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Books on Film
by Andrew Howe (a.k.a. The Guv'nor)

Contrary to popular belief, movies are not my only source of enjoyment. Music is one alternative, reading is another. The best part about reading, of course, is that you can effect a crossover with your other vices - I love movies, and therefore I love reading books about movies. Despite the horrendous cost of most specialty books these days (is this *really* the way to promote literacy amongst the youth of today?) my shelves groan beneath the weight of a large number of tomes which deal with practically every aspect of the silver screen. I therefore figured that, since I'd already forked over my hard-earned readies, it would be kinda thoughtful of me to let you know which books were worth the time it takes to read them. Altruism is a wonderful thing, don't you think?

There are two types of books which deal with film reviews - the first are the "capsule" reviews, designed to be consulted in conjunction with the television guide, while the second contain full-length reviews which are usually collected from whichever publication the reviewer in question chose to patronise.

I am not going to write much about capsule review collections, largely because (a) I don't own many of them; and (b) the rise of the internet has made most of these publications somewhat redundant. However, since I'm here I might as well add my two cents to what has become known as "The Great Maltin Debate".

I own a copy of Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide. So, probably, do you. The man has become a virtual institution over the last decade, not the least because he possesses an uncanny ability to adequately communicate his feelings about a film in less than a hundred words. However, it cannot be denied that he is one of those critics who evidently believes that they stopped making good movies after about 1970, and so many a fine film released in the last two decades gets the short end of the stick.

Consider the evidence. The following films receive the dreaded two-and-a-half star rating:

The Shawshank Redemption
The Princess Bride
Miller's Crossing
The Italian Job

Now, if I were to just leave it at that it would go a long way to proving that Maltin has no idea what he's talking about. However, let us not forget that he sees fit to award Face/Off and Trainspotting three stars, John Woo's The Killer and When Harry Met Sally three-and-a-half, and Glory no less than four. There are also the problems inherent in the rating system itself to consider - just because a film receives three stars does not mean that it is the equal of every other film which receives that rating. There are definitely shades of grey, but an objective review of the ratings will not support this.

I am therefore left with no choice but to suggest that Maltin does get it right more often than not, and whether you love him or hate him it's still the most comprehensive, well-written capsule review guide out there. Enough said.

Which brings us to the second category, being books containing full-length reviews, and is as good a time as any to approach the prickly subject of what constitutes a review worth preserving.

By and large, when you turn to the cinema pages of your Sunday paper you're just looking for information. You want a plot synopsis, and enough details about the film to form an opinion as to whether it represents a worthy expenditure of your time and effort. However, when you pick up a book of reviews you want to be entertained. You want to be able to read reviews of films in which you have no interest, safe in the knowledge that the quality of the writing will make it worth the effort. You want to be, at turns, amused, enraged, and challenged to think about the subject matter, none of which tends to be a feature of the majority of newspaper reviews. Whether you agree with the reviewer's opinions will obviously impact your enjoyment of the book, but it should by no means be a limiting factor.

Below are a number of books which fall into this category, and by and large they are very good indeed. And what better place to start than with the grand ol' dame of criticdom herself:

For Keeps (Pauline Kael, 1994)
Harlan Ellison's Watching (Harlan Ellison, 1989)

There was a time when I believed Ms Kael to be the best reviewer ever to walk the face of the earth. I still believe it, but as the years go by I cannot avoid one incontrovertible fact - I now find the majority of her reviews to be utterly, irredeemably boring.

There are some reviewers who feel the need to approach a film as they once approached War and Peace in their English Lit class, which is to say that they see it as their duty to analyse every aspect of the film as if they were writing a thesis. This is usually coupled with a dry, stately writing style which could be marketed to insomniacs as a cure for their affliction.

Now, don't get me wrong - I am not suggesting that movies are not deserving of an in-depth critical appraisal. However, when I read a review I want to see the reviewer enthuse about the medium, hear them rave about the same scenes which affected me so deeply, or take a scythe to the same inept acting and sophomoric plotting which made me want to hunt down the people responsible and beat them to death with film cans containing the collected works of Roger Corman. I want to see electric prose, snappy lines, informative digressions - whatever it takes to ensure I can't wait to turn the page to see what they have to say next.

What I don't want to see is a review of Excalibur which contains lines like "The film's Germanic-Byzantine-Celtic style often suggests Fritz Lang's Siegfried and Kreimhild's Revenge Ö" followed by a discourse on the philosophical lessons to be learned from the Arthurian legend which goes on almost as long as the film itself. She is also obsessed with the art of directing, which results in more insightful but ultimately mind-numbing forays into the minutiae of the field.

I will admit this kind of thing has its place, and if you want to see what a literate, thoughtful review looks like this is definitely the place to start. It's just that I've never been able to rid myself of the notion that, first and foremost, movies are made to be enjoyed, and that said enjoyment rarely stems from any of the things of which Kael seems so fond. It's about characters you can love and hate, powerful scenes which live in your mind until the day you die, and the gut-level reaction which lets you know that you've witnessed something which your life would have been the poorer without.

Which brings us to Harlan Ellison, a past master of the art. Watching is a treasure, jam-packed with witty, intelligent essays which are invariably even more entertaining than the films they canvass. I will admit that Ellison is not for everyone - many find his arrogance insufferable, and he has raised the digression to a virtual art form. However, he has a talent for building an argument which would do a lawyer proud, and his unbridled enthusiasm for the silver screen positively radiates from the page.

The bulk of this collection covers the column he wrote for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction between the years 1984 and 1989. As you might expect, the majority of the movies reviewed fall into the science fiction and fantasy genres. However, even if you're not a fan of those particular types of film you shouldn't let it put you off, since Ellison is first and foremost a writer of essays. He therefore canvasses a wide range of issues, and given that he spent time in Hollywood as a screenwriter there's no shortage of anecdotes about the insanity of the industry. His lengthy assault on the shortcomings of Outland's screenplay is a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered how the studios think they can get away with insulting our intelligence, and his piece on the reasons why Dune's failure can be laid squarely at the door of the studio is the definitive work on the subject.

In conclusion, I would suggest that everyone should have some Kael in their house, and given that For Keeps covers the highlights of her eleven previously published collections it's the obvious place to start. Next to it you should put a copy of Watching, and see which one spends the most time on the shelf. If you've ever wondered what type of moviegoer you are, it's one of the surest tests I know.

Action! The Action Movie A-Z (Marshall Julius, 1996)
The Manly Movie Guide (David Everitt and Harold Schechter, 1997)

When it comes to guilty pleasures, action movies are up there with Tim Tams (footnote 1) and ABBA. Nobody could suggest that something like, say, Die Hard is the equal of a film like Citizen Kane, but I would suggest that, in terms of absolute enjoyment, Bruce Willis edges out Orson Welles for the majority of moviegoers. Whether this is a good thing is a question for another day, but it is certainly the case that for many years few writers saw the action genre as worthy of serious consideration.

Enter Marshall Julius, a British writer whose credibility in the field is unsullied by the inclusion of any type of biographical data within the pages of Action! The Action Movie A-Z. This is a pity, because I'd like to send him a vote of thanks for turning out this ripsnorting steamroller of a book.

The contents are exactly what the title suggests, being reasonably comprehensive reviews of some 250 action films. He runs the gamut from bottom of the barrel crud (The Bronx Warriors, Red Sonja) to the genuine blockbusters, presenting us with reviews which range from the insightful to the delightfully irreverent. This is a hugely entertaining read, not the least because Julius peppers his reviews with that irrepressible British sense of humour. Add to this biographies of major action stars, lists of memorable quotes and even a spot quiz or two, and you've got an effort which leaves most of the "serious" collections in its wake. (Only minus - awarding Last Action Hero and The Punisher his lowest rating. Make whatever you will of my contention that these are top-notch action films.)

