The Best Books About Film

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soundchaser
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1101 Post by soundchaser » Mon Dec 30, 2019 1:44 am

Wow, thanks, this looks great. I’ll probably order the Haines book anyway — it sounds interesting enough even if it doesn’t specifically cover the Fox junkings.


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soundchaser
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1103 Post by soundchaser » Mon Dec 30, 2019 2:04 am

Oh, THAT Richard. Well, whoops.

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Rayon Vert
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#1104 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Jan 03, 2020 2:01 am

Dr Amicus wrote:
Tue Aug 26, 2008 4:44 am
There are tons of books about Hammer; most of them are just the same old stories with some colorful pictures. Denis Meikle's A History of Horrors is a good industrial history of the studio with plenty of production information. He's pretty critical of most of the films, however, especially the mid-to-late period. The Hammer Story by Hearn & Barnes also looks OK as an introduction, but I've only skimmed through it.

The most comprehensive work on Hammer is probably Wayne Kinsey's two volume history: Hammer Films: The Bray Studio Years and The Elstree Studio Years.
I'd back that up. I read almost every book available on Hammer for my thesis and these are probably the way to go. The Meikle is the best single volume history (although might be a bit pricey), but the Hearn & Barnes (new edition appears to be out) has some fantastic pictures and looks lovely, at the expense of depth. However, as it's organised by film (most of the horrors get a page or 2 each), it's possibly easier to navigate if you want to know about a particular one.

The depth of information in the Kinsey (I've only read the 1st) is astonishing - and particularly good about censorship battles. However, it is strictly chronological - which means it can be a bit tricky trying to follow the ins & outs of one particular film. It's an off-shoot of a fanzine Kinsey has been producing over they years, "The House That Hammer Built" - and that too comes highly recommended.

In fact, another fanzine, the US based 'Little Shoppe of Horrors' is an absolute must for Hammer fans. HUGE amounts of detail (nobody in Hammer is considered too minor to be interviewed) and a valuable resource.
I'm (unsurprisingly) interested in acquiring a Hammer book myself. Reading those very old posts, I wonder if anyone has had time to browse recent volumes, Hammer Complete by Howard Maxford in 2018, and Chris Fellner's The Encyclopedia of Hammer Films from 2019. The Amazon links don't allow perusing the contents. Both are them are very expensive (over $100), but that's still cheaper than the out-of-print Kinsey volumes (I'd love to see maps or pictures of the studios, and I know these volumes contain them - I don't know about the new ones). I'm personally tempted to get Hammer Complete because of its greater length (near 1000 pages) and the comments (e.g. "Hammer bible") of the reviewers. Marcus Hearn directs all those Hammer documentaries for the recent Indicator and Shout blu-rays, but I was surprised to see his authorized Hammer Story is less than 200 pages, which makes it less appealing for me. I'm also tempted to get the three Rigby Gothic books.

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Dr Amicus
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1105 Post by Dr Amicus » Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:18 am

It really depends on what you want from a book on Hammer, these are both encyclopedias - not narrative or critical studies. I've heard very patchy things re the Maxford, indeed his earlier book on Hammer from the 90s is very average - a surface level (without any obvious howlers that I can recall) narrative history with a redundant appendix with capsule Halliwell / Maltin-esque reviews (most films getting 0 stars!). I haven't got either - they might be tempting at a much lower price but certainly not at their current prices...

I see Meikle has revised his book into a glossier, larger format book from Dark Side - from a quick look it seems it's been abridged text wise with a lot of extra illustrations. It looks more like the Hearn - which is (based on the first edition) a film-by-film (at least, the more important ones) history of Hammer with, again, a lot of illustrations. As a history it's OKish, but it's a nicely put together book - indeed, I have seen several fans use it as a glorified autograph book. What I haven't got but is high on my list is Hearn's Hammer Vault - which looks like an updated version of the earlier book with some added goodies. I wouldn't be surprised if this had studio pictures / maps.

Also - one of the best sources for really in depth material is Little Shoppe of Horrors, a fantastic fanzine which has been running for almost 50 years by now. Each issue (after the first few) has a VERY detailed making of for (usually) a Hammer film and several other articles. The full range is available - earlier OOP issues have been reprinted in a slightly lesser format - and well worth dipping into (issue 19 has an overview of Fisher's work for Hammer and so might be a good taster).

However, avoid Sinclair McKay's A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films - it's very poor with numerous mistakes and little critical sense.

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Rayon Vert
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1106 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:53 pm

Thanks a lot for that comprehensive appreciation! Ideally I'd want both the history and everything else, but I guess I'll have to choose or double-dip, the latter being most likely. (Kind of frustrating that none of these books on Amazon except the Meikle affords you a look inside.)

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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1107 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Jan 11, 2020 2:55 pm

Dr Amicus wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:18 am
I've heard very patchy things re the Maxford, indeed his earlier book on Hammer from the 90s is very average - a surface level (without any obvious howlers that I can recall) narrative history with a redundant appendix with capsule Halliwell / Maltin-esque reviews (most films getting 0 stars!). I haven't got either - they might be tempting at a much lower price but certainly not at their current prices...
In case anyone is interested in a description of the Maxford Hammer Complete book, given that, as I said, the amazon links don't include a peak into the contents, I did splurge for and received it. I was a bit disappointed to see that it is very much an A-to-Z encyclopedia, whereas I was expecting something like a narrative history, chronological, with more in-depth articles. That being said, I'm not seeing what you're describing, including the capsule reviews with star-ratings. Film entries get 1-to-5 (large) page descriptions (3 columns of text per page). I see there are critique elements as well production history content in those articles, but again no star-ratings. Also info on dvd/BR availability, although that is already lacking information on releases in 2019 and upcoming. So this appears to be a very differently formatted book that the 90s book you're referring to.

It does seem to contain small articles on every single person ever associated in some capacity with Hammer. Huge, near coffee-size table book, but very text-heavy (occasional black-and-white pictures, but not glossy) that is almost 1000 pages. It does indeed appear "complete" in this sense, but probably not the sort of thing you'd like to read cover-to-cover (although I've been known to do that with certain encyclopedias, so I'll see what happens here). I did also purchase the Meikle, a used copy of the first Kinsey volume (Bray Studio years), and Rigby's English Gothic, so I should get my narrative fix among those!

*EDIT: The content of the book's appendix here are film titles that were supposed to get made by Hammer but didn't.

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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1108 Post by Dr Amicus » Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:46 am

There is a preview of the Maxford on Google Books here.

I didn't mean to imply any correlation between the two Maxford books, apart from that based on the capsule reviews in the earlier book he didn't give the impression that he actually liked the films (on a, IIRC, Halliwell-esque range of 0 to 4 stars, only a tiny number of core films got 2 of more). It's 20 years since I read it, and my memory of it is as a perfectly decent introduction to Hammer but little more than that. Which, to be fair, at the time of its release probably made it a lot more notable than it would be now.

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