Best of 2011: part one – the book

It’s 3 January and time for a bonus update. Not only that but also a chance for me to wish all of you a wonderful 2012: Happy New Year! Back to business: it’s the annual tradition of picking your favourites and the Avenue will tell you which were the best liked books, films and music of the year. Today: part 1.

Picking a book of 2011 sounds like an odd thing. Alright, several years ago I was studying literature at the university, so it wasn’t that exceptional I managed to read 108 books in 12 months (my record, so far). 2011 was a bit of an abysmal year compared to that: I clocked off on a tenth of that number (didn’t manage to complete that 11th book). Worse even, my book of the year is one I glanced through but didn’t get the time to read in full (yet – yes, 2012, you know what’s in store), but I’ve decided to label this as my Book of the Year 2011 for two reasons: 1) none of the read books jumped out anyway and 2) I’m already looking forward to reading the rest of this book and I know I’ll like it.

In an earlier post (In time) I already mentioned the British satirical magazine Private Eye existed 50 years. One of their writers made a wonderful book about it and the best reason not to have this on your coffee table is that the thing might collapse. The book is far more than some of the other Private Eye book publications, which were sometimes nothing more than a “best of”. This book features a lot of covers and jokes which were published in the magazine as well as give a detailed A to Z of the past 50 years. The book is stylish and informative and even if you haven’t heard of the magazine (or are not a big fan) you’ll like reading the book – unless you’re Piers Moron.

Furthermore, in a year that was so warped, a satirical non-fiction book might be the most deserving of our crown Book of the Year. Especially in the UK, where superinjunctions and the phone-hacking scandals domineered the headlines, 2011 was very much a year of the press anyway.

So Private Eye: the first 50 years – an A-Z by Adam MacQueen is our book of the year and here’s the writer himself on Canadian television to tell you more about it:

Next up: the movies of the year and you’ll read more about those on 10/01.

Best of 2010 (part 1)

2010 is almost over – I literally hear the sound of fireworks being tested for tonight – so high time for the first of my lists. Today we’ll take a look at my Book of the Year and Best of Radio Kurtodrome 2010.

Book(s) of the Year 2010

This year two books stood out and, luckily for me, one was in Dutch and one in English. As most of you aren’t fluent in Dutch – wat wordt bewezen met dit onbegrijpelijk stukje – there’s hardly any point in doing more than briefly mentioning Het Konijn op de Maan, the latest novel by Belgian author Paul Mennes. Mennes was somewhat of a Flemish counterpart in the 90s, before going on a long sabbatical. It took him eight years to finish his next novel. His latest offering, Het Konijn op de Maan (The Rabbit on the Moon), is a sequel which stands on its own. Belgian Samuel Penn moves to Tokyo with his girlfriend Miduki and feels very much like E.T. on Earth. The Japanese seem to have incomprehensible habits, an obsession with “Engrish” T-shirts and rabbits. Phone home?

Next up and very much English, it’s The Hell of it All by Charlie Brooker. In his typical acerbic style, Brooker collected his Guardian columns. As he did with his earlier books, he doesn’t avoid adding columns where time proved him wrong, adding an italic post script stating he was wrong (or how something vitally important like Big Brother ended).
Brooker has grown older, which doesn’t mean softer, but less puerile. He also moved from writing only tv columns to columns on television and the rest of the world, which allows The Hell of it All to be more resistent to time than Dawn of the Dumb or Screen Burn were.

Both Brooker and Mennes walk away with 8 out of 10. (And yes, The Hell of it All was published in 2009, but for books it doesn’t seem to be such a problem to pick a book that’s been out for more than 12 months. Also, my diet of reading one or two columns before bedtime made me finish the book only this year. And if you still think that’s cheating, learn Dutch and read Paul Mennes.)

Best of Radio Kurtodrome 2010

Onwards and upwards, time for music. Part one, that is. This is not my annual Best Of list. That’s still to come (due to many deadlines: probably in two weeks’ time). This is what happens if you take all the most played tracks of my radio station (every week I compiled a top 50) and add up all the scores. Older songs and newer songs back to back, this is what the audience liked most from July to December.

