I always have the distinct feeling, when writing this column, of shipping coals to Newcastle, but I haven’t let that stop me yet, so onward. Today, boys and girls, a few reading recommendations. I trust that most of you are capable of using Google and tracking down your favourite cult movie sites, so I thought I’d point, instead, to a few magazines. Print ones. The kind you hold in your hand. Gasp.
Let’s get the conflict of interest portion over with first. Don’t let the fact that I also write for The Ph…ntom of the Movies’ VideoScope let you see too much bias here. I was a reader for much longer than I’ve been a contributor. The mag has become much slicker since its semi-newssheet incarnation in the early 90s. Each issue is packed with reviews of the latest genre/cult DVD releases, with specialized columns focusing on TV, anime, foreign, and so on. There will also be at least a couple of interviews with creators/actors/directors/etc. Generally speaking, the target audience is fan of varied tastes, and the focus of the reviews is primarily on whether the movie in question is worth watching or not, rather than detailed examinations of the DVDs and their features. If you can’t find something here that speaks directly to you, then I give up. The magazine has also spawned a couple of excellent books.
For the obsessive, there can be no greater joy than Tim Lucas’ Video Watchdog. Here, the focus is split between the movie itself and its presentation. Specifically, the picture quality and the degree to which the print is complete (and this is measured right down to the second). Lucas is also one of the genre film’s premier interviewers, and in-depth profiles are the order of the day. The contributor list is a veritable who’s who of top writers: Douglas E. Winter, David J. Schow, Ramsey Campbell, and so on.
Steven Puchalski’s Shock Cinema not only looks back with love to the glory days of the grindhouse on 42nd Street, it also scratches a very particular itch. Like the other two, it features plenty of DVD reviews and film personality interviews. But many of the reviews are of films that readers will really have to search for. If you will accept nothing short of HD releases with multiple commentaries, go elsewhere for your reading material. These are reviews of gray market material, films that tend to fall through copyright loopholes, or for various other reasons are very unlikely to show up at your local blockbuster (but can be found through the auspices of such sites as SuperHappyFun). The mag is an invaluable companion to the other two in that it highlights the fact that, no matter how much material floods the market, there are still plenty of oddities out there that are a long way from receiving a standard release. Seeing them is not impossible. Reading about them is certainly a blast.
There are still other offerings out there, but these are three that have published consistently for years, and maintain a high level of quality. Others, such as Cult Movies blink in and out of existence (which is sad, given that publication’s long and honorable run). So go on. Turn the monitor off for a bit and read some print.