Unfortunately, The Manly Movie Guide fails to scale the same heights. Whether you agree may have something to do with your taste in humour, since the authors are American rather than British, but I found their inability to make it though a review without using the terms "manly" and "two-fisted" at least once apiece wearisome in the extreme. This is a pity, because they obviously have an extensive knowledge of the genre, and now and again they let slip that they really can write a good review when they're not too busy concocting a few more doses of their heavy-handed attempts at humour. It's worth checking out for the good bits, just don't expect miracles.

"Most of us think of prison as a place where criminals go. This supposedly inspiring movie takes a slightly different view of things. As envisioned by author Stephen King and director Frank Darabont, prison turns out to be a place where unhappy, introspective guys go to work through their feelings."

- an amusing excerpt from TMMG's review of The Shawshank Redemption, so good that I can almost forgive them for taking the piss out of the second-best film of all-time.

Video Trash & Treasures II (L.A. Morse, 1990)

Now this is a find. Out of print almost from the day it was released, this book has suffered the fate of far too many of the fine things in this world, which is that its brilliance is known to but a few. I now see fit to rectify this situation by revealing to all and sundry that, in a better world, it is this book and not Maltin's which would reside next to your television.

The concept is simple - Morse sat down one year and watched every one of those heinous straight-to-video films which you peruse every time the new releases section proves to be a barren wasteland. Ever thought about renting Women in Cell Bloc 7? What about Warlords from Hell? If so, you will find answers to all of your questions within these pages, written in an eminently readable style which regularly provokes the kind of gentle amusement which the authors of TMMG are incapable of eliciting.

However, that's only half the story, because in the course of his viewing Morse unearthed a large number of bona fide treasures as well. I don't know where he got some of these films - the Australian thriller Shame and the British mini-series Edge of Darkness are brilliant films, but I would have thought that their availability in Canada was non-existent (footnote 2). However, find them he did, along with a swag of great releases which you may never hear of unless you can lay your hands on a copy of this book.

Haunt the second hand bookstores - this is one treasure you can't live without.

(As an aside, eagle-eyed readers may be given cause to wonder whether this is the second volume in a series. It is indeed, but since about half of the first volume deals with slasher flicks I found it far less entertaining. A crying shame.)

Violent Screen (Stephen Hunter, 1995)

Not too much needs to be said here - this is a collection of Hunter's reviews for The Baltimore Sun, and by and large they make for good reading. He has tweezered out the pieces which ostensibly deal with violent films, but it's really just a framing device to give the book a snappier title than "Stephen Hunter's Movie Reviews" (a glance at the contents reveals that the notion of what constitutes a violent film is applied rather loosely - a single punch to the face is probably enough to earn your film a place in this book).

Hunter has a relaxed style - a dash of humour here, a smidgen of insight there - making it the perfect book to dip into whenever you've got a spare twenty minutes or so. You won't get a comprehensive analysis of the films, and you won't be rolling on the floor with laughter, but you will find that you are consistently entertained. Worth a look.

Love and Hisses (Various, 1992)

The publications of the [US] National Society of Film Critics tend to be of variable quality, since they usually contain a wide cross-section of its membership. Pauline Kael rubs shoulders with the likes of Peter Travers, and as a result everyone will find something of interest, and just as much which they could have well lived without.

This book has an intriguing premise - each film contained within features two reviews, one for the positive and the other for (you guessed it) the negative. What this does mean is that you will spend fifty percent of your time in a state of righteous anger, since every movie you love has a negative notice and every film you hate proves to have at least one person willing to defend it. Virtually every film contained within is reasonably well-known and has been released in the past twenty years, so it's likely that pretty much everyone will find something of interest. However, whether it's worth your time will depend on whether you're prepared to approach points of view which differ to your own with an open mind (I was more inclined to throw the book across the room), and whether the knowledge that you will have to take the good with the bad unduly disturbs you (given the price on the back cover, it sure as heck disturbed me). Definitely a personal preference.