2 THE AMERICAN ANALOG SET – Come home, baby Julie, come home
3 KRAUSE – Soaring through the starlight
4 THE KNIFE – We share our mother’s health
5 BLONDE REDHEAD – Not Getting There
7 CRYSTAL CASTLES – Not in love (ft. R. Smith)
8 MASHA QRELLA – I want you to know
9 MOMMY AND DADDY – The Meeting
10 TOM TOM CLUB – Wordy Rappinghood
11 ZERO 7 – Distractions
12 FEVER RAY – Dry and dusty
14 SUFJAN STEVENS – Heirloom
15 IDA MARIA – I like you so much better when you’re naked
16 STEREOLAB – Miss Modular
17 DANGER MOUSE & SPARKLEHORSE – Little Girl (ft. Julian Casablancas)
18 FEVER RAY – Mercy Street
19 THE NOTWIST – Consequence
20 MEMORY CASSETTE – Asleep at a party
22 COCOROSIE – South 2nd
23 LALI PUNA – Move on
24 BELLE AND SEBASTIAN – Lazy Line Painter Jane
25 UNDER BYEN – Den Her Sang Handler Om At Få Det Bedste Ud Af Det
26 HOLY FUCK – Lovely Allen
27 UNDER BYEN – Det er mig der holder traerne sammen
28 THROWING MUSES – Counting Backwards
29 SOAP&SKIN – Marche Funèbre
30 DUM DUM GIRLS – Jail la la
31 ARCTIC MONKEYS – Leave Before The Lights Are Out
32 LYKKE LI – Get some
33 LITTLE BOOTS – Meddle (tenori-on version)
34 SOLEX – Low Kick and Hard Bop
35 HARRY’S GYM – Old Man
36 CAMILLE – Home is where it hurts
37 LOGH – Yellow lights mean slow down
38 COCOROSIE – Rainbowarriors
39 SILJE NES – The card house
40 KATE NASH – Caroline’s a victim (Tapedeck Revised Remix)
41 MORCHEEBA / KURT WAGNER – What New York couples fight about
42 WOODBINE – Neskwik (radio edit)
43 SOUTH SAN GABRIEL – Smelling Medicinal
44 CIBO MATTO – Know your chicken
45 LALI PUNA – Micronomic
46 ENON – Disposable parts
47 GIRLS AGAINST BOYS – Disco six six six
48 THE RAVEONETTES – Love in a trashcan
49 SMOOSH – Make it through

(For this list, artists were limited to only their two best tracks. If this hadn’t been the case, “Obsessions” by Marina and the Diamonds and “Here Sometimes” by Blonde Redhead would’ve been in the list as well – occupying spots 18 and 31)

Listen to the top 30 on Radio Kurtodrome (all times CET):
Tuesday 4 January, 17.00-19.00
Thursday 6 January 21.00-23.00
Friday 7 January, 02.30-04.30
The Top 30 tracks are also added to the playlist, which loops at random in between shows.

It’s Only a Book by Mark Kermode

A mail alerted me that film critic Mark Kermode was on the verge of publishing a new book. Kermode is no stranger to this blog or indeed Delirium Vault: the man’s reviews have been mentioned more than once. So why shouldn’t I (in turn) alert you to the existence of Kermode’s latest book?

The name of the book is It’s only a movie and it offers a more personal view of the grand world of cinema. As the blurb would have you believe:

To avoid fainting, keep repeating

It’s only a movie
… only a movie
… only a movie
… only a movie

If you grew up believing that Planet of the Apes told you all you needed to know about politics, that Slade in Flame was a savage exposé of the pop world, and that The Exorcist revealed the meaning of life, then you probably spent far too many of your formative years at the cinema. Just as likely, you soon would have realised that there was only one career open to you – you’d have to become a film critic.

In It’s only a Movie, the incomparable Mark Kermode takes us into the weird world of a life lived in widescreen. Join him as he embarks on a gut-wrenching journey through the former Soviet Union on the trail of the low budget horror flick Dark Waters, cringe as he’s handbagged by Helen Mirren at the Bafta awards ceremony, cheer as he gets thrown out of the Cannes film festival for heckling in very bad French, and don’t forget to gasp as he’s shot at while interviewing Werner Herzog in the Hollywood hills. Written with sardonic wit and wry good humour, this compelling cinematic memoir is genuinely ‘inspired by real events’.

The book, out since yesterday (yes, we can be topical – just don’t force us), even has a website,, which has a video introduction by Kermode himself, some audio clips (a.o. on Linda Blair, which may or may not mention The Exorcist – but since it’s Kermode, what do you think?) and the tour dates. Mark Kermode will spend most of February touring through the UK and promoting his book. The people from Southampton are lucky enough to be the first (Feb 6), the tour ends in Bath (March 2).

