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Sunday, 3 April 2016

Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion

When it comes to blogging about things Sci-fi, fantasy & horror I know that there are a good number of people who regard me as something of a cult - well at least I think that's what they said. In truth, many of my friends and family view my incessant blogging and never ending obsession for cult movies with a fare modicum of barely disguised mirth. It's not only that, but they often cannot resist the urge to openly deride a particular cult movie that I may championing at that point. "Oh, a cult film" they say - and believe me, I know what's coming next..... "you mean a film that only a few people have seen, in other words, not very successful?!" Ahh, such biting and insightful wit.

They know nothing.

I think that it's pretty safe to say that that the term 'cult movie' means so many different things to many people. In fact I would argue that the circumstances around ones introduction to the phenomenon of the cult movie often has the foremost affect on how one views them for ever. For me my introduction was simple......

Picture the scene - it's the early 1980's in a small Yorkshire town in England. A young man who has more than a few dreams in his head, stars in his eyes, and a growing obsession with all things science fiction and horror, hears something startling and wondrous on a national news bulletin. Namely, a that particular movie which had over the years gained a reputation of controversial and mythical proportions, arguably as no other has in the history of movies, was finally to be released on video. 

Amazingly after some seven years after its initial production the seminal horror movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was finally going to see the light of day over here in the UK. Believe me, this was big news. Since its release in the UK in early 1975 the availability in cinema's had been withheld by the British Board of film classification who believed vehemently that the magnitude of violence, particularly in two noted scenes and the feeling of claustrophobic terror in the last 3rd of the film, was far too much for the sensibilities of a British audience. Therefore deeming that it was therefore unsuitable for a BBFC X certificate to be issued. Ah bless the BBFC for protecting us from making up our own minds.

So it finally seemed in those dark and distant days of 1981 that the British Board of film classification had finally seen sense it seems and permitted the movie's release - though as it soon turned out, the video was soon to be removed from the video stores after new video classification rules came in ('Thank you, Margaret Thatcher...). Indeed, no theatrical or video release was going to take place for another 18 years, thanks to the backward and miss-placed 'protection' of the the public sensibilities. 

However, before it was unceremoniously pulled from the shelves, a lucky few of us had managed to get our hands on the film, and it's iconic horror bad-buy, that had by now achieved cult status of fabled proportions. From this moment onwards I was obsessed with films that had for one reason or another, fallen under the mainstream radar from the likes of John Waters, Russ Meyer, Roger Corman, George A. Romero and many others became my cinematic fixations.

So when I was sent an early copy of Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion, well I was a little thrilled, and quite rightly too, because after spending a couple of gorge-filled days on it, I can safely say that it's excellent!

Arrow Video is one of the foremost distributors of cult cinema on DVD and Blu-ray. From the classic to the obscure, the Arrow Video collection encompasses all styles and genres: horror films and Westerns, science fiction and sex comedies, yakuza epics and neo-noirs, the subversive, the transgressive and the unclassifiable. This hardback volume brings together 25 of the world's leading genre experts and critics to guide you through the multi-faceted beast that is cult cinema.

Exploring the stars, the filmmakers and the trends, Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion approaches its subject from five angles. Each section is devoted to a different facet of cult filmmaking - the opening chapter features seven essays devoted to key cult movies, and is followed by those on directors, actors, genres (and sub-genres), and finally distribution, which examines how different methods of seeing a film, from travelling shows to DVDs, has allowed cult films and their audiences to flourish. Consider this book as a look at cult cinema through the lens of Arrow Video, a pretty broad view: Tinto Brass, Joe Dante, science fiction, super 8, Suzuki Seijun, Boris Karloff, Battle Royale, horror all-nighters, video nasties and much more besides. 

My two particular favourite sections in the book are The House Is The Monster, a fabulous section by Tim Lucas regarding another cinematic obsession of mine, the stunning The Fall Of the House Of Usher and also The Importance of Being Vincent by David Del, a study of the redoubtable Vincent Price. 

The Fall Of the House Of Usher was the first in American director Roger Corman's series of adaptations of stories by writer Edgar Allen Poe. The series was filmed between 1959 and 1965 and consists of eight classic Poe tales: House of UsherThe Pit & The PendulumThe Premature BurialTales of TerrorThe RavenThe Haunted PalaceThe Masque of The Red Death and finally The Tomb of Ligeia

All the films in the series featured the legendary Vincent Price, except for The Premature Burial. In The Fall of The House Of Usher, Price provides a performance that brilliantly conveys the tortured mind of a man who knows that he has no choice in the terrible actions he has to take. He makes Roderick a genuine figure of sympathy and empathy - Roderick is not evil, nor the villain of the piece as many people incorrectly seem to summise. We see his loving commitment to his sister and that the knowledge of what the curse will eventually of to her is slowly devouring his soul. But of course, the real horror here is the character of the house itself in all its atmospheric and colourful glory - a masterpiece.

This book will do two things; Firstly it will serve to further enhance the obsession of fellow cult movie enthusiasts; Secondly, it might persuade a few of the mainstream movie snobs out there that cult movies may actually be worth something after all.

Complete list or writers: Robin Bougie, Michael Brooke, Paul Corupe, David Del Valle, David Flint, Cullen Gallagher, Kevin Gilvear, Joel Harley, David Hayles, Pasquale Iannone, Alan Jones, Tim Lucas, Michael Mackenzie, Maitland McDonagh, Tom Mes, John Kenneth Muir, Kim Newman, James Oliver, Vic Pratt, Jasper Sharp, Kenneth J. Souza, Mike Sutton, Stephen Thrower, Caelum Vatnsdal, and Douglas Weir.

Introduction by filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise, Free Fire)

Cover Illustration by Graham Humphreys 

The book will be available to buy on the 12th April. You can order the book directly through Amazon RIGHT HERE or through MVD RIGHT HERE

This article can also be found via the 5D website There you can find a veritable feast of blog articles, news items, pictures and other mouth-watering salutations to the gods of the geeks and the nerds. We have now inherited the earth, you know.

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