1/12/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: McFarland. 246 page illustrated indexed softcover. Price: $45.00 (US), GBP39.50 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7864-6046-5).
check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com
One of the problems I do have when looking at early SF films released on DVD is how little information there is on the Internet outside of the really specialised websites. Granted, the more shop-orientated sites don’t have the space to do anything in real depth and I’m surprised there aren’t more factual errors in their text. As such, coming across this book, ‘Allied Artists Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy Films’, author Michael R. Pitts has specialised in covering the material from only one studio in a book. With this one, you have over eighty films from Allied Artists and their European imported material they imported, modified and distributed in a twenty-five year period.
Each film has a full list of cast and production staff, a lengthy detailed synopsis, any extra gen relevant to each film and what members of the cast did next in their careers, plus snippets of critics reviews. A lot ot Allied Artists’ films of our genre were also cheap budget, so you will also find the likes of directors Roger Corman and William Castle credited here. I thought that should get some of you folks’ eyes gleaming. There are also stacks of decent clear photos to peruse as well.
There are a lot of snippets of information that crop up that build into a bigger picture, like seeing Italian Mario Brava working his way up to directorship. Although I think Pitts putting the films in alphabetical order makes some sense for finding films if you’re a browser but twenty-five years does mean you’re not always seeing them in the right perspective had they been done chronologically if you read straight through as I’m doing. There is a guide to year order in the appendix for this but I do wonder how many people will use this. I think you have to decide whether you’re buying this book purely as a reference book.
I was fascinated to discover that ‘The Adventures Of Wild Bill Hickok’ made for TV had episodes melded together and used as films sold abroad. I thought for a while that this had only been done with ‘The Man From UNCLE’, rather than something that was done earlier. Before you ask, the Hickok film had a ghostly connection for its inclusion here, although many of the ‘Bowery Boys’ films tended to rely more on SF connections and there are a lot of those. Did you know that footage from the 1962 film ‘Mermaids Of Tiburon’ was used in the TV ‘Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea’ episode ‘The Mermaid’?
If you think that all Allied Artists genre films were a bit on the cheap side, don’t forget that they also did the likes of the original ‘Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers’ and even ‘The Little Shop Of Horrors’. Then again, I suspect all studios, especially in the 50s-60s, did a lot of low grade ‘B’ movie genre films and I suspect I’m going to end up reading other of Pitts books that look at their output to put things in perspective. My own analysis makes me consider that they essentially had a cheap younger audience and didn’t have to give it as much attention as they would to adults and general release production and still make money from a low budget. While they were making a profit, they didn’t change anything and if they weren’t profitable, they might even have walked away from doing genre films at all.
If anything, what amazes me is why so many of these films aren’t coming up on television, especially when some were actually made over here. Unlike the US, we are less concerned as to whether they are in colour or not.
I wouldn’t recommend reading too many pages in a row because you can end up a little punch-drunk with the amount of information you’re absorbing. I do wish Pitts had given his own opinions on these films. After all, to get some detailed synopsises, he must have watched them and so much have some objectivity that would have been valuable to the reader in assessing whether or not to pursue these films. He could have added whether they were available on DVD, even if it was only another appendix.
Having said all of that, this is still a book deserving your attention if you have an interest in early films and Allied Artists in particular. At the very least you can make up your own mind as to which films you want to locate to watch and make your own critiques. Three of these films, I actually reviewed earlier in the year already which allowed me to do a proper spot check for accuracy. A useful reference book.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA