Overall, fans of cult cinema should enjoy Mark J. Banville’s THEME ’70: TACKLING THE BEAST THEY CALL EXPLOITATION CINEMA, yet it’s important to note what the trade paperback is and is not. First and foremost, UK publisher Headpress has blessed it with a subtitle that is not truly indicative of the actual contents. That’s because the book, largely reprinted from Banville’s THEME ’70 zine of the early 1990s, offers comparatively very little in the way of words; it works best as a collection of posters and ad mats straight from the kitsch-en sink. When the author does review a movie — most of the flicks covered herald from blaxploitation — it’s short and sweet and really more of a plot summary than actual opinion. That’s not a complaint, because the book is a ton of fun, but being more collage than criticism hardly qualifies as “tackling the beast”; in other words, expect images, not insight. I would have liked to have seen an introduction that told the history of the zine (one I had never heard of until now) and, thus, placed the material that follows in solid context. More telling is that I would like to see even more of this stuff. It’s a hoot.
Hey, speaking of zines, that DIY art form was huge in the 1990s, particularly in the realm of B movies, before the Internet all but killed them. Ironically, the print zine has been making a comeback where cult film is concerned, and one near-sterling example is the ad-free EVILSPEAK HORROR MAGAZINE. Now on its third issue, each one is impressively designed (by Justin Stubbs) and larger than the previous, to the point that the current edition is really a trade paperback. In its 134 pages, you get celebrations of horror, horror and — yep! — horror, with a deep focus on flicks that wallow in the gutter well below the mainstream. Issue 3 also features an article on the horror comics of Eerie Publications, plus an original comic of its own. If there’s a bone to pick with EVILSPEAK, it’s that a couple of the writers tend to summarize a film rather than discuss it, and co-founder/co-editor Vanessa Nocera (currently on display in the HI-8 anthology) is most guilty of this across all issues, even giving away the movies’ endings! Good thing I get a reading buzz nonetheless.
Last fall, I ran a review of Danny Marianino’s THE MEGA BOOK OF REVENGE FILMS — VOLUME 1: THE BIG PAYBACK, which read in part, “Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re going to write a book about movies in which the whole point is characters seeking vengeance, shouldn’t you be able to spell ‘vengeance’? … [It] is so every-page-riddled with typos, run-on sentences and other egregious errors that it’s obvious he didn’t select ‘Check Spelling’ on his self-published manuscript.” However, thanks to the technological magic of today’s print-on-demand world, newly purchased copies of the paperback reflect Marianino performing a little clean-up work, including reinstating a lost photograph that originally resulted in a big ol’ blank space. What’s important is that even with the errors that remain, the man’s passion for these movies stands front and center. His shoot-the-shit approach to discussing (vs. reviewing) the films fan-to-fan is infectious; you’ll emerge from it with a large list of titles to catch or revisit, not to mention a yearning for MEGA’s promised 2016 follow-up, VOLUME 2: GLEAMING THE CUBE. —Rod Lott
Buy them at Amazon.