When I’m not watching movies, there are few things I like doing more than reading about them. Luckily, the weeks leading up to the holidays brought three brand-spanking-new ones to my desk for my reading and reviewing pleasure.
Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie
Should you forgo a few matinees and time from your Netflix Instant Queue to consume the words they hold within? You’ll know in a matter of minutes ...
Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils
The sign of a good “making of” book is if it’s compelling even if you’ve never seen the film whose production it documents. Such is the case with Richard Crouse’s Raising Hell, covering the shooting and subsequent public skewering of 1971’s The Devils.
While director Ken Russell (Altered States, Tommy, Lisztomania, Trapped Ashes) had his troubles with oft-blitzed leading man Oliver Reed, the real storm rolled in after the film was released. After all, would you expect a historical horror epic that combines Christianity with sexuality to be controversial? Of course!
With a mix of his own reporting and other sources, Canada-based film critic Crouse paints an intriguing portrait of the events both on-set and off. One actress quips, “Have you ever tried writhing sexually for 10 hours at a time? Try it one day. It’s not easy.” The real tumult arrived once word of its content — particularly a “rape of Christ” sequence — leaked; while branded with the X rating in England, it somehow scored an R in good ol’ America, yet that hardly resulted in big box office.
Today, Warner Bros. still hasn’t released The Devils in any post-VHS format, at least not uncensored. Other than locating a *cough* torrent *cough*, reading Crouse’s book may be the next best thing. While it’s not on the masterful level of Julie Salamon’s The Devil’s Candy, it is a fascinating read that peels back the veil on the Hollywood studio system and those mavericks who, God bless ’em, attempt to shake it up every once in a while.
Huron Street Press
With tens of thousands of titles available at your fingertips at home, it’s easy to forget that your local libraries are a viable outlet for renting movies. (Hell, these days, they may boast a better selection than dying dog Blockbuster Video.) I think I’ve only rented one there, because back in 2004, my wife and I needed some instructional video to teach our kids about how that bump got in Mommy’s belly. Therefore, one free VHS rental later, animation narrated by Howie Mandel taught our kids about the birds and the bees, but all I remember is him referring to the orgasm as a “really big tickle.”
That’s a roundabout way of getting to Queue Tips
, a fun paperback published by an imprint of the American Library Association and edited by Chicago critic Rob Christopher.
Sticking to no particular number, he and his guests tick off recommendations for unusual romances, disaster flicks, Nicolas Cage vehicles, Westerns that aren’t Westerns, unconventional Christmas films, half-good flops and more. Novelist Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart
) offers his choices for “late-night spooky films,” while Saturday Night Live
vet Julia Sweeney simply discusses random titles that were on her mind.
You can build up quite a “to see” list of your own, but even if you’ve seen a majority of the works referenced, the presentation is lively enough for rediscovery. I have one big complaint: It’s too damn short! Lists about movies can be a blast, and the 24 here are just that ... but 24 is not quite enough to satiate my addiction.Contemporary Erotic Cinema
And now that I have your attention, you might want to read an entire book about it
, or at least movies that deal directly with "it," and rather frankly at that.
California film/lit professor Douglas Keesey digs through decades upon decades of blue movies and smutty skinema for flick-by-flick examinations of more than 100 examples. Divided into specific
themes like incest, gay, anal or Nazis, he discusses the acts and themes present — often in all their glory — in The Reader, Porky’s, Boogie Nights
and even Team America: World Police
It's certainly not for the prude, and the full-color photo section in the middle should be kept from young, prying eyes. Speaking of eyes, I sure got some strange looks as I read the book while waiting in line to vote in the presidential election. USA! USA!
While his mini-essays can verge on the pretentious, I cannot deny reading every page. I’m just not sure I learned anything beyond what movies I can go without seeing for life, as many entries end with having raised more questions than providing any answers. Often, he literally closes with a question, i.e. “We see them in their all, but do we really know them?” or “Is the man insufficient just because the woman enjoys her own sex?”
You be the judge, I guess. It’s certainly not taxing study. —Rod LottHey! Read This:
• Horror Films book review
• Lisztomania DVD review
• Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films book review
• Samurai Films book review
• Trapped Ashes DVD review