I was lucky enough to get a chance to read the prologue of It’s Only A Movie, which starts with a recollection of Kermode’s interview with Werner Herzog (who was shot during the interview). In less than two pages Kermode manages to drift from this anecdote via the thought this would definitely make it into a biopic about his life (if someone would ever make that) via possible casts to good and bad biopics. Highly associative and cleverly written, the book oozes Kermode’s love for cinema. And it oozes Kermode (for which he almost apologizes during the prologue, justifying himself that he could only write this book through his own eyes – while at the same time slagging off Tarantino, always worth bonus points here at the Avenue).

In chapter one It’s Only A Movie remembers how Kermode’s father advised Mark to learn how to talk properly and watch fewer films. It’s fair to say the advice wasn’t followed.

To Kermode, a movie isn’t just the movie. The experience also counts. He illustrates this with Silent Running, not only a sci-fi movie (and a Kermode favourite) but also a trip to the cinemas in 1972 with a school friend. In his adult memory Silent Running isn’t just the film, Kermode’s neck hairs still vividly remember the excitement of two young boys going to the film and his body painfully remembers the twisted position Kermode had to watch the film in, due to a Mungo Jerry lookalike sitting in front of him.

It’s Only A Movie is Kermode’s feature presentation, a recollection of the movie inside his own head, based on Kermode’s life interlaced with thousands of films. As he mentions on page 16: “I am to all intents and purposes the auteur of this book and the director of this ‘real life’ Movie of the Week […] This is my movie and I get final cut – like Michael Cimino on Heaven’s Gate, only with more laughs and less roller-skating.”

It’s Only A Movie, published by Arrow Books, is 320 pages long and should cost no more than £11.99.

P.S. So which movie originally used “It’s only a movie” as its tagline? No, the answer is not The Last House on the Left, but William Castle‘s Strait-Jacket (starring Joan Crawford). Please do note the subtle difference between both taglines:

Just keep saying to yourself: “It’s only a movie… It’s only a movie… It’s only a movie… It’s only a… It’s only… It’s…” (Strait-Jacket)

To avoid fainting, keep repeating It’s only a movie… only a movie… only a movie… only a movie. (The Last House on the Left)

Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns

In case you’re wondering why I’m going to bother you with my book of the year 2007 (“Isn’t this supposed to be a film site?”), don’t worry: my book of the year is a book about film.
Silent comedies to be precise and the author is one Paul Merton. You may (read: should) know Merton as the deadpan comic genius on Have I Got News for You and you may also have seen some of his other comedy work. That is why, to some, it was a surprise that Merton was such a fan of silent comedies. (An opinion that I, personally, just can’t wrap my head around: why would that be special?)

The BBC commissioned Merton to make a four-part series on silent comedians and – in an attempt not to shock people who’d immediately reach for their remote if they saw a programme with black and white footage – broadcast it on BBC4. This didn’t stop Paul Merton from touring the country with his lecture on classic comedy and this was such a success the comedian penned down his thoughts. The result is this book.

A book on four silent comedy icons (Keaton, Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy and Lloyd) written by a contemporary comedian… don’t worry about high expectations, Paul Merton will not let you down.

Unlike the 2006 BBC4 tv series Silent Clowns (which got more viewers in 2007 thanks to the torrent sites and a long overdue repeat on BBC2 – it was finally shown in November 2007) which dedicated an episode to each comedian (let’s just make my life a bit easier and see Laurel and Hardy for the length of this review), Silent Comedy chooses to tell the story in a chronological order. This may seem odd, but one of the many things you’ll learn from this book is how those silent comedians ‘learned’ from each other and used it in their own movies.

Merton discusses every movie with great detail. He will tell the plot, give his own opinion of how good the film was and highlight the most memorable moments of the film. For this he uses his narrative charm (which you may remember from several bits of Paul Merton: The Series), which will enchant you so much you won’t be able to shake off the urge to go to your videostore or browse the internet (remember the Archive?) to find some of these movies and enjoy them thoroughly.
The Guardian’s critic Charlie Brooker never felt much for Buster Keaton and after 35 minutes of Merton’s tv show he eagerly wanted to see a Keaton movie. I myself could not be called a big Charlie Chaplin fan and, after reading Silent Comedy, felt I’d enjoyed last week’s screening of The Circus much more than I would’ve done otherwise.