Insider Views

Adventures in the Screen Trade (William Goldman, 1984)

This is it, folks - possibly the best book ever written about the industry. It's a hugely entertaining chronicle of Goldman's career as a screenwriter, packed to the gills with anecdotes and pithy observations. He muses upon everything from the way in which the rise of the star is anathema to creating a quality product to the correct way to structure the ending of a film, reminisces about the productions with which he has been involved, and wraps it up with an annotated screenplay which should be read by every aspiring screenwriter before they put pen to paper. If you're possessed of even a passing interest in films you will find much of merit in this book, and if you love films it's a Mach 10 trip to nirvana. It's that good.

(And as a final note, don't be put off by the fact that he spends much of his time dealing with films and personalities of the sixties and seventies if you're not well-grounded in the era. The appeal of his observations and anecdotes is timeless.)

The Gross (Peter Bart, 1999)

Bartís claim to fame is that he is the editor-in-chief of Variety, which apparently affords him access to a variety of industry types who would normally greet a reporter by slamming the door in their face. This is rather fortuitous, as it turns out, since his concept is one which rises or falls on the amount of insider information he can bring to the table.

Said concept is disarmingly simple Ė take one summer season in Hollywood (in this case, 1998) and track the fortunes of the various major releases from inception to final gross. The result is a mildly diverting tome which will be of interest to anyone who has a yen to explore the background to the films they watched in that year.

Bartís style betrays his lengthy stint as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. This is largely matter-of-fact reportage Ė he tells it straight, and as such this tome is relatively free of sensationalism (which may be a good or bad thing, depending on your bent). He does have an annoying tendency to describe many of the major players as if he was writing a dime-store novel (on Casey Silver - "A thoughtful man with saturnine features who looked rather ominous in his dark grey suits and perpetually worried frown"), and his name-dropping quickly becomes tiresome (it seems heís had lunch with every major star in the universe at one time or another). However, the real worth of this book lies in the fact that it provides information on a number of films which would normally not receive much in the way of behind-the-scenes attention, such as Deep Impact and The Mask of Zorro, and provides us with a useful snapshot of the state of play at the major studios at the time.

Overall itís definitely worth a look, but youíd be advised to wait for the paperback edition. Itís good, but itís not that good.

Final Cut (Steven Bach, 1999 rev.)
The Devilís Candy (Julie Salamon, 1992)

Thereís something uniquely satisfying about reading accounts of monumental flops. All of us have heard enough about Hollywood over the years to know that a great many of the people who make their living from the silver screen are infested with an uncommon amount of hubris, and we therefore take a certain measure of pleasure in watching the mighty fall. Itís simple human nature Ė after all, to the average Joe grinding it out every day just to put three squares on the table the notion that acting and directing qualifies as "work" is a difficult pill to swallow. We live in an age where Sylvester Stallone can pocket $10 million for doing nothing more than mumbling his way through a second-rate actioner, while the good Samaritans of this world receive little reward and less recognition. So it is that each Hollywood catastrophe is met with an almost gleeful delight, since it is, in effect, a victory for the common man, for sense over reason, and for sanity over unbridled self-indulgence.

Heavenís Gate. Just to speak the name is to invoke a kind of awe, to conjure visions of a runaway train hurtling towards an appointment with the edge of the abyss. It was one of the biggest flops in movie history, destroying reputations, careers, and an entire studio, but what raises it to the necessary heights of improbability is the fact that it started life as a modestly-budgeted niche film, only to transform into the Angel of Death through a combination of an out-of-control industry and one of the biggest megalomaniacs ever to set foot behind a camera.

Final Cut is the story of this almost-mythic debacle, penned by one of the heads of the studio which oversaw the whole sorry affair. I have to make it clear at the outset that Bach is a businessman, not a writer, so those expecting electric prose would be advised to seek their pleasures elsewhere. However, his style is at least serviceable, and the story is strong enough that his limitations do not unduly detract from the readerís enjoyment.

