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Film I TV I Biographies



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Hollywood

The Sewing Circle
Female Stars Who Loved Other Women 
Axel Madsen. 
Robson Books. 1998. Pbk. 240 pages. £8.99. 

Film stars in the golden age of Hollywood were the epitome of glamour, sophistication and objects of hetrosexual identification and desire. To be outed as a homosexual would immediately kill any Hollywood career. As a consequence such sexual liaisons were hidden from the public by the studio publicity machines, which controlled every aspect of a star's image and behaviour. Howard Strickling, the head of MGM's publicity department admitted; "We told stars what they could say, and they did what we said because they knew we knew best." To this end the studio publicists covered-up everything from romances, pregnancies to murder. Lavender marriages became common so that to the public the couple were happily married, but in reality it was just a smoke- screen for their homosexuality. 

Axel Madsen chronicles the pivotal role of scenarist Mercedes de Acosta who had affairs with Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Isadora Duncan, Tallulah Bankhead, Judy Garland, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford's lesbian activities are also described in detail. The secret, informal networking of lesbians in Hollywood became known as the sewing circle, and it became an essential support mechanism for their double-lives. 

The activities of the sewing circle members contrasts starkly with their on and off-screen images that were so carefully cultivated at the time. Today such revelations give a new image and aura for the stars of the late 1920s to the 1950s, and make us consider the impact of prejudice and hypocrisy that warped their lives. Order from...



SF and Horror Books

The Monster Show

The Planet of the Apes Chronicles

Saucer Movies

Schlock-O-Rama ! 
David Konow. 
Lone Eagle, Los Angeles. 1998. Pbk. 160 pages. £14.99.* 

AI Adamson is credited with making some of the worst B-movies in the history of cinema. He specialised in horror and exploitation films that were only fit for Drive-Ins and late-night TV. 

His films included Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969), Satan's Sadists (1969), Dracula VS. Frankenstein (1972), Girls for Rent (1974), Black Samurai (1977) and Nurse Sherri (1978). The titles alone indicate the sleazy areas of horror, porn, biker, vampire and psycho genres they clumsily exploit, often in grating combination. 

Adamson and his partner in cinematic crime, Sam Sherman, often re-edited old and new material to - create 'new' movies or they simply re-titled their productions. One common factor was that they all included a fair amount of murder, rape and naked flesh. A justification for these excesses is that they reflected the twisted American psyche of that period, well that's one excuse... 

Konow pieces together Adamson's career from extensive interviews with him and his colleagues. One or two people don't rate his work but there is no real evaluation of his work, and at best he is acknowledged as being a very fast and cheap director. He rarely did more than one take, and he got free chicken meals for the cast and crew in exchange for giving Colonel Sanders a cameo role. Such economies meant that they could make huge profits.

I find it sad that directors like Adamson, who had no grain of talent for filmmaking, are now given accolades and respect for being 'bad'. Certainly you can admire their sheer nerve, business acumen, and contempt for their audience. What other industry or craft would get praised for making useless products and for joyfully ripping-off the public?
What worries me most is that David Konow watched these films as a child and he now looks back on them with nostalgia and affection. 

*Available from Gazelle Book Services Ltd. Queen Sq. Lancaster, LA1 1RN. Tel. 01524-68765.

Star Wars
Action Figures Archives 
Stephen J. Sansweet with Josh Ling. 
Virgin. 1999. Large format. Hbk. 184 pages. £25.00.

If you ever doubted the impact of Star Wars on popular culture then this book will set you straight. Sansweet provides us with the ultimate colour guide to the hundreds of action figures that have been part of the Star Wars merchandising programme. Using over 2000 images he shows us the packaging, figures, models and movie stills that constitute the Star Wars universe. 

The accompanying text provides useful facts and biographical details of the characters, which makes the book more than just a catalogue for avid collectors. The presentation and attention to detail is painstaking; to understand the complex world of SW characters and how they have evolved on screen and as action figures this is the ultimate reference work.

Star Wars: The Genesis of a Legend

The Vampire Film 
From Nosferatu to Interview with the Vampire
Alain Silver and James Ursini. 
Limelight Editions, New York. 1997. Pbk. 342 pages. £18.99.*

Silver and Ursini have completely updated and revised their study, which originally appeared in 1975. 

They discuss how vampire lore has evolved from legend, art and literature and how it has been translated into the conventions of the vampire film genre. Instead of a strictly chronological review of the subject, the authors use a thematic structure to look at how, for example, the portrayal of male and female vampires has changed over time. 