Here’s something the book taught me: Buster Keaton was married against his own will, which is why he made several references to unhappy marriages in his movies. In one of his movies a car is willfully destroyed: quite an outlandish thing to do in an era when most of the audience wasn’t able to purchase something as luxurious as an automobile. However, the car was just like the wedding gift Keaton had received from his producer (and father-in-law).

If you want to know more about how Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd created their on-screen personae, which Chaplin jokes are nods to other comedians, how Keaton dared to ignore the ban on using comedian Roscoe Arbuckle or how long the road to success had been for Stan Laurel, then Silent Comedy is a must.

Heck, if you like movies, Silent Comedy is a must.

Kurtodrome’s Best of 2006

Pynchon's book cover (copyright: Amazon)No New Year is complete without a look back at the year that was… 2006 brought us movies, films and books. As Delirium Vault is mostly a movie site I’ll just mention the books and music I feel should be mentioned and then we’ll go to my personal movie favourites of 2006.

– Fiction: Thomas Pynchon – Against The Day
Pynchon released a new novel in 2006 and this time we only had to wait nine years! 1085 pages of postmodernist nonsense, a book spawning from 1893 to just after World War I. The good airship Inconvenience will guide the Chums of Chance through their adventures, cameos of Tesla and Groucho will pop up, Icelandic spar, people drowning in mayonaise… Pynchon’s latest novel is impossible to describe (that’s 1085 pages chokeful of characters), but oh what a joy to read.

– Non-fiction: Joris Luyendijk – Het Zijn Net Mensen (They’re almost people)
Former news correspondent for the Middle East Luyendijk has published a book about his experiences as a media man. His analysis of the region: the more you learn about the Middle East, the less you understand. Neatly describing how the media work in countries governed by dictators, the way the media distort the news and the Israeli-Palestinian media wars… this book is so essential to read it’s well worth learning Dutch for.

Usually I publish a list of my favourite tunes, but 2006 proved to be a bit too busy to listen to a lot of music, so I think I’ll skip one year. Which doesn’t mean I can’t make a top three:

1. The Fiery Furnaces – I’m In No Mood (album: Bitter Tea)
2. Stereolab – Interlock (album: Fab Four Suture)
3. Sufjan Stevens – Dear Mr Supercomputer (album: The Avalanche)

And now it’s onto the movies…

Carice van Houten1. El Laberinto del Fauno (9,5)
I’ll discuss this movie, better known as Pan’s Labyrinth, later on DV. Let’s just say, for now, it’s definitely the best movie of the year. And I’ll only let you disagree with me on this one if I’m in love with you.
2. Zwartboek (9)
Paul Verhoeven came back to Holland and what a comeback Black Book is! People are finally understanding why I’ve been saying Carice van Houten (pic) is an incredibly talented actress. Stylish, fun and good…
3. United 93 (9)
Paul Greengrass already directed Bloody Sunday and proved to be the best man for the job to make a movie about the hijacked plane that didn’t reach its target on 9/11. Thanks to the talent of Greengrass the movie stays sober and good. Let’s face it, this could’ve easily become a sad work of propaganda. Worst error: the scene where the terrorists tape a picture of their target onto the steering wheel. I didn’t know we knew for sure what the target was. See, there’s always a bit of propaganda with this sort of film.
4. The Secret Life of Words (8,5)
I’ve already discussed this on DV. Please scroll back.
5. Good Night, And Good Luck (8,5)
I’ve already discussed this on DV. Please scroll back.
6. Children of Men (8,5)
Utterly mind-blowing when you see it, but you do get a feeling of “it wasn’t that great” after a few hours and days. Nevertheless, notice how long certain scenes in this movie are and you’ll just have to admit this movie was a product of a lot of talented people coming together.
7. Slither (8)
Not the most original movie of the year, but one with its heart on the right place. References to Slugs, Shivers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Yuzna and Henenlotter are never far off. Who said horror couldn’t be fun??
8. Capote (8)
Hoffman is amazing, the film is good.
9. Walk The Line (7,5)
Oh, how Reese Witherspoon deserved her Oscar for this movie. Phoenix and Witherspoon are so good you get to feel the love between Johnny and June. They even sing the songs themselves and get away with it.
10. The Descent (7,5)
I’ve already discussed this on DV. Please scroll back.

