Saturday, March 14

Book Ramblings: Terror on Tape by James O'Neill

A Complete Guide to Over 2,000 Horror Movies on Video
Published by Billboard Books, Watson-Guptill Publications, NY / 1994

Just received a used copy from eBay and I figured I'd post some impressions. We got 389 pages of alphabetical reviews and film stills in b/w format. The reviews are basically one paragraph (give-or-take) chunks that vary from thinly veiled synopses to spirited little numbers usually hinging on the author's liking (or disliking) of the given flick. The reviews in total seem fairly even-handed, though as usual for these types of overview guides, exploitation and sleaze is often sensationalized to the hilt ("infamous" seems to be a favorite descriptor) in place of a real assessment. Also there are little breakout boxes with summaries of genre luminaries and their filmographies.

Each review is topped with a bit of lead-in information that looks like this:

[star rating] Thrillervideo. 1979, UR, 85 min.
Dir. Joe D'Amato [Aristide Massacesi].
Cast: Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppa, Anna Cardini.

Alternate titles are shown as:

See: The Mutilator.

The star rating system is needlessly complicated, utilizing hollow stars in conjunction with a top four solid star rating to denote gaps like "Very Good" and "The Worst". Like with four solid stars meaning "Excellent", three solid stars with a hollow star means "Very Good", while three solid stars is "Good" and so on. It's useless unless one practically memorizes the system.

Alternate video releases aren't given, for example 1981's Nightmare. The guide states "Continental" as the distributor; but VEC, Platinum Productions, and Cinema Group also released the film on VHS in the U.S. at various times. Super obscure films/releases are missing as well. Where's Lunchmeat, 555, and Psychos in Love?

Though I will say the guide provides a nice cap on its namesake, its '94 year of publication places it just a few years off of DVD's '97 debut. Overall, worth grabbing for around $10 tops depending on the condition (mine was $5 in very good shape), but I wouldn't spend more or go out of your way to track it down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I actually had the pleasure of working with the author at the time of the release. He was a pleasant guy, but with a very dark side. The reviews reflect his impish personality and likeable nature. He and I didn't agree on many of his reviews, but he delivered a good-natured read. Very much a tongue-in-cheek approach but informative as well. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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