Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion Book Review
“Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion Book” is a perfect coffee table book for cult film buffs.
For years now, beloved home video distributor Arrow Video has conquered the hearts of devoted DVD and Blu-ray enthusiasts worldwide with their stand-out discs of treasured horror, Blaxploitation, oddball comedies, and cult films. In order to promote and pay tribute to Arrow Video, a brand new book has been released titled “Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion Book.” Essentially, the book (which is edited by Anthony Nield) is a collection of essays about numerous films in their catalogue, but there’s a little more to it than that.
After being greeted by a mini poster and a passionate introduction by director Ben Wheatley (who clearly loves cult films), the book dives into the first portion which contains thoughtful essays about films in the Arrow Video line-up. Writers Tim Lucas, Alan Jones, Stephen Thrower, Maitland McDonagh, Vic Pratt, Kenneth J. Souza and Tom Mes each tackle one particular film which includes “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Deep Red,” “Zombie Flesh Eaters” (AKA “Zombi 2”), “Dressed To Kill,” “Withnail and I,” “The Burbs,” and “Battle Royale.” Each film is accompanied by cover art pieces, and film stills, and the essays themselves are largely about the film’s history, influence, and merit.
The second part of the book spotlights directors. Jasper Sharp discusses Seijun Suzuki (who is perhaps best known for “Tokyo Drifter” and “Branded To Kill”), Caelum Vatnsdal shares his thoughts on the legendary David Cronenberg, David Flint tackles Tinto Bass, David Hayles takes on Troma auteur Lloyd Kaufman, Mike Sutton chats about the late great Wes Craven, and John Kenneth Muir talks about one of my all-time favorite directors George A. Romero (the zombie film legend).
The third section is all about actors Boris Karloff, Herve Villechaize, Vincent Price, Meiko Kaji and Pam Grier. Vic Pratt, David Hayles, David Del Valle, Tom Mes and Cullen Gallagher provide the essays.
The fourth part of the book revolves around out-there genres. Michael Mackenzie goes into detail about Giallo (Italian horror), Pasquale Iannone explores spaghetti westerns, Paul Corupe provides information about the little known Canuxploitation (Canada exploitation films), Robin Bougie takes on the obscure Pornochanchada (sleazy Brazilian films), Kim Newman gets festive with Christmas Horror, Joel Harkey addresses the strange subgenre food horror, and James Oliver pens a piece on empty city sci-fi.
Last, but not least is the fifth portion titled cult distribution. Robin Bougie writes about the early days of cult cinema, Douglas Weir gabs about Super 8, Michael Brooke examines Video Nasties, Gragam Rae converses about festivals, fanzines, and “Nekromantik,” and Kevin Gilvear gets nostalgic with the Asian DVD explosion.
If you already own the discs spotlighted here or are well versed with Arrow Video titles, there’s nothing new for you here as the book is entirely comprised of reprinted essays from various home video releases. If you’re not familiar with Arrow Video and love cult films, however, this book is perfect for you.
While hardcore film geeks like myself will find much of the written material to be fairly well known, there is still A LOT of cinema education to be found here. If you want to learn (or are learning) about non-mainstream films, cult classics, underrated gems, or certain subgenres, this book provides hundreds of pages of analysis, factoids, and history. You don’t even have to be a fan of every film, actor, or director included here to appreciate the amount of knowledge and work that went into these essays.
While I’m obviously not going to go into detail about every essay (that would be spoiling the fun), I will mention a few notable favorites. First and foremost, Kevin Gilvear’s piece on the Asian DVD explosion brought back some memories as I was there on the ground floor discovering the works of Takashi Miike, Japanese horror hits, and the works of Park Chan-wook all those years ago. John Kenneth Muir’s writings on George A. Romero absolutely nailed the deep themes and social concepts of his classic zombie films (although he short changes “Diary of the Dead”). Robin Bougie’s well researched and insightful essay on early cult cinema, production codes, “Mom and Dad” certainly impressed me as did Caelum Vatnsdal’s personal and thoughtful take on David Cronenberg’s heady art films. David Hayles’ essay on the tragic and troubled life of Herve Villechaize also stood out amongst the lot.
Note: If you’re wondering who all these writers are and what they’ve done, there is a contributors section that provides all of the details.
Overall Thoughts: “Cult Cinema” comes with a hefty price tag, but the book provides hours of enjoyable content to anyone who has a deep appreciation for wonderful cult movies, actors, and filmmakers.