book as he covers similar ground in two of his nineteen chapters. Too often, however, I found myself consternated by Hughes’s muddled writing. Additionally, the more I read, the more I doubted the validity of Hughes’s research.
Several devilish details stuck in my craw and wouldn’t let me appreciate Hughes’s work. In the first chapter Hughes states that the protagonist of Richard Stark’s novels is Walker, not Parker, mixing up the Stark novels with the Boorman film, Point Blank. An innocent mistake, yes, but an easily avoidable one. Meanwhile, I’m no expert at science fiction but even I know that the title for the unproduced Watch The Skies is a nod to Howard Howard Hawks’s The Thing rather than Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Oddly, several of the films that Hughes covers have been made, albeit not in their original form. Perhaps the originals may have ranked among the "greatest" sci-fi films never made, I remain unconvinced. Too often Hughes merely reports on the back story to the production of films such as Alien III, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Supernova, et cetera rather than demonstrating how great their initial incarnations might have been.MW
Here’s hoping that the next project someone does about unmade movies will either focus on truly great works or that they’ll rethink their title!MW
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