BOOK REVIEW: SWEDISH SENSATIONSFILMS

SWEDISH SENSATIONSFILMS by Daniel

I am going to start this review with a warning. Did the documentaries Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed and Video Nasties turn your want list into something that would cause your own personal version of the national debt? Did your wife/ girlfriend/ significant other freak out when they saw your Bluray shopping list after you read Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare USA, or Jay Slater’s Eaten Alive? Then STEP AWAY from this book review NOW. It will cause you heart and wallet ache that will only be suppressed by the spending of thousands of bucks trying to collect the films that author Swedish author Daniel Ekeroth, who also wrote Swedish Death Metal and has performed with several bands such as Iron Lamb, Tyrant and Onkel Kankel, has presented in this brilliant book, Swedish Sensationsfilms.

I guess a description of WHAT Swedish Sensationsfilms are is the immediate question in everyone’s minds. Obviously, as the name suggests, they are films from Sweden (obviously) that sit comfortably next to exploitation films of the US; they are full of nudity, violence, drugs and other lowbrow exercises that make your more refined film fan cringe, but make you and I stand on our lounge chairs with ours fists in the air, beer in our bellies and pants around our ankles.

This tome introduces us to the Sensationsfilm first with an essay telling of their origins by Ekeroth, and then with a piece titled ‘Christina Lindberg, Exposed’ where the lovely Lindberg tells the tale of her introduction to the world of movies before jumping into reviews and information about films that for the most part, quite frankly, I had never heard of before, but am now dying to see.

Obviously films like Jungfrukallan, aka The Virgin Spring which influenced The Last House on the Left, Anita – Ur En Tonarsflickas Dagbok, aka Anita and Thriller: En Grym Film, aka Thriller: A Cruel Picture or They Call Her One Eye, are present here but others as well which will ring true in the minds of exploitation fans worldwide. My personal immediate NEEDS, not wants, list from this film now contain Blood Tracks, about a rock band being picked off by a murderous family, Exponerad, a Lindberg film about a 17 year old girl who is forced into sexual servitude while her parents are away for a few weeks, and Kyrkoherden aka The Vicar, where a young vicar is cursed by a witch to have an unstoppable erection, which even the local sluts who quite happily pork him often can’t make go away.

The inclusion of Jungfrukallen proves that not all sensationsfilms are to be discounted as trash but honestly, most of them sound like loose scripts used for the sole purpose of getting as many boobs on screen as possible.

Nothing wrong with that!

With this book, Ekeroth has provided a great introduction to this dark side of the Swedish film industry. In addition to his series of reviews and the aforementioned essays, Ekeroth also gives a glossary of Swedish culture, a rogues gallery of Swedish film ‘heroes’, a look at  sensationsfilms via the National Board of Film Classification and gives the 20 sensationsfilms one must see before leaves this mortal coil.

Even though it has given me reason to spend even MORE money on DVDs and blurays, this book is spectacular. It is well written and easy to read, with a great selection of pictures courtesy of Klubb Super 8 (who look like a decent source of these films… if you read Swedish!!) and a fantastic cover by artist Wes Benscoter. Ekeroth clearly loves these films and any film collector looking for something different would be remiss not to have this book.

Book: *****

Book Review: Portable Grindhouse by Jacques Boyreau

Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of The VHS Box

It has been said that I live in the past. That my obsession with my childhood heroes, comics and pop music from the eighties shows a lack of maturity, and an inability to grow up…

… but enough about my wife’s opinions of me.

I have to say though that I agree with her 100%: I love nostalgia. I am easily swayed by a bad movie if it has a character or situation that had something to do with my younger days… in other words, I am the guy who likes Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull, the ‘new’ Star Wars films and George Romero’s new dead trilogy. Some of the best books I have bought in the last 24 months have been ‘The Best of Smash Hits by Mark Frith (all about the legendary pop music mag of the eighties), Not Quite Hollywood by Paul Harris (a solid, if somewhat thin accompaniment to the hit film), Just Can’t Get Enough by Mathew Robinson and Jensen Karp ( a look at some of the coolest toys from the eighties) and this book: Portable Grindhouse by Jacques Boyreau, a look at the lost art of the VHS box.

Immediately, before I go into the contents of the book, I must state my utter admiration for the design of the book. Remember those old cardboard video boxes that sell through video cassettes came in? My movie collection actually started with a copy of Bloodbath at the House of Death, and I cherished that cardboard boxed film until I watched it so many times that I completely wore the bastard out. This book actually comes packaged in a slightly larger version of one of those boxes, and for those of us who haven’t seen one in a while; you will be wiped out by the wave of reminiscence that will wash over you.

