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TCM Underground Book Review

“TCM Underground” is a great deep dive into unusual cinema. 

Written by TCM Underground programmer Millie De Chirico and film critic Quatoyiah Murry, “TCM Underground” (AKA “Turner Classic Movies Underground: 50 Must-See Films From The World Of Classic Cult And Late-Night Cinema”) kicks off a contents page and a passionate foreword by actor, comedian and noted film buff Patton Oswalt. After that is an intro by the authors and the main content of the book which is 50 selected films divided into the following genres- crime films, domestic disturbances, horror, rebellion and youth movements, and visual delights and other strange mind melters. Of course, a lot of the films here represent multiple genres that include giallo, blaxploitation, musicals, body horror and even an adult movie with “Fleshpot On 42nd Street.” Each entry is accompanied by credits, film stills, poster art and a written piece that explores the film’s history, historical context, how it has endured, factoids about the cast and crew along with some thoughtful analysis. There’s also a revolving bonus sidebar that is either a spotlight on someone from the film (ala Yaphet Kotto in “Friday Foster”), recommendations of similar titles (such as “Rollerball” and “Skatetown U.S.A.” for “Roller Boogie”), or an OMG moment which is an unforgettable scene (the piano scene in “Hausu”). The book concludes with an index and acknowledgments. 

Of the 50 films listed (which were curated from titles that aired on the TCM Underground program), there are the expected cult gems like “Polyester,” “Blacula,” “Mac And Me,” “Xanadu,” “Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls,” “The Harder They Come,” and “The Brood” (you have to have a David Cronenberg movie in a book like this), but there are a lot of obscure deep cuts here which even I was not aware of such as “Wild Seed,” “The Pyramid,” “Emma Mae,” “Secret Ceremony” “Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Anymore,” and “Shack Out On 101.” It’s not often that I encounter films that I’ve never heard of before so it’s fun to pour over (and learn) about films that perhaps don’t get the recognition they deserve nowadays. Moreover, the book also gives you plenty of films to add to your ever growing watch list! I know I just added some titles myself.

As with all TCM books, there’s also a wealth of cinematic stories within these pages whether you want to learn about Benjamin Christensen’s inspiration for “Haxan,” how the life of Penelope Spheeris changed when making “The Decline Of Western Civilization Part 3,” the depths of “Across 110th Street,” the behind-the-scenes troubles of making “Head.” The meticulous research and cinematic knowledge of the authors is certainly noteworthy.

Overall Thoughts: “TCM Underground” is yet another TCM book that gets my highest recommendation. Plus, any book that sings the praises of “Xanadu” and its wonderful soundtrack is an absolute must read.


October 30, 2022 - Posted by | Book review | , , , , , , , ,

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