Bubbling under…Brick, The New World, An Inconvenient Truth, The Inside Man and  Tideland.

The Pocket Essentials Guide to Vampire Films

Is that a vampire in your pocket? (copyright: Amazon)We’ve already reviewed another Pocket Essential guide, the essential on horror films. Like this guide, that one was also written by Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc.
Whereas we had some reserves for their Pocket Essential Guide to Horror Films, we’re more pleased with their 96-page-long epic on vampire films.

Odell and Le Blanc know their horror films: they know many details, but don’t always feel the need to mention every anecdote the reader might find amusing: no, this is a Pocket Essential. In 96 pages you should learn to bluff your way through the Nosferatus of this world. Though we haven’t really tried this out (all it takes is to find an ignoramus, make him read the book and have him spend some time with a horror movie buff and see if they can keep up the facade), we can say that the authors’ taste is fairly consistent. Of course you do notice that two authors compiled this booklet, but their tastes match.

“Vampire movies,” we are told, “are almost as old as film itself. Constantly remade and reinvented for each new generation, the films, like the vampires themselves, adopt many shapes – from the faithful adaptation of Francis Coppola’s Dracula (1992) to the art movie approach of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu remake (1979] via the high-school horror of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992).”
“This handy book traces the vampire film from its beginnings to the present day, acknowledging on its way all the classics of vampire cinema from the original Nosferatu (1921) right up to Blade (1998) and beyond. From saucy French vampires to hopping Chinese ones, from Hammer horrors to Hollywood blockbusters, whatever your favourite bloodsucker you’ll find it here.”

Taste The Blood of Dracula (copyright: / Hammer)

And you know what, the text doesn’t lie. The Vampire Films guide covers probably every sort of film with a vampire in 12 chapters: the first chapter discusses the vampire film’s themes and sources and prepares you for the chapter-to-chapter look at the vampire genres. The second chapter kicks off where it should kick off: it introduces the reader to the earliest vampire films. The introduction mentions movies like Méliès’s Le Manoir du Diable (1896) before going deeper into the early classics like Nosferatu, Vampyr and Dracula.
The third chapter isn’t called “Hurrah for Hammer” for no reason: Hammer Films are highly influential when it comes down to our look at the vampire movie. No wonder then that no less than 13 pages are dedicated to Hammer. The Hammer chapter is actually split up in another three parts: apart from a third part compiling all the Hammer vampire flicks we take a closer look at the Dracula series that made Christopher Lee so famous and at Hammer’s Karnstein trilogy (The Vampire Lovers, Lust For A Vampire and Twins of Evil).
For the next chapters Odell and Le Blanc crossed the channel: the fourth chapter highlights the best and worst of European cinema while the fifth is dedicated to Jean Rollin. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a big fan of Rollin’s work, but this essential guide made me interested in some of his films I hadn’t planned on seeing otherwise.
The sixth chapter focuses on another series, the Chinese Mr. Vampire series, and uses their stay to discuss a few other Asian vampire films (along with some South-American movies) in the seventh chapter. I hadn’t heard about this series, but after reading this book, I had a good idea of which Mr. Vampire films I could watch and which I’ll gladly give to someone I can’t stand. The Mr. Vampire parody on Police Academy, Vampire Settle on Police Camp, springs to mind.
From South-American films to vampire comedy is but a small and logical step. The chapter is a reference to one of the better horror comedies: “Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck” is of course the subtitle of The Fearless Vampire Killers.
Both the independent cinema (chapter 9) and Hollywood (chapter 12) have made their fair share of vampire films and once again they’re reviewed here from the very best to the very worst. (Speaking of worst, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money is apparently the most horrible vampire film ever. Not having seen it, somehow I think I might agree.)
The tenth chapter of this guide is dedicated to the weirder films (starring a vampire, that is) of the world: according to the authors, The Lair of the White Worm gives you every proof you need that Ken Russell is an underrated auteur. Three more pages to be filled and one further genre to dissect: “Sci-Fi Suckers” covers the “bloodsucking fiends in other forms” (p. 71) and is allegedly where movies like The Omega Man and Mario Bava‘s Planet of the Vampires belong. To be honest, it was the only chapter I found a bit confusing. Why does Zoltan, Hound of Dracula not belong here then? (Although, it does fit in the weird and deranged chapter.)