So why is this book designed in such a fashion? Well, as the name may suggest it is a celebration of the VHS box, and its artwork, which was occasionally (usually?) of dubious quality. The introduction gives us both a look at the author’s discovery of the VHS, and then actually goes into the history of the format, and why so many people still love it.

The body of the book is a joy to behold: each double page features a look at the front and spine of a video box on one page (in a ¾ view), and a close up of the back, which gives either a synopsis of the film, or a look at other films released by the same company. For those of VHS age, or new collectors of the format, the distribution names will be familiar: All Seasons Entertainment, Media, Trans World Entertainment… the list goes on.

The films celebrated are mainly genre stuff, like My Bloody Valentine, Stunt Rock or The Tool Box Murders, and some more obscure titles like The Porno Killer, Midnight Intruders or Alien Massacre. There are some non genre stuff as well, all weird in their own way, like Roger Raglin Best Kept Secrets (a video bow-hunting manual), Gary Coleman: For Safety’s Sake (a guide to being safe in your home, hosted by Gary Coleman, with his assistants Jack and Jill Example, and Nurse Helpquick) and Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World (an animated feature which steals directly from Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

This book is the paper version of those trailer mix-tapes you used to be able to get, and are occasionally available on DVD (like All Monsters Attack). It’s not essential for your collection, but you will find yourself revisiting it often, and showing anyone who remembers these types of VHS Boxes.

My only problem with this book is that it feels as though the spine could crack if it is not treated with some degree of care: this is NOT a book you can open up on a flat surface without doing exactly that. Love this book, but be VERY careful with it. I will admit that this book would have gotten 5 stars if I could be confident of its resilience against repeated readings.

This tome is published by Fantagraphics Books, a company of whom I am a great fan as they have published some fantastic comic collections in the past. While it is not the be all and end all of VHS covers collections, it is a wonderful look at the cardboard box art of yesteryear. Let’s hope Boyreau can find his way clear to do more books of this type!

This really is the perfect book for the movie fan: light on text, heavy on image.

Verdict: ****

Book Review: Ad Nauseam by Michael Gingold

One from the to read pile…

Ad Nauseam by Michael Gingold

Book: I think I’ve always hoarded… I mean, ‘collected’ horror stuff. As a kid in the 70s I had toys and collected Famous Monsters Of Filmland, which graduated into Fangoria (and its many competitors like Samhain, Horrorfan, Fear and their ilk) and towards the end of that decade, VHS tapes, which became DVD and Bluray, and video games, and records, and comics…

…gawd, my collecting is exhausting!

One thing that is always nice to see though is that there is others like you and it would appear that Michael Gingold is cast of a similar die to me. Gingold is a well known staple of the horror movie fandom, being a former editor in chief of the aforementioned Fangoria, he’s written, starred in, directed and produced movies, and has written several books, such as The Frightfest Guide to Monster Movies and this book Ad Nauseam.

The basic idea of this book is to show the reader the newspaper advertisements for horror movies of the 80s, but I’ll come back to that. The source of these clippings is a young Gingold’s obsession with cutting adverts from newspapers and collecting them, a story he tells in the book’s Introduction, and I admit to understanding that completely because as a kid I collected every single Star Wars clip from the newspapers so I could scrapbook my own Star Wars comics. Gingold’s obsession has resulted in a beautiful book documenting, quite specifically, the advertising campaigns used in New York City, and some other places when the newspaper strike occurred, for horror films during the 80s.

After an introduction by Gingold, the book is broken down year-by-year with an amazing collection of amazing ads, and a sidebar which introduces the films the ads represent, and a selection of some scathing and sometimes witty reviews from the ‘film review’ section of those papers.

I really need to up my nastiness game in movie reviews to match the levels that these people reach! They are most certainly, the Super Saiyan’s of bitchiness!

The final part of this book is a section called ‘The Art of the Sell’ which features and interview with Terry Levene, the president of genre movie based distributor Aquarius Releasing, the man who spearheaded so many of the genre films presented in this book’s advertising campaigns, including art, tag lines and even the subtlety of changing European director’ s names from this like ‘Lucio Fulci’ to an easier to digest (for the perhaps more prejudiced times of the 80s) ‘Louis Fuller’.

