Little Brown , 480 pages , £16.99 , HB
Bitesize: Barnstorming biography of one of the men who made Hollywood!
These days Hollywood is run, in the main, by faceless corporations all aiming to produce blockbuster after blockbuster. The director is generally considered to be the sole author of a film and its actors the marketing push. But there was another time, just a few decades ago, when the producers reigned supreme. And Sam Spiegel, producer of such classics as The African Queen, Bridge on the River Kwai, On the Waterfront and Lawrence of Arabia was one of the best. They don’t make ’em like they used to.
Spiegel’s life was fascinating – despite his relatively modest upbringing he was well educated and well travelled. He always had the drive and ambition to become a success. But it was his personality that really helped him reach the top. He lived lavishly, whether he had money or not, and was constantly in debt in his formative years. He’d borrow people’s cars and neglect to return them. He’d throw wild, extravagant dinner parties at expensive hotels, then omit paying the bill. He was imprisoned many times in several countries for not paying his debts. He was a complete cad to his wives and daughter. But he oozed charm. People who were furious at him would forgive his misdemeanours, he could talk his way around anything.
Natasha Fraser-Cavasson’s biography is a fascinating insight into an incredibly complex character. It covers Spiegel’s life and, of course, his film output. Detailed chapters lovingly chart the production process of the movies and are filled with great anecdotes. All the juicy details are present and correct: tales of major creative clashes between producer and directors, Spiegel living it up on his yacht whilst his cast and crew were suffering on location, taking top credit on his productions and of course that old favourite, the casting couch. There’s no doubt that Sam Spiegel was an incredibly discriminating producer and, unusually, an independent, not affiliated with a particular studio. Without his drive and grandiose vision, the epics he produced would probably not have been, well, epic. His real talent lay in spotting the creative talent within others. And exploiting it.
Any Cop?: A splendid read about an extraordinary character, with plenty of tales about both the man and his films.
Free on the cover of the sadly short lived Science Fiction World with a lot of reviews by us inside.
Pocket Essential Hong Kong’s Heroic Bloodshed. We added a number of entries in this tome.
This second title in the AlterImage series that investigates previously under-explored areas of popular and cult cinema ( Underground U.S.A. being the first volume) features over 20 essays from an eclectic range of writers uncovering the cult cinema of Europe. The writers consider such unusual and diverse topics as Russian horror cinema, British exploitation, Belgian alternative cinema and Black ‘Emmanuelle’ films. Alternative Europe also includes exclusive interviews with such ‘trash’ film directors as Jess Franco(undreappreciated genius) and Brian Yuzna ( Reanimator, etc.).
We contributed an article about the wonderful French director Jean Rollin, who made the most beguiling, surreal, sexual and marvellous vampire films.
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy [3 volumes]: Themes, Works, and Wonders. The combined effort of some 150 expert contributors-including Richard Bleiler, John Clute, Ian Nichols, and Darrell Schweitzer-this encyclopedia discusses pervasive themes in science fiction and fantasy and gives detailed attention to selected novels, films, and television series. The first two volumes provide 400 alphabetically arranged entries on individual themes, while the last volume includes alphabetically arranged entries on 200 particular works.
We provided some of the analysed works in this big, three volume work.
The 2009 edition also includes a special focus on the 2004 expansion of the European Union and the development of cinema in the Union’s ten new member countries: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The guide also includes detailed breakdowns of international box office statistics and film festival award-winners.
We contributed an article about one of the guide’s directors of the year: Hayao Miyazaki
The International Film Guide 2010 will interest industry veterans, filmmakers, cinema enthusiasts, and the casual theatergoer. It summarizes all the major festivals and film markets, and in addition to popular core features, the 2010 edition includes a special section on prominent figures and powerbrokers.
We contributed an article about one of the guide’s directors of the year: Park Chan Wook
You will not come across a more essential cinematic coffee table tome than this, gorgeously illustrated throughout, it’s a work of looking and reading. Our chapters here are on three of his wonderful classic feature films The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936)
Free on the cover of the short lived Science Fiction World. Horror Box Office Hits covers the big box-office hits of the genre at the time of publication.
The third edition of Studio Ghibli is due out soon with a nice new cover from Takahata Isao’s final masterpiece.