It is a long tale (over 400 pages in the Pimlico trade paperback edition), but rarely boring. As the story unfolds it is difficult not to fall into a state of trance-like fascination, each snippet of insanity compounding the felony, leaving you barely able to contain your curiosity as to what madness the remaining pages will reveal.

This book belongs in the "True Crime" section, and if you ever wanted evidence of the way in which the film industry exists in a universe where the natural laws which govern you and I no longer apply, youíll find it here.

Random notes:

- it is not necessary to have seen the film to enjoy this book. In fact, saving your first viewing of the film until youíve digested its contents is a highly entertaining experience in its own right.
- there are a couple of interesting asides on other films the studio produced during Bachís tenure, most notably Raging Bull.
- Heavenís Gate is not actually as bad as its opening night reviews suggest. Many critics are changing their tunes as the years go by Ė itís never going to appear in anybodyís top twenty, but itís certainly not devoid of merit either.

Which brings us to The Devilís Candy, a chronicle of the descent into oblivion which was the making of De Palmaís Bonfire of the Vanities. Salamon can write, having scribbled film critiques for The Wall Street Journal for a number of years, so the quality of this effort is automatically a cut above Final Cut. Salamon adopts the "faction" approach popularised by Truman Capoteís In Cold Blood, which is to say that portions of the account include reference to the thoughts of the major players. This may sound somewhat unusual, but in an authorís note (inexplicably presented as an afterword, rather than a prologue), she makes it clear that any attempts to describe a personís thoughts are the result of said individual telling her what they were thinking at the time. Given that DePalma gave Salamon permission to follow the filmís progress before shooting even began (and does that rank as an all-time bad decision or what?), there can be little doubt as to the veracity of the reporting.

While the tale of Bonfireís tribulations doesnít quite scale the same Olympian heights as Heavenís Gate, this is still a marvelous book, packed with interesting characters and a swag of insights into the process of getting a film from script to screen. Even if Bonfire hadnít been a flop it would still be a fascinating read, but since history tells us that it was an unmitigated disaster it transcends the status of a Hollywood primer to become another accident-scene page-turner. In addition, the fact that it deals with actors who are still out there making films (Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis, for example, as opposed to the likes of Kris Kristofferson) certainly adds that extra dash of spice.

Not that it really needs it, of course Ė when it comes to hearty meals, stupidity is rarely off the menu.

The Battle of Brazil (Jack Matthews, 1998 rev.)

Terry Gilliamís Brazil is a film which almost defies description. Its depiction of an Orwellian futuristic metropolis is so detailed that it invites sensory overload, and thatís before you even start considering the excellent performances and mind-rendingly inventive storyline (the word "offbeat" doesnít even begin to address the issue). Itís a 140 minute hallucinogenic descent into madness, and there are few who could deny that it is a film which deserved to be released, in all its raging glory, to a movie-going audience which had been starved of truly original creations for far too long.

Unfortunately, one of the few people who did deny that the public had a right to see this film was Sid Sheinberg, and since he was the head of the studio which owned the US distribution rights his opinion was difficult to ignore. This book chronicles Gilliamís epic struggle to save his masterpiece from the forces of darkness, and serves as a requiem for every director who has ever seen their creation fall prey to people whose understanding of film extends no further than the comments scrawled on a test screening questionnaire. Some of itís funny, some of itís informative, and some of itís downright scary, as Matthews charts the way in which the commercial desires of businessmen contrived to torpedo a truly unique vision.

The book also contains an annotated screenplay and storyboards, which makes it a must for fans of the movie. However, you should see the film before reading this book, because if you donít like it you wonít find much of interest within (heck, youíll probably be siding with the studios Ö) Matthews makes no bones about whose side heís on, but since itís the right one I guess weíll forgive him, and objectivity be damned.