Morte Vivante (copyright: The twelve chapters aren’t the only way these movies are categorized, there’s also the Fang Factor which tells you how good and/or vampiric the discussed movie is (of course, a good vampire films stands or falls with its vampire.)
From the pale Fang Factor 1 to the bloodred Fang Factor 5, it tells you whether the authors think this movie is one to watch or miss. Apart from this Fang Factor, each movie gets a synopsis and a short discussion on the pros and cons of the film. This allows you to possibly disagree with the authors, which we think is quite essential to any sort of genre compilation.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2 will have to do with Fang Factor None, but which movies did Odell and Le Blanc like best? Seven movies deserved a Fang Factor Five and personally I can follow the authors’ taste. These magnificent seven (sorry) are Hammer’s Dracula, Rollin‘s La Morte Vivante, Mr. Vampire, The Fearless Vampire Killers, George A. Romero‘s powerful Martin, Cronos and The Hunger. But wait, one movie beats them all and walks away with Fang Factor Six: the ultimate vampire movie is the Belgian masterpiece Daughters of Darkness (aka Le Rouge aux Lèvres).

So how essential is this movie guide? Pretty essential, give us 96 pages and we couldn’t do it better (though we might have shortened the 20-page-long Hollywood chapter, but then again, these are the movies you might spot first in your local video store).
The authors even did a better job compared to their guide on Horror Films: we only spot two mistakes in this guide (and now that we’re comparing both guides, Mario Bava gets more praise in this guide than in the authors’ guide to horror films): still, for people who went through all these vampire movies, you could’ve expected them to look up the exact title of Franju‘s horrific masterpiece. Yeux sans le visage it certainly isn’t.

Still, this book shows your vampire movie bible doesn’t need to be hundreds of pages long: 96 pages is enough and an essential buy at the £2.99 it originally cost when released in the year 2000.
Two years later you had to cough up £3.99 (whereas that might make you less enthusiastic, we can reassure you you’ll still get your money’s worth) and now it’s “currently unavailable with no reprint date announced”.
We suggest you write to Pocket Essentials and demand a reprint. Tell them Delirium Vault sent you.

The Pocket Essential Guide to Horror Films

Book coverWriting an essential book on someone’s work isn’t easy, so you can expect how hellish it must have been to write an essential guide to horror films. Oh, and could you do that in 95 pages? Michelle Le Blanc and Colin Odell did it.
Such a work is bound to be incomplete: how can you compile 105 years in 95 pages? Well, first and foremost by starting at the Twenties and ending with the Nineties. For every decade, they made an introduction and then reviewed three movies that were saying something about their decade.
This is of course not enough and that is why Le Blanc and Odell also dissected the works of ten horror auteurs. After an introduction, two or three movies got a close examination.

That could still be a initiative that sounds well, yet falls flat on its face when executed. Le Blanc and Odell, however, didn’t fall into that trap. Almost every important auteur is mentioned in this booklet: if they were not one of the lucky ten, one of their works could have been mentioned in one of the decades (and with every reviewed movie you learn a bit more about the director or the studio). If that wasn’t the case either, they probably got mentioned in one of the introductions to the decades.

The problem I have with this guide is the errors they make. Mind you, this is a personal work, so if they feel that most Italian directors like Bava or Freda were nothing more than cheap imitators, then that’s their opinion. A wrong opinion, but an opinion nevertheless. They certainly have no sympathy for Lucio Fulci, he gets the harshest verdict: a complete loser, only capable of stealing ideas or showing mutilated bodies.
Well if they feel that way about him, then that’s their problem. But I think they should at least have tried to spell the director’s name correctly. He is mentioned three times as “Fulchi”.

There are more stupid errors: “Lucio Fulci’s [spelled correctly for a change] notorious Zombie Flesh Eaters was even marketed as Zombi 2 in some quarters to cash in on Dawn of the Dead‘s continental title.” (p. 68) Could you get further from the truth? It might seem to the English that the whole of Europe is an unimportant mess of countries, but in fact Dawn of the Dead was only marketed as Zombi in Italy. Fulci is Italian, which explains why he chose the title Zombi 2 (the films are unrelated however) for his movie. So Zombi 2 is the official title of Fulci’s movie and the film was only called Zombie Flesh Eaters in America and England.
Likewise, I have problems with “[after Nosferatu Murnau] would go on to direct Faust (1926), […] before moving on to non-genre projects.” (p. 14) Murnau made non-genre projects before Faust and even before Nosferatu.

