Sunday, March 4, 2018

"If you have a garden and a library... have everything you need."

Apparently Cicero said that. I don't know a damn thing about Cicero, but if you follow that link you'll find out all sorts of things about the guy. I just liked his library quote, and I needed a library quote on account of I recently went to the library and wanted to tell you all about the books I got. That's right, this is a mini multi manuscript post, for your reading pleasure. (And for mine as well, having just been to the library.)

Oh, that reminds me--you can read about another library adventure I had by following this link. But be warned, "here there be sex and violence." (Hah! Now you can't help but take a look....)

Anyway, this latest adventure happened to be my very first time in a new library, since making a move from the Southwest Mountains to the Pacific Northwest. Mmm, I suppose "adventure" is a bit of a strong word for this particular occasion. Not that the library sucked or anything like that, it was just a fairly sedate experience. The library itself is amazing, and I'm sure it and me will be best friends very soon. (We've already become cozy acquaintances, just from this one visit.)

Okay, enough with the Library Love Notes; on to the loot:

Grrrr! No one will ever guess from my cover that I was written by John Landis. Grrrr!
I saw this one, kind of tucked down on the bottom shelf outside its assigned spot, and actually pushed an old lady down and then kicked a kid in the shins so I could get to it first. Okay, that's not true; the aisle was empty and I'm not a violent man by nature, but if there had been some kid reaching for it, I'd have pled and (possibly) bribed with whatever cash happened to be in my wallet in an attempt to get it from him.

I've had my eye on this book for awhile, but it was one of those where I couldn't see shelling out the original cover price ($40) without getting it in my hands and previewing it first. Well, now that my sweaty little hands have dampened its pages, I'm all about owning a copy, forty bucks or not, and it has happily turned out to be a "not" on the forty bucks front, as Amazon tells me a new paperback version is available for just 17 measly dollars (yay!). And you better believe it's on its way from an Amazon warehouse near me.

This is not some highfalutin big-words book about film theory; this is a book by a guy who loves movie monsters, has access to tons of amazing high quality photos of those monsters, and decided to make a book out of 'em. And it's beautiful. Plenty of behind-the-scenes and in-the-business notes and anecdotes by Landis, which is extremely enjoyable itself, but those photos.... Incredible.

The real litmus test? Number of movies (some seen, many not) pulled for future viewing and/or blogging: 143. (Sorry Dan, clearly I misheard you. How many movies did you say you pulled from A SINGLE AND SOLITARY BOOK that you now want to follow up on?) Oh, you heard me right: One. Hundred. And. Forty. Three.

Nuff said.

I have a very long gun positioned right in front of my crotch and there is
Had to pick this one up, too, on account of I've been hankerin' to watch some blaxploitation films but haven't really had much of an idea on which titles to choose (most of my experience has centered on blaxploitation horror, but I'm looking to branch out, dontcha know).

Anyway, turns out this really IS "the essential reference guide." It's chock full of movies (over 270 of 'em), mostly made between 1970 and 1980, and it's got synopses, interviews with directors, old and new reviews of various films, and assorted other groovy things to hold your interest. The book was published in the UK and I thought at first it was going to be a British take on the genre (which would have been interesting in its own right), but turns out the guy who wrote it was born and raised in NYC/New Jersey.

Check out some of these titles and taglines:
Is the Father Black Enough? (1972) "A Racist wind blows the dust from a Black man's grave to choke the honkies to death!"
The Thing With Two Heads (1972) "They transplanted a WHITE BIGOT'S HEAD onto a SOUL BROTHER'S BODY!"
Hit Man (1972) "He aims to please!" (Yeah, that would be the movie referenced on the book's cover. Absolutely no sexual innuendos were harmed in the making of this film.)
Willie Dynamite (1974) "Ain't no one crosses WILLIE "D" He's tight, together, and mean. Chicks, Chumps, he uses 'em all. He's got to be Number-One."
Number of movies pulled for future viewing? 36. (Not bad. Not bad at all.)

I am not particularly representative of what lies between my covers,
but you checked me out anyway, so there!
Hmm... those flying saucers in the background are definitely lifted from Devil Girl from Mars. Makes me wonder what other film references might be lurking on that cover?

At any rate, this book's an odd duck at best. I grabbed it on the title alone, but turns out it's one of those "not necessarily representative of actual content" titles. To be sure, there are plenty of robots inside, but I'd guess more than half the films covered are either marginally or not robot-related in any way.

The author makes an attempt to bring certain films or groups of films inline with the book's stated theme, like considering Frankenstein's Creature a "mechanical man" and including a bunch of Frankenstein-esque films. (Okay, I get his drift, but sewn-together reanimated corpses do not a metal automaton make.) Then the guy goes way off course, devoting chapters to decidedly non-robotic things, including one on movies featuring people who are "reminiscent" of robots due to being dressed in space or diving suits. (What?!)

Think I'm overstating things? Check out these woefully misguided excerpts I grabbed from random spots in the book:

"The lurching metallic creatures of The Amazing Colossal Man and its sequel The Terror Strikes [War of the Colossal Beast] were sixty feet tall as well as impervious to attack." (Right. These "creatures" were actually a single character, and there wasn't a thing "metallic" about him. He was a regular-flesh-and-blood-joe, grown to gigantic proportions after being exposed to--you guessed it--atomic radiation. Not a robot to be seen anywhere in the film.)

"Flash Gordon... was given the full high-voltage laboratory treatment as if he were to be shocked into becoming an electronic robot." (Alongside a photo of Flash being electrocuted by the bad guys. Notice those words "as if." I don't know, cuz being electrocuted, it's "as if" you were being turned into a robot...? Besides, a person being turned into a "robot" would really be a cyborg....)

"In Soylent Green, the Malthusian nightmare of an overpopulated world of city mobs, controlled by a few men using machines to scoop up any dissidents like a spoon scoops up grits, is the final solution." (Humans behind the wheels of garbage trucks sporting big mechanical scoops on their fronts--absolutely indistinguishable from... robots!)

" the James Bond fantasy Goldfinger.... the hero is threatened with emasculation by a giant laser beam, the ultimate threat and triumph of mechanical rape against male pride." (Yeah, the book spends a fair amount of time exploring "serious" themes like this. I can just hear the editorial discussion: "A Bond movie? Sure! Is there a machine of any kind in any scene at all? A laser, you say? Great! Write something 'smart' and add it in!")

Okay, enough. Disappointing book. Still, I did manage to pull 21 movies for future viewing (of which less than half contain any kind of robot at all....) from the thing, so there's that....

And y'know, standing in the library, this author seemed familiar to me. Sure enough, getting home I discovered on my very own shelf another book from this same series (the book's called Catastrophe) similar to the robot book's lack of robots, it's filled with not-actually-disaster-films. So there you go. Both books are part of a British series from the 1970s, which you can read all about by following this link. (Incidentally, that link also takes you to a balls-out-fantastic genre film blog, which unfortunately seems to be lying fallow at the moment. Definitely worth a look around at past content though. Seriously, amazing!)

And that's it. Dan's latest library visit has now been chronicled. (My work here is done.)