Another book review today, as there’s a delightful new tome on the shelves: Scott Stine’s Trashfiend: Disposable Horror Fare of the 1960s & 1970s. With a title like that, I don’t think I need to explain why it falls within this column’s purview. Sharing its focus with Stine’s short-lived zine of the same name, this is a loving but open-eyed survey of a wide array of horror offerings that are bad for us in the best way possible.
The book kicks off with an eclectic batch of reviews, covering forgotten gems (The Asphyx), near-impossible-to-find obscurities (Blood and Lace), drive-in fodder (The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant), and so on. This is by no means an exhaustive collection, nor does it pretend to be. What it does do very well is provide in-depth coverage of the films, many of which have been only briefly covered, if at all, before. Stine indicates the availability of each title, and he has had me on the hunt ever since, trying to track down many an enticing flick, when he hasn’t had me fondly remembering the late-night viewings of such trashterpieces as The Sound of Horror.
Next, Stine’s focus becomes narrower as he turns to the blaxploitation horror film. His goal here is to produce a complete guide, and while I can’t pretend that my knowledge of this particular area of the horror genre is such that I can judge absolutely whether or not he succeeded, the list looks pretty damn comprehensive to me, and I learned a lot.
From here, the contents become ever more eclectic. After interviews and reviews focusing on specific films and their makers (such as William Beaudine’s horror westerns, or the forgotten-by-most-but-not-all stop-motion creature feature The Crater Lake Monster), Stine turns to other aspects of the horror field:horror magazines and comics, 8mm film condensations (readers my age would remember these from the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland), horror TV hosts, and more. The sheer variety of subjects here is a pointed reminder of just how many obscure byways our beloved field has. For every memory of mine that Stine reactivated, there were three subjects I had never even heard of, and that’s the kind of discovery that makes this book so valuable, whether the reader is a hardcore connoisseur or new to the field.
There are a few mechanical issues that I wish had been caught at the copy-editing stage – in other words, a number of typos and missing sentences that, while not enough to spoil the enjoyment of the book, do pop up more often than they should in a professional publication. However, such irritations are more than outweighed by the sheer volume of information, all of it conveyed in Stine’s engaging, entertaining and intelligent prose.
Highly recommended, then. But be warned: reading this book is guaranteed to trigger no end of obsessive searches for long-lost pop culture flotsam. Enjoy the hunt!
The book, by the by, no longer appears to be available through Amazon, but is still for sale by its publisher at www.headpress.com.