But if you would the number of errors from the number of times Le Blanc and Odell tell you vital information, you’ll still have to conclude that for 95 pages and £3, this is a booklet worthy of your money. Before I leave you, I would like you to check the films and directors mentioned in Horror Films:

Twenties: The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Haxan, The Phantom of the Opera
Thirties/Forties: King Kong, The Ghoul, Dead of Night
Fifties: The Quatermass Experiment, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Les Yeux sans Visage
Sixties: Peeping Tom, The Masque of the Red Death, Rosemary’s Baby
Seventies: Theater of Blood, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Eighties: Evil Dead, The Thing, Spoorloos
Nineties: Braindead, Dust Devil, The Blair Witch Project
Tod Browning: Dracula, Freaks
James Whale: Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, Bride of Frankenstein
Val Lewton (producer): Cat People, The Body Snatcher, Bedlam
Terence Fisher: The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf, Dracula: Prince of Darkness
George A. Romero: Night of the Living Dead, Martin, Dawn of the Dead
Dario Argento: Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno
David Cronenberg: Shivers, The Fly, Dead Ringers
Joe Dante: Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins
Wes Craven: A Nightmare on Elm Street, The People Under The Stairs, Scream
Clive Barker: Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Lord of Illusions

And if that’s not enough, at the end of the book you’ll find 50 other films certainly worth seeing. I guess you know what to do know.

Horror Films by LeBlanc and Odell is part of the Pocket Essentials collection. They’re cheap and concise guides to directors, genres and subgenres.

The Story of Film (Mark Cousins)

I confess I don’t own a lot of movie books. I often find them too specialized. Mark Cousins wrote The Story of Film, a brave attempt to talk about all the movies made from 1895 to now, not just from Hollywood and the UK, but also from Europe, Asia and Africa.
The question is, can one book explain the entire history of cinema? And can Cousins write that book?

book coverThe answer:The Story of Film by Mark Cousins is an incredible read. £19 is a lot of money, but it’s not wasted on this heavy book.

The big problem with the book is that Cousins (film critic, producer and the second host of Moviedrome) can be a bit full of himself, but make no mistake, this man knows a lot about film.
He was asked to write a book in one volume about the history of cinema. The book is approximately 500 pages long and it’s well-written and highly informative.
Cousins doesn’t just focus on Western cinema, but also mentions Indian and African cinema. Of course he can’t write about everybody in just 500 pages, so he only wrote about those directors that had an effect on other directors.
While some favourites of yours may not have made it (and indeed he doesn’t mention B Cinema that much), this book has told me more about cinema than I’ve read in dozens of other works about film.

Cousins explained his choice as follows: if A makes a new form of cinema and other directors (B-H) follow him, Cousins’ll briefly mention B,C,D,E,F,G and H after talking about A.
If, however, director E was directly influenced by the work of A and took those ideas a step further, Cousins will mainly talk about A and E.

He also divided his book into the three most important periods of film:
A. Silent Cinema
B. Sound Cinema (1928-1990)
C. Digital Cinema (1990-now)
Why? Because there have been lots of changes in cinema’s history, but these three are the most important changes of them all. First they learned how to make still move, then sound was added and from the nineties onwards digital effects were good enough to add something to the cinema we already knew and liked.

Within those three chapters Cousins skips flawlessly from continent to continent, making you feel inadequate about the small size of your video library.

As an added plus, the book is full with beautiful stills and photographs (more than 300) and they’re a joy to look at.

But not all is well: the book’s editor was sloppy and left quite a few spelling mistakes in the book. Plus, Cousins occasionally has it wrong (the first time is on page 8 when he says DVD stands for Digital Video Disk – when in fact the V stands for Versatile).
But if you’d like to correct the man on his knowledge of directors, you’ll have a much tougher time.

When nearing and reaching the era of digital cinema Cousins does tend to become a bit more personal in his choices. Then again, it’s always hard to write history and his choice of who’s becoming the first director genius is as good as mine.

Is this a perfect book? No, but such a book will never be written. Is this a book that does an astonishing job in reviewing the most influential and important cinema of the first 110 years? Definitely.
Let those who think they can do better, try it. We’ll see who’ll have the last laugh.

Mark Cousins
The Story of Film
suggested price: £25 (hardcover), £10 (softcover)

The book has also been published in the US (by Thunder’s Mouth Press), but you’ll have to get used to the horrible cover. A Spanish translation has also been made.