WHAT IT IS...WHAT IT WAS! by MARTINEZ, MARTINEZ & CHAVEZ
Man, if I had to describe this book in one word, it's have to be beautiful. Over 200 full-color pages, dedicated to the "Black Film Explosion Of The 70's", jam packed with huge poster reproductions, and articles written (exclusively for the book) by everyone from Melvin Van Peebles to John Singleton. Not only is this pretty much the bible for fans of these films, but it completely blows away all other books on the subject. The poster art is the main focus of the book, as every single page is crowded with images of Foxy Brown, Dolemite, Shaft, and all the others. If that weren't enough reason to get this book immediately, check out this veritable laundry list of contributing writers: Pam Grier, Roger Corman, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Fred Williamson, Robert Townsend, Rudy Ray Moore, Jack Hill, Isaac Hayes, Ice-T, Samuel L. Jackson, and Quentin Tarantino. That's just to name a few! And we're not talking footnotes here, each person writes at least 2 pages on the subject of '70s black film. Thank you to the people that made this. It's truly an incredible book.




SCREAMS AND NIGHTMARES: THE FILMS OF WES CRAVEN by BRIAN ROBB
As all horror fans know, Wes Craven is responsible for many a cool flick. In this book, you get the complete story of all his movies, from the cult classic LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT to theSCREAM series. What's great about the book is it doesn't leave anything out. Even his lesser-known stuff like DEADLY FRIEND and SWAMP THING get the same attention as his more successful works. Almost every movie he did gets its own chapter! The text is taken from actual interviews the author conducted with Craven over the years, plus from numerous press articles and magazines. If you're interested in learning the story behind a great career in directing horror, this book is for you. And, needless to say, it is something no fan of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series should be without. It is the absolute best book on the subject I've ever read, leaving no stone unturned (even the sequels he didn't make: you'd be surprised how he actually was involved in them). Even if the man never returns to the genre again, he'll have left behind an admirable legacy.




HOLLYWOOD RAT RACE by EDWARD D. WOOD, JR.
A book about how to make it in the movie business, by a guy who didn't. Folks, this is some odd, twisted reading. Fans of Ed's movies will be surprised at how "straight" the book is (that's why I found it so twisted!). He writes as if he's some big shot that knows everything and has succeeded in Hollywood, and it's just bizarre. Ed really thought he was going to make it, and it's unfortunate that he ended up the way he did. However, it's the only thing he ever wrote that wasn't a story or screenplay. So, if nothing else, that alone gives it value. The book is unfortunately very short, and you don't get much information about the making of any of his films. I was hoping Ed would devulge a first-hand account of some of his productions, but it's as if he's too ashamed to write about it. I think the book was intended to make sure nobody else made the same mistakes he did. We love ya, Ed.




PSYCHOTRONIC VIDEO GUIDE by MICHAEL J. WELDON
No fan of B-movies should be without this book. It's like the bible for people like me, who are fascinated with cult and horror films that are on the stranger side. It's huge, and worth every penny of its $30 asking price. Considering I've looked movies up in it just about every day since it came out, it's more than proven its value. The films Mike lists range from old serials from the 30's to shot-on-video fare like CANNIBAL HOOKERS, and the information he gives is usually thorough. There are also hundreds of great photos and movie posters to go along with the entries. I've found this to be the absolute best encyclopedia/movie guide for these kind of films. Virtually all other movie guides/encyclopedias treat B-movies as garbage, or just ignore them entirely. PSYCHOTRONIC is the ultimate tribute to a truly underrated genre.
NOTE- THE PSYCHOTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM is an earlier work also by Mike Weldon. It contains reviews and info on older films (1983 and earlier).




IF I'M SO FAMOUS...by JEWEL SHEPARD
Before I read this book, I only knew Jewel as the blue-haired punk from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. It wasn't as big or as memorable as Linnea Quigley's part, and you could barely recognize Jewel under all that hair. As it turned out, IF I'M SO FAMOUS...was one of the funniest and most interesting books I'd read in years. Not only is Jewel Shepard a gifted writer, but she's won my highest respect for having come out such a good person considering all she's been through. I'm sure there's a lot of women who gave up or flat-out didn't survive trying to make it in the B-movie biz. I'd definitely call Ms. Shepard a hero.
NOTE- Jewel is also the author of INVASION OF THE B-GIRLS, in which she interviews several other B-actresses like Michelle Bauer and LInnea Quigley.




SHOCK VALUE by JOHN WATERS
If you like John Waters movies, particularly his pre-POLYESTER stuff, you absolutely must have this book. Hell, anyone interested in low-budget filmmaking would enjoy reading SHOCK VALUE. For those of you unfamiliar with Waters as a person, you'll be delighted as I was to discover that he's one of the funniest people alive. He takes us on a journey through his past, detailing his exploits as a youth right on through the making of his early films. It's sad that there's basically no one left alive from the original Dreamland actors, because they definitely were a great bunch of people. The book is truly hilarious, and more than proves that Waters is a national treasure.
NOTE- John has two other books out: CRACKPOT, a collection of essays and articles he's written over the years, and TRASH TRIO, which contains the screenplays for his films PINK FLAMINGOS (and its unmade sequel!) and DESPERATE LIVING.




THE RE/SEARCH GUIDE TO INCREDIBLY STRANGE FILMS
This is a collection of interviews with some of the greatest B-movie filmmakers of all time. The rostor is almost too good to be true: you get Russ Meyer, H.G. Lewis, Frank Henenlotter, Larry Cohen, Ray Dennis Steckler, and even Doris Wishman (to name a few). Also included are detailed filmographies for each director, essays on particular films, and a ton of great photos. Unfortunately, all the pages are in black-and-white. I don't think photos from BLOOD FEAST should be shown in anything but color, do you?




THE BARE FACTS by CRAIG HOSODA
When I saw this book at the store, I instantly knew what the guys who found the Dead Sea Scrolls must've felt like. A dictionary-sized listing of every nude scene by just about every actress on the planet, put together by a guy who seriously did his homework. Let's say you wanted to know if Jennifer Connelly ever did a nude scene (she did). You look up her name, and you get a listing of movies she's been in. In the ones where she's appeared naked, it tells exactly how many minutes into the movie it happens and what you see. How well lit was the scene? How long does it go on? It's all here in this book. Plus, if a movie's coming on cable or sitting on the video store shelf, you can look it up to see how much nudity is in it! You can act like you'd never read this book, but you'd be a damn liar.




KILLING FOR CULTURE
I'm curious about death, we all are. I'd never watch a movie like DEATH SCENES or EXECUTIONS, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a part of me that wanted to know what they show in those tapes. In this book, the subject of actual death on film is explored in extreme detail, from those fake-ass MONDO movies to the possibility of the existence of "snuff" films. I'll admit that I got the creeps many times while reading this (it does have pictures after all), and it definitely has to be taken in small doses, but it's a fascinating read. Particularly interesting was the section on death in the news media, in which they catalog all the times where real people were killed on TV. They pick apart all the FACES OF DEATH films (and their imitators) and expose what was real and what wasn't. This book leaves no stone unturned, no subject unexplored. It's the first and last word on the subject of death on film.