As the millennium approached male vampires became less threatening and more philosophical, whilst female vampires embraced their situation with Ďa mix of fervor and repulsion'.

Fortunately the authors are not straightjacketed by themes or theories so the vampire films they review are dealt with on their own merits. Their detailed filmography provides an excellent A-Z guide, and they even provide a critical review of other vampire film books. This is a thoughtful study that drives a stake deep into the heart of this subject. 

Wes Craven: The Art of Horror



Practical

Breaking & Entering
Land Your First Job in Film Production 
April Fitzsimmons.
Lone Eagle, 1997,  Pbk. 204 pages, £13.99.* 

This tells you how to get a job as a production assistant with a film crew and how to do that job, The role of the production assistant is very clearly spelt- out and as a guide for trainee PAs this is great. It isn't so great at telling you how to get that job in the first place, and it is U.S. biased so some of the practices might not apply in Britain. From our armchair point-of-view this provides a change from the usual actor's or director's filmmaking perspective.

Howdunit: How Crimes are Committed and Solved

Inside Stories

Shooting to Kill
How an Independent Producer Blasts Through the Barriers to Make Movies That Matter 
Christine Vachon. 
Bloomsbury. 1998. Pbk. 320 pages. £9.99. 

Vachon has been at the cutting edge of New York ultra-low budget film-making, and here she tells us exactly what it is like to make these movies. She provides a diary of her most expensive movie, Velvet Underground about the origins of Glam Rock in 1970s, London. The economic and practical difficulties are all to clearly illustrated. Nonetheless there are plenty of chapters on how to budget movies, how to crew them and handle actors, and getting films marketed and distributed. She was involved in selling Stonewall, which didn't get picked up by any major North American distributors, but 'We ended up selling Stonewall to Strand, a small distributor that couldn't afford to pay much. But it got a decent release, and the film made more than many art-house pictures do.' A plain-speaking and entertaining 'real life' view of low budget film-making. 

Script Magic: Subconscious Techniques to Conquer Writer's Block

Surviving Production 
The Art of Production Management For Film and TV 
Deborah S. Patz. 
Michael Wiese Productions. 1997. Pbk. 262 pages. £20.99.*

There is considerable detail here on how to set-up and run a production office, and it even offers sample forms and info on how to file and track documentation. Be warned, this book has a U.S. bias so not all the advice applies elsewhere.
*Available from Gazelle Book Services Ltd. Queen Square. Lancaster. LA1 1RN. Tel: 01524-68765. 



Reference

Bollywood

Cineplex Odeon 
An Outline History
Philip Turner. 
Brantwood Books. 1999. Pbk. 30 pages. £9.95. 

This looks at the personnel and buildings that have shaped Cineplex Odeon and made it into a huge film exhibition organisation. The route to world domination has not been smooth, and Turner charts the ups and downs of their progress. 

Film Art

A Guide to Film Guide Books reviewed by Darren Slade.

Icons of Film: The 20th Century 
Edited by Peter W. Engelmeier 
Prestel. 2000. Hbk. 192 pages. 
80 icons of film in one volume.The most striking images of the first century of cinema are comprehensively covered in this large format, glossy volume. 

The colour, duotone and black-and-white illustrations give full justice to each film that is used to represent the best from 1920 to 1999. Each film is also used to represent the work of a particularly important director. This balancing act between the best film for the year and best film by a director causes a few controversial selections. For example, Steven Spielbergís Schlinderís List is chosen rather than Jaws or E.T. That aside this volume is a worthy reminder of the greatness of cinema as art form and entertainment machine. 
 
 

Hirschfeld's Hollywood - The Film Art of Al Hirschfeld

Imaging The Divine - Religion and the movies, reviewed by Alan Pavelin.

Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia
Third Edition. 
Ephraim Katz. Revised by Fred Klein/Ronald Nolen. 
Macmillan. 1998. Hbk. 1506 pages. £35.00. 

Katz's classic encyclopedia, first published in 1979, is now revised and updated with over 7,000 entries. The A to Z references cover country-by-country film industry histories, film terminology, technology, actors, filmmakers and organisations. Where appro-priate personal and professional details are given along with selective filmographies. This is a huge yet precise labour of love, which is surprisingly easy to use and read. It's coverage of mainstream movies is as comprehensive as the more expected art house entries, so there are very useful sections on John Wayne, Spielberg, Tom Hanks and the like. But it doesn't mention Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams, Sid James, et al, nor does it mention Carry On, Bond or National Lampoon films but it does have an entry for Hammer Films. 

The Oscars

The Tenth Virgin Film Guide

Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks

A World History of Film



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