This gentlemen seems to be like a Roger Corman styled version of an advertising executive, and much like Roger Colman’s ‘boobs are the best special effects, Levene claims ‘ you’ve got to have blood, action, gore and above all, women!’

I honestly, as a massive fan of 80s horror, can’t express just how amazing and interesting this book is, though I must say that the subject matter being ‘New York City newspaper advertisements of the horror films of the 80s’, which is an incredibly small focus and probably not entirely for everyone. Rue Morgue magazine has presented the book beautifully and it was presented in a manner which was perfect on the eye.

Score: ****

Cinema Sex Sirens by Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer

One from the re-read pile…

Cinema Sex Sirens

I have to say I love books about films almost as much as I like films themselves. I love stretching out on the lounge, feet up, beverage in one hands and a good book in the other. The content of the book is important though: it has to be about an aspect of cinema I love, it has to cover a genre I love, it has to be informative, and maybe a decent amount of photos or illustration. The book will get bonus points if it mainly deals with cinema of the 60s, y0s and 80s. What really makes a book special is if it fulfils all this criteria. Cinema Sex Sirens does exactly that… ok, it’s doesn’t cover the 80s, but I’ll let that slide.

Cinema Sex Sirens is written by Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer, co-producers of magazine and web site Cinema Retro, which celebrates the cinema of the 60s and 70s: their claim being that most of the best films ever made come from these decades, and who am I to argue? These gentlemen have been responsible for other film related books like The Essential James Bond and The Great Fox War Movies, not to mention the fact that Worrell produced most of the documentaries on the MGM releases of the James Bond films!

his book, Cinema Sex Sirens, takes a look at the women present in films through the 60s and 70s, and how their sexuality evolved from the pin-up styles of earlier starlets like Betty Grable and Lana Turner and how these beautiful women were used as selling points for the film’s success. These women are also a precursor to the 80s scream queens and beyond, but in general were a bit more demure and less likely to drop undies on screen. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I will point out that a gift is more exciting before it is unwrapped: it’s that whole Schrodinger’s Cat thing, I guess.

The cover has a beautiful selection of the women of this period and is styled in a classic, almost Brady Bunch, series of windows, featuring lovlies like Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret and Jane Fonda, and boldly claims an introduction by Sir Roger Moore. Remember him? He was one of the James Bonds’. Upon reading that doesn’t really amount to much other than him claiming that he didn’t sleep with most of the women he worked with, which is a shame when you consider some of the downright gorgeous things with which he shared a fake bed.

The authors introduce our ladies with a beautiful picture of Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks, an example of how modern TV and cinema can still do voluptuous and demure when they want to, and discusses the lives of the studio employed star, and how they have become likes goddesses in comparison to the media whores of today, who are regularly seen in such gossip rags as Who and NW snorting cocaine off the back of some farm animal that they have just screwed for five dollars. It looks at how these women were taught grace, poise, deportment and etiquette and how everyday saw them dressed like they were at the Academy Awards, instead of picking their noses in sweatpants whilst buying pregnancy tests from a midnight to dawn convenience store.

The book is laid out in 3 main sections based on their locations, each which have an introduction, a series of bios on the bigger names of the subset, and a round-up of those who were still great, but not great enough to get their own full section due to how well known they were. The three sections are “Hollywood or Bust”, which looks at the sirens of the Americas (like Raquel Welch, Angie Dickinson, and many others not to mention subsections on Russ Meyers Ladies, The Drives In Gals and the hard hitting babes of Blaxploitation); “The Continentals” which looks at the exciting euro babes likes Ursula Un-dress… I mean, Andress, Claudia Cardinale, Anita Ekberg (my favorite), Sylvia Kyrstal, and a subsection on Giallo Girls, and finally “Made In Britain: Brit Glamour”, featuring Susan George, Valerie Leon, Caroline Munroe and of course, Ingrid Pitt (obviously the Hammer ladies could have a whole book just on their own, and they do in Marcus Hearn’s Hammer Glamour, another must have for cinema beauty fans). There is also a final section called “Sex Sells: The Art of the Movie Poster” which is an interesting, albeit brief look at how cleavages and legs have been used to sell films.

This book is a great tome for those interested in the films of this era, and if you are reading this site, or a fan of Hammer, Corman or Meyers films, you’ll find something in this book. It is photo heavy, which usually means ‘light on text and information’ but this book isn’t! The authors share a great deal of information, even though they are career and vocation overviews rather than in depth, hard hitting exposes of the actresses. I enjoyed this book and will no doubt refer to it regularly.

Score: ****