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review 2013-11-28 06:38
Review: The Incredibly Strange Film Book: An Alternative History of Cinema by Jonathan Ross
The Incredibly Strange Film Book - Jonathan Ross

I only knew of Jonathan Ross from watching his talk show a few times back in the 80s (and from reading of incidents of his being a jerk in the media), but I'm always up for another film book. I vaguely remember adding this to the pile I was buying at the used bookstore. Even though I now have read and own many film books there are still a few films mentioned in this book that aren't in any of the other books. Mainly because some of the films are really terrible, but still worth reading about.


The book was originally written in 1993, but this edition came out in 1995, so theoretically there could have been additions. But probably just in the Introduction. It also originated with Jonathan Ross' TV series "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" which ran in 1988-89. The newest chapter that was added in the update is on the Hong Kong film industry and genres, and it's been one of the best for giving me films to add to my Need to See list.


I was hoping for a bit more information on what it's like being a Brit film lover in a society that has often had a heavy hand with the censoring of horror and violence. Ross does discuss this here and there when he mentions films that he had to try and import from other countries, but this only comes up a few times. But then all the book is smatterings of history and biography with Ross' opinions on them. He's not as obnoxious about it as I'd have thought, and it is clear that he has a genuine love of the genres he's discussing.


I'm still trying to figure out the joke of calling Jack Nicholson a "forgotten star" in Chapter 15. Ross couldn't have missed 1980's The Shining, so the idea here (I suppose) is that the Nicholson of the 1960s horror movies cited in this chapter is from another world - or that's the joke.


Just in case you're interested in any of the following, I've linked some of the names to wikipedia (some links to IMDB). I particularly recommend Rondo Hatton, one of the best chapters in this book, and an actor that had a difficult but interesting life. I definitely recognized his face as soon as I saw his picture.






Part One: Sex

1. The History of Porn Films

2. Totally Deranged Movie: The Enema Bandit (real life inspiration)

3. Russ Meyer: Go Baby! Go! Go!

4. Totally Deranged Movie: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

5. Forgotten Star: John Holmes

Part Two: Exploitation

6. The History of Exploitation Films

7. Totally Deranged Movie: Maniac

8. Ed Wood Junior

9. Totally Deranged Movie: Glen or Glenda

10. Blaxploitation

Part Three: Teenage and Drive-In Movies

11. Teenage Movies

12. The History of the Drive-In

13. Forgotten Star: Mamie Van Doren

14. Drive-In Double Bill: Girl On a Chain Gang and Teenage Mother

15. Forgotten Star: Jack Nicholson

Part Four: Gimmicks

16. The A to Z of Gimmicks

17. William Castle: The Abominable Showman

18. Totally Deranged Movie: The Tingler

19. Three-D: Comin' Right At Ya!

20. Forgotten Star: Rondo Hatton

Part Five: Horror and Violence

21. The History of Horror Films

22. Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Wizard of Gore

23. Yellow Fever: Mario Brava and Dario Argento

24. Totally Deranged Movie: Carnival of Souls

25. Video Nasties: Cannibals and Zombies

26. Hong Kong Fooey


Picture Credits



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