Youíve read about directors ruining studios, now read about studios ruining directors. A little balance is essential to everyoneís diet, after all.


If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must be in Trouble (Joe Queenan, 1994)
The Unkindest Cut (Joe Queenan, 1995)

Your perceived worth of these books will largely hinge on whether you can tune into Queenan's sense of humour. By and large I found him to be on the right side of hilarious, though whether this continues into the future may well depend on whether he can expand his range (his latest book, America, was decidedly patchy, his reheated shtick showing definite signs of wear).

If You're Talking to Me is a collection of fresh, punchy essays in which Queenan rides roughshod over anything unfortunate enough to fall within his sights. You may have already heard about the obvious highlights - his attempts to recreate scenes from famous movies, with predictably amusing results; his chronicle of the day he spent pretending to be Mickey Rourke - but even the less sensational pieces are well worth the time it takes to read them. My only gripe is that it's difficult to discern whether Queenan actually even likes films, since he spends most of his time belittling them, and we are therefore given cause to wonder whether he may have just chosen the industry as a suitable foil for his brand of humour. However, that's really minor carping, since this book is indeed "One of the most devastatingly funny books ever written about the film business" (Stephen Amidon, Esquire, apparently). Not to be missed.

The Unkindest Cut is a full-length journal of Queenan's efforts to bring an indie film to the screen. He writes a script, inveigles his friends into supplying equipment and acting talent (?), and proceeds to make a vastly amusing mess of the whole thing. It's actually a very interesting idea - the reviewer stepping out from behind the word processor to find out whether it's really that hard to make a good film. It is, as it turns out, and this book is a must-read for anyone who has ever entertained thoughts of whipping up their own Citizen Kane. Informative, entertaining, and highly recommended.

Sex, Stupidity and Greed (Ian Grey, 1997)

Sometimes when youíre checking out the wares at your local bookstore God decides to prove that He does, after all, possess a sense of humour. You pick up a book and turn to a random page, and you like what you read. You turn to another section, and sure enough, itís still looking good. Encouraged, you open your wallet and hand over a portion of your hard-earned cash to the helpful salesperson, then scoot off home to enjoy your purchase.

Which is where you are suddenly put in mind of those stories about the early explorers, the ones who died of thirst twenty feet from a waterhole they didnít see because they couldnít be bothered pushing on through one more row of bushes. You realise to your horror that those couple of sections you perused in the store were the only good things in the book, the literary equivalent of a trailer for a Jim Carrey comedy. And from somewhere, far away, you hear the sound of ethereal chuckling.

This book purports to be an entertaining meditation upon everything that is wrong with the industry, and now and again itís exactly that. Grey is a good writer, and when he turns his attentions to topics such as violence and censorship he turns out some quality product. However, about half the book comprises mind-numbing interviews with people you donít want to hear from or laboured recountings of industry people heís bumped into from time to time (memo to the author Ė interviews are boring. Reading an interview is like having teeth pulled Ė thereís no style, thereís no narrative flow, thereís no interest. Especially when your subjects are the likes of Sean Young and Donna Hall, "Caterer to the Stars". Give me a break.)

This book is not a total failure, but itís sure not worth the inflated price tag. Deny the Almighty that laugh at your expense and leave it on the shelf.

The Movie List Book (Richard B. Armstrong and Mary Willems Armstrong, 1994)

Geez, is this a waste of time or what? Lists are rarely entertaining, and when you combine truly uninspired topics with a dry, impenetrable writing style which makes Tolstoy look like Dennis Leary youíve got a book which, if I hadnít picked it up at a bargain sale, would be grounds for justifiable homicide. Thatís fifty-four words of review, when all this effort really deserves is one word Ė "crap".

From Cyd Charisse to Psycho Ė A Book of Movie Bests (Dale Thomajan, 1992)

Now this is more like it. Thomajan uses his relatively uninspired framing device to shoehorn in a bunch of well-written, perceptive observations on a wide variety of topics ("The Best Opening Shot", "The Best Number in an Otherwise Mediocre Musical", and many others). It's a gentle book, free of exuberant praise or aisle-rolling humour, but it never fails to entertain. Thomajan does, however, concentrate on movies released prior to 1970, though his failure to include recent films seems to stem less from a belief that modern films are unworthy than a simple misty-eyed love for the works of the past. Itís mildly annoying, but certainly not a capital offence. Besides, anyone who chooses the conclusion to Say Anything as "The Best Feel-Good Ending in a High School Movie" is okay by me.

The Book of Movie Lists (Joseph McBride, 1999)

I believe I said earlier that lists are rarely entertaining. However, McBride is an author of some note, having penned biographies of the likes of John Ford and Steven Spielberg, so his take on the concept manages to arouse some measure of interest.

To be sure, the usual clunkers are on display ("20 Memorable Performances by Directors in Other Directorsí Movies" Ė I mean, does anyone really care?), but thereís enough good stuff that you can ignore the occasional misstep. Like Thomajan, McBride is more interested in enthusing about his favourite films, and as a result the notion of presenting everything as part of a list merely results in some truly bizarre categories. However, whoís to complain when you can enjoy the likes of 6 critics who lost their jobs because of their reviews, the 14 best exit lines, and a retrospective of films which were hurt by ridiculous titles. Not only that, itís a relatively inexpensive book, and as such doesnít have to do much to deliver a reasonable return on oneís investment. Worth putting on the short list.

Ultraviolent Movies (Laurent Bouzereau, 1996)

Being exactly what it sounds like Ė a trawl through the back catalogue of violent films released in the last thirty years or so. All the usual suspects are present and accounted for (Tarantino, Peckinpah, et al), with no real surprises. The sections all follow the same format Ė a plot summary (up to and including the ending), followed by information about the making of the film and public reaction. Some of itís interesting, some of it not, though any original thought on the part of the author is conspicuous by its absence. Overall itís a mildly diverting work, and does a reasonable job of collecting information from a variety of sources in one place, but it's ultimately undermined by a depressingly sterile style reminiscent of objective newspaper journalism. For fans of the genre only.

The Shooting Script - The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1996)

While screenplays donít really fall within the scope of this essay, Iím going to make an exception in the case of this particular effort. If, like me, you consider The Shawshank Redemption to be one of the greatest films ever released, believe me when I say that you wonít want to miss this gem. Combining the original screenplay (complete with scenes cut from the theatrical release) with copious annotations from the man himself, itís a fascinating insight into the evolution of the finished product. Not only that, you get an informative introduction by Stephen King, an introduction and an afterword by Darabont, a selection of storyboards and a great collection of stills.

If you loved the film, youíll love this book. Simple as that.

* * *

Impertinent editorial footnotes

1 A Tim Tam is an Australian biscuit which features a layer of creamy milk chocolate over a crunchy chocolate centre. Beloved of marijuana smokers the country over, they are living proof of the existence of the Almighty, since something this perfect could not possibly have been created by the hand of Man. I am also led to believe that if you combine them with a mouthful of coffee they will explode in your mouth, though such shenanigans are definitely not in keeping with the aristocratic nature of the indulgence.

2 A quick search of a major US online video outlet reveals that you could, if you wished, purchase both of these on video this very moment. And you should.

Appendix Ė Availability of titles

Since Iíve gone to the trouble of writing a rather long essay on no less than 21 books, I figured I might as well go the extra distance and check on the availability of the titles contained therein.

If Iíve piqued your interest on any of the books listed below, hard luck - theyíre all out of print. Everything else should be available at your friendly neighbourhood purveyor of printed products, at prices which will bring a tear to the eye.

No longer available

Harlan Ellison's Watching
Video Trash and Treasures II
The Movie List Book
(what a shame Ö)

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originally posted: 04/15/00 11:09:01
last updated: 04/16/00